The Watch

Bánffy Castle

Bontida, Romania

From the fourteenth century through 1944, Bánffy Castle was occupied by members of the aristocratic Bánffy family, whose ranks included the first governor of Transylvania under the Habsburgs as well as a nineteenth-century Hungarian prime minister. Throughout the centuries, Bánffy Castle was transformed to reflect the changing tastes of this wealthy and powerful family. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the castle acquired a Renaissance façade that was further refined through the mid-eighteenth century, when the current Baroque footprint was established. During the first half of the nineteenth century, Gothic Revival modifications were made and the castle’s grounds were transformed into an English Romantic garden.

In 1944 the castle was burned by retreating German troops in retaliation for pro-Allied efforts on the part of Count Miklós Bánffy. After the war, when Romania came under Communist control, the castle suffered neglect during the agrarian reforms in the region, and was looted for building materials. Vandals and natural decay further damaged the ruined castle.

Conservation as an opportunity for training and job creation

Bánffy Castle was included on the 2000 World Monuments Watch, spurring new interest in the preservation of the site. WMF, in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Culture and the Transylvanian Trust, developed a project to consolidate and rebuild one of the castle’s forecourt buildings and its adjoining towers for use as a conservation laboratory and income-generating hotel. Thanks to this collaboration, the international Built Heritage Conservation Training Center was established by the Transylvania Trust, enabling the restoration and re-use of the castle buildings and the transmission of knowledge and skills of the restoration trades in the region. Works at the castle have been ongoing since then. In 2012, the Transylvania Trust established a pioneering project, the Electric Castle music festival, which has brought over 200,000 people to Bánffy Castle. Revenue from the music festival is helping to support conservation work, and it is expected that the complex will be completely restored by 2026.

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