APAFFY CASTLE DUMBRAVENI
Property of the Banffy Family
The story began in 1663 when the new Prince of Transylvania, Michael I Apaffy granted the castle and estate to his wife’s brother-in- law, Baron Dennis Banffy de Losoncz. Except for a 34 year interval, the castle would remain in the hands of the Banffy family and its descendants through marriage, until after the Second World War.
In the event, Dennis Banffy was not to enjoy his splendid acquisition for long. His high-handed, arrogant manner and his weakness for display made him many powerful enemies. It did not take long for them to convince the suspicious Michael I that Banffy was conspiring to seize the throne. Hurriedly tried in 1674, convicted of treason and sentenced to death, he was beheaded only minutes before the arrival of a reprieve from a contrite prince.
But brighter times lay ahead for the Banffys. After the death of Prince Michael I in 1690, Transylvania fell to the Habsburgs. Dennis Banffy’s son, George, became the principality’s first royal governor. In 1696, he was made a count by Emperor Leopold I. In order to impress contemporaries with his new rank and position, Count George Banffy organized an ostentatious wedding in 1702 at Gyalu, for his daughter Anna. The cream of the Transylvanian nobility, new and old, was in attendance. The emperor himself was represented by a French count, Louis de Bussy-Rabutin, commander of the imperial armies in Transylvania. Many accounts exist of this celebrated event; the best was written some years later, by one of the participants, Baron Peter Apor.
Shortly after Countess Anna Banffy’s wedding, Transylvania – and Hungary – would witness a destructive civil war between supporters of the Habsburgs and Francis Rakoczy II, who had been elected Prince of Transylvania in 1705. As the Banffys were on the Habsburg side, their properties were fair game for Prince Rakoczy’s forces. After passing from one side to the other, Gyalu was finally looted and burned by one of Rakoczy’s generals in 1707. It was to stand as a gaping, roofless ruin for the next 130 years. The Banffy family no longer used it and concentrated instead on turning their castle at Bonchida (Bontida) into a splendid baroque country house.
In 1822, Count Dennis Banffy inherited the castle and decided to restore the ruined structure. Reconstruction work began in 1838. The walls and towers were conserved and rebuilt where necessary. The rooms on the first floor received new ceilings, but much of the surviving medieval and 17th century vaulting was preserved on the ground floor. The exterior walls were covered with a plain layer of plaster except for the eastern facade which received some pallid neo-classical decoration. Whatever remained of the moat was filled up and a fashionable English garden was laid out in its place.
Count Dennis Banffy died in 1854, leaving the newly restored castle to his wife, Baroness Johanna Schilling von Cannstatt who left it to a cousin a year later. The new owner eventually sold the estate and castle in 1877 to Bernard Rosenberger, a wealthy businessman, who repaired the damage caused by a disastrous fire in 1861. A second –defensive –storey was apparently removed at this time and replaced with today’s huge pitched roof, while the eastern façade was “improved” by the addition of some clumsy neo-Romanesque elements.