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January 17, 2022

Banffy Castle, Transylvania’s Versailles, from glamorous balls to electronic music festival

The Banffy Castle at Bontida, Cluj county, whose foundation stone was laid about 600 years ago, in 1437, according to historic documents, had a troubled history, being used for various purposes and events throughout its existence.
Considered Transylvania’s Versailles, the Banffy Castle turned from a venue hosting glamorous balls and dinner parties, attended by high-ranking figures of those times from the Imperial Court in Vienna, into the perfect place for holding music concerts attracting the interest of more people than ever.
The event with the largest influx of participants was Electric Castle, on its second edition this year at end-June, which brought together nearly 80,000 people, a record for the relevant concerts in Romania.
Historian Lucian Nastasa Kovacs told Agerpres that the gatherings held nowadays are much different compared to those once hosted by the castle. According to Kovacs, cultural meetings, official dinner parties and formal dress code parties, attended by high-ranking figures, were nothing out of the ordinary for the Banffy family.
‘The owner was a family who lived in the 17th-18th century, with princely roots, the castle itself was considered the Versailles of Transylvania. There’s no doubt that receptions were organized, as revealed by memoires, other documents. The last princely owner of the castle was Miklos Banffy, a culture figure and former foreign minister of Hungary. Miklos Banffy (1873-1950) was count of Losoncz, politician, writer, lawyer, graphic designer, screenwriter, a complex personality, who has advocated for the good relations between Romanians and Hungarians”, the historian explained.
In 1943, being commissioned by Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Bethlen, he attended secret talks with Iulia Maniu in Bucharest, with a view to forging a Romanian-Hungarian agreement. Miklos Banffy’s demarche to bring Romanian and Hungarian forces closer cost him dearly, because on Oct. 13, 1944, the SS Nazi troops burned the Bontida castle, with the flames destroying works of art and the library full of 26,000 volumes.
After ending his term as Hungarian foreign minister, Miklos Banffy moved to Transylvania in 1926; the condition for being given Romanian citizenship was not to engage in political activity for ten years. According to historic documents, right after the far-right parties seized power in October 1944, Banffy sent a letter to Governor Miklos Horthy, announcing his resignation as parliamentarian.
In 1945, left without a bit of fortune, Miklos Banffy returned for the second time to Transylvania and took part actively in the cultural events in Cluj; in 1947 he asked to be repatriated to Hungary, being given green light two years later. Tholdalagi Korda, the palace of his family, located in Cluj-Napoca, was turned on the state’s hands; he decides to retire in one of the castle’s rooms. He died on June 5, 1950 in Budapest, after spending the last year of his life in poor health. In 1976, the remains of Miklos Banffy were brought to Transylvania, being placed, according to his last wish, in the family vault in the Cluj-based Hajongard cemetery.
The Banffy Castle is built in Baroque style, being the largest castle in Transylvania. Mentioned for the first time in documents in the 14th century, the domain was purchased by the Banffy family in 1387. Throughout all these years, the castle has undergone several changes and over the past decades, a part of the building was destroyed. The castle served as the headquarters of a C.A.P. unit (agricultural production cooperative during the Communist regime), driving school, as well as setting for the movie ‘Forest of the Hanged’.
The palace is undergoing a complex restoration process, under the aegis of Prince Charles, heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. (Agerpres)

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