The fortress was built as part of a defence system for the Transylvanian villages exposed to outside invasions. A decisive aspect for building the fortress at its location was the route of the invading armies which were coming from the Bran pass and were passing through Râșnov, on their way to Braşov and other parts of the Burzenland region. The only chance of survival for the inhabitants of the area, including from Cristian and Ghimbav, was the refuge inside the refuge castle at Râşnov. Compelled to stay there for decades, the people of Râșnov and the nearby villages turned the fortification into their long-term place of residence.
In 1335, during a Tatar incursion that ravaged Burzenland, Râșnov and Brașovia were the only fortified places remaining unconquered. This is also the first documented attestation of the fortification.
The fortress was conquered only once, during the rule of Prince Gabriel Báthory, in 1612. The fall was caused by the lack of water due to the discovery of the path to a secret spring by the enemy troops.
To remove the weakness constituted by the lack of a source of water inside the fortress, a 146 metres (479 ft) deep well was dug out between 1623 and 1642.
In 1718 the fortress was partially destroyed by a fire, and in 1802 it was damaged by an earthquake.
Between 1848-1849, because the town of Râşnov lay on the way of both the Hungarian revolutionaries and the Austrian imperial troops, the inhabitants retreated to the fortress. This was the last mission of the fortress as a place of refugee and defence.
In 1850, due to the political situation and the diminution of the fortress’s defensive role, the fortification was abandoned, becoming a ruin. There was only one guard left who had to announce the outbreak of fires by tolling a bell.
The citadel has a simple architectonic style, similar to the ordinary houses of the time and adapted to the fortification requirements. The peasants used stones and bricks for building the walls, and woods for making the gates and platforms. The towers and walls are covered with roof tiles for preventing the fires from besiegers. The walls are 5 metres (16 ft) high and the widest part is constituted by the South wall which in some areas is 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) thick.
The citadel is composed of two courts. The exterior court is located in front of the eastern wall, edged by a fortified wall, and fitted with a square tower. The interior court represents the inhabitable area, having a better protection by walls and towers.
From South, West and North the citadel is protected by sharp cliffs of about 150 metres (490 ft), very hard to climb. The whole superior area is defended by exterior towers gathered in the northern flank and western corner. Because of its u-shape, the eastern side of the citadel was more vulnerable due to less natural obstacles. To boost its defensive capacity, the citadel holds in this sector the heaviest fortifications.
The eastern, western and northern sides are protected by a continuous gallery with two ante forts and seven towers. There are only two towers on the southern side which is more abrupt.
The interior courtyard is paved with narrow paths made of stone, which ribbon among the tile-roofed houses. Inside there have been conserved the ruins of a school, a chapel and over thirty houses fated to refuge the villagers and their assets.
Read an article about Rupea Citadel, other beautiful fortress in Transylvania.