Starting with 16th and 17th centuries, the architecture of Transylvanian noble residences was dominated by the Renaissance style. This style is introduced by the representatives of the royal houses willing to rally to Western standards, who were inviting foreign military architects, mainly Italians, accustomed to experience the newest sites in Europe to work on their buildings. This custom is soon taken by the nobles whose residences were in construction. Mainly located in rural areas, the castles are built to ensure both, the necessary comfort and luxury needed and wanted by the owner and, also, protection against Turkish raids and servile peasants that were still dominating in that era.
The residences take from rural western style the mode of organizing the space, the size and layout of the rooms, the plastic decorative, and the ornamental motifs, all adapted to the local manner. The defense function of the assembly is highlighted by the corner towers. Under these requirements, on the Racos domain, Sükösd family, an old family of noble Székely, builds their castle.
The castle was certified in the first inventory made in 1636 where there is recorded a building with three rooms made between 1594 and 1603, ordered by Sükösd István, and further extended by Sükösd György. Related to this point, in the notes of Baron Orbán Balázs on Székely lands, there is remarked the presence of the inscription „Soli deo gloria Extrui fecit ex fundamento Georgius Sükösd A.D. 1624. 9.maj.” on the parameter of the western tower, inscription still visible at the time of his visit. The same source notes that the castle was built on the ruins of a former convent, fortified in conformity to the custom time. This information is unverified. It can be assumed that the expantion of the house through circular corner towers, additions to existing early curia, dates from the first decades of the seventeenth century.
After Sukosd György’s death in 1631 (whose tomb is made in 1623 by Peter Dioszegi, mason from Cluj), the castle is taken by Peter Budai, politician and public preceptor with political and diplomatic ties with the Romanian Country and Moldavian princes, who receives the building as a donation from Prince Barcsai Ákos in 1660. In 1694, after his death, the entire family fortune becomes the property of Bethlen Samuel (1663-1708).
The political instability in the early eighteenth century brings the need of strengthening the existing castles, so Bethlen Samuel order the rise of the walls and the bastion towers and places in the assembly a grand rectangular tower, treated in conformity with the classical requirements with rusticated edges of profiled plaster and stone window frames. Above the entrance, is engraved in stone the Bethlen family’s emblem with the inscription „COMES SAMVEL DE BETHLEN COMES COMITATUS DE KÜKÜLLŐ, AC SEDIS SICULICALIS MARUS CAPITANEUS UTROBIQUE SUPREMUS. 1700” where are mentioned Samuel Bethlen’s functions in the army, that of lieutenant of the county Küküllő (Tarnava Mica) and captain general of Maros Seat.
Despite the appearance of the building, the defense role is secondary to the role of housing. The main entrance is through a vaulted corridor in swing or semicircular that’s crossing the gate tower and which initially went to the Knights Hall (now completely destroyed, but kept in the community’s memory as being utterly beautiful.) Upstairs, the house is set in simple tract, with rooms lined up in succession (of countryside, folk inspiration.) The rooms are covered with barrel vault with scopes in which were the doors decorated with stone or wood portals. The only tower that communicates directly with the house is the southeast one, bound through a narrow vaulted corridor where was established a salon of octagonal shape, with edges in semicircle. Its coverage is achieved through a canopy composed of eight telescopes rampant decorated with stucco and carved stone brackets, a typical Renaissance structure. Interestingly, the southwest tower houses a kitchen covered with a dome with a tapering smokestack and walls with niches arched at the top.
In the west side of the castle were the needed spaces to maintain the noble court, downstairs finding the stables and upstairs the grain and food stores.
The defense system is built in accordance with the attack techniques of the time when were required double rows of fortifications on the west side, south side(where there still is a carpentry of wood embedded in masonry, dating from the Renaissance) and east side, the southeast and southwest towers southwest and southeast being embedded by bastions of defense. These are made with obtuse angles oriented towards the enemy and a flank perpendicular on the curtain to avoid blind corners. The walls are suitable for horizontal shooting with holes low drawing directed towards the space preceding the entry, making the access more defensible and controlled. The whole assembly was surrounded by a deep moat of water – source of local alimentation - crossing a folding bridge closed with gate.
The castle was not the permanent family home, serving for 200 years as a temporary residence to the Bethlen family, but also for officers and staff. After 1873, the castle becomes the property of Count Teleki Samuel, explorer and scholar famous for his expeditions in Africa.
From 1903, the castle and its estate (of which we keep in mind the farmland, the orchard and the park) turned over to the local community and slowly entered the degradation process. The first demolished is the Knights Hall. The early twentieth century’s plan proposed the construction of an orphanage in one side of the castle, but the project has not been successful. For a short period of time the castle served as residence and later became stable and grain storage. In 1945, the wall facing the main street was broken to create a new access area for heavy machines. In 1962, the castle became stock building, a part being used as a granary and one of the bastions was converted into a fire station. The earthquake of 1977 had a major impact on the castle, much of the walls being broken leading to the demolition of the north-eastern tower.
The local community has tried repeatedly to renovate all. A particularly interest in the renovation came from the pastor of the Reformed Church existing in the village, who, in 1992, established the Bethlen Foundation. Through the Foundation funds were raised resulted in a first phase of renovation unfinished. Today the castle is managed by a local family. Although it is the emblem of the village, it has no specific function, being not usable due to its poor condition.
arch. Alexandra Stoica