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  • Writer's picturepeter clings

Archaeology in central Romania

The former capital city of Transylvania is located somewhat in the middle of it. It is called Alba Iulia, but used to be known also as Apulum (Roman Times), Alba, Bălgrad, and Gyulafehérvár (from 1619). A wealth of archeological findings have been unearthed in the city so far, only by scratching the surface. The legacy of 2000 years of continuous habitation is enormous. The recent discovery of the foundation of a church that lays beneath the green space in front of the Basilica of the Archbishopric of Transylvania can provide strong evidence of a Bulgarian presence in the city. The archeological report from the head of the team Mrs Daniela Marcu Istrate can be found at

From a birds eye view of the location of the ruin is represented in the map below

On the Google Map (Alba Iulia) in the snapshot below, the location is marked red outline

Since the excavation has been available only for the duration of the research (2012), it is no longer visible for tourists. But when it was, it looked like in the next image

The design of the ruined foundation, is represented next. I’ve copied it from the archaeological report

According to the archeologist who did the research Mrs. Daniela Marcu Istrate, to uncover the ruins, her team had to remove and preserve a cemetery that was in use from the 12 to the 14th century. Based on the numismatic found in the cemetery, the earliest dated burial is from 1200, and most of the +800 are from a century later. Given the extra clues in the surrounding, the former church is dated to have been demolished in the late 11th century

According to its design, it looks similar to the two ruined foundations of Churches in Avradaka in Preslav (see Eastern Medieval Architecture at page 536) that were build during Simeon I of Bulgaria. All three belong to the Middle Byzantine Anatolian style, being characterized by the 4 central columns that sustain an interior dome. All Orthodox churches from the 12th to 15th centuries, from Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Russia are build in that style, so one could only guess that the Alba Iulia Church must have looked similar to the one at Densuș Church

See the layout of the we two to compare

The construction technique points to the earliest possible time of introduction of the building style in Transylvania to the reign of czar Symeon of Bulgaria (893 to 927 AD). The wealth of archeological artifacts found at the South Western corner of the former Roman caster of Apulum from that period, together with the ruins of the old Church all indicate to the existence of an important trading city in Transylvania that was under the Bulgarian / Byzantine control (influence) at least until the late 11th century. I am pointing here to a possible cause for the dismantling of the old Church to an event in history that most likely marked the conquest of the City by the Hungarian Kingdom Battle of Kerlés, when Solomon, King of Hungary with his army together with his cousins’ (a join army of Polish and German mercenaries) defeated a certain chieftain Osul of Pechenegs + Ouzes (according to some sources) or Cumanians + Romanians (according to the Primary Chronicle ). I doubt that the Petchengs and the Ouzes joined in attacking the Hungarian Kigdom for they were sworn enemies. Also the Pechenegs of 1068 were already located in the Paradonavon and Northern Bulgaria (see last part of my answer at Peter Clings's answer to Who were the Pecheneg people?). I believe that the Primary Russian Chronicle was right in that case. The Romanians and Cumans did the attack (One hundred years later they were still seen as allies fighting the failed knights of the 4th Crusade). The name of the defeated chieftain ‘Osul’ means of course ‘The bone’ in Romanian (maybe, it should have been ‘Osescu’ for people to get his origin :-) )

However it may be, the irony is that embattled king Solomon forced to abdicate by his cousins would join the Pechengs late in his life to plunder the Byzantine land. He was followed by a retinue of Dacians (Romanians from Transylvania) in his last battles in the proximity of Constantinople where he died fighting for a wrong cause

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