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The Theresia Bastion

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Hector St.

Dating

The new fortress of Timişoara was built between 1732 and 1761, and it had nine bastions. The “Theresia Bastion” was the first to be built, and it is the only one which was not demolished in the early twentieth century. It appears on plans since 1732. On the 1734 plan it appears as completely finished. At the begining it was called "The Food Ravelin"(storehouse) and in 1744-1745 – it receives the name “Theresia Bastion” in honor of Queen Maria Theresia.

Architectural style

It corresponds to the type of fortifications with three fortified “rings”, characteristic of the first half and mid-eighteenth century. The fortifications prior to 1707, from the time of Vauban, did not have the outer third ring, made of the fortification elements called “covering”.

bastion1-smFortification and defortification in Timişoara

The fortress of Timisoara was a border fortress of the Habsburg Empire. The new fortress had to be very large, to shelter an “inner city” far more extended than the medieval fortress preceding it. Nevertheless it was supposed to have an entirely different structure. The bastion fortress of Timisoara was the largest structure of this kind in Romania. It was made of three concentric rings, separated by fortified ditches filled with water. In front of today’s bastion we can still see the remains of a ditch.

The fortress of Timişoara was so prestigious that the main enemy, the Turks, never attacked it. The only attempt was made during the Hungarian revolution of 1849. The siege lasted 107 days, but the Austrian garrison inside, loyal to the emperor, resisted it successfully. This marked a historic turning point as the Hungarians capitulated after failing to conquer it.

bastion 2-smBut for the citizens the daily life was by no means easy inside the fortress. In the 18th century, the outskirts were already larger than the fortress as it was obviously easier for them to expand. Moving to and from the fortress was very difficult – there were only three gates and the traffic was under the strict, time-consuming  control of the army. The distance between the inner city and the outskirts (Fabric, Josefin and Elisabethin districts) was of at least 1.5 kilometers, about the same size as the military terrain between the rings.

After several letters from the local leaders, the Viennese central administration approved the demolition of the walls in 1892. The so-called defortification was a lasting process.

The demolition was strictly supervised. A large number of bricks could be reutilized. Nine million bricks were used to build public institutions, mainly schools. Nineteen million bricks were sold to the inhabitants who were allowed to use them only for foundations, due to sanitary reasons. The land freed by the defortification process was parcelled and sold for the construction of houses.

As the town was defortified, the local budget was...fortified  - as it were - through the sale of land and bricks. After 1905 investors who opened a factory were given the necessary terrain free of charge. They were also exempted from paying taxes for 15 years and benefited from a 10-crown yearly subvention for each employee.

As a consequence, between 1940-1914, Timisoara witnessed an unprecedented rate of development. The much-hated walls proved to be a decisive factor in the modernisation of the town.

bastion3-smOther details:

Each of the three fortification rings was made of walls 2-4 meters wide which contained a compacted land wave 22-23 meters wide, crossed by consolidation walls. Several artillery units were positioned on the sides. The inner ring, the highest one, (20 meters high at some points) was defended by large caliber canons. The wall had to support their significant weight.

Due to military necessities the three fortification rings surrounding the town were 450 meters thick. The Theresia bastion was part of the first fortification ring – no matter how imposing its walls seem today, they were only a small part of the immense defensive structure Timisoara possessed.

Moreover, on the outside the rings were marked by a strip of land called esplanade where no building or tree was allowed, so that there was no place for the enemy to hide. The esplanade was 950 meters wide, the shooting range of an 18th century canon. So the fortress was protected by a defensive system 1.5 kilometers wide.

 

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