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The Third Gate

The Third Gate is located on the eastern side of the precincts and is the main access point to the fortress. The dimensions and richness of its decoration, which is part of a broader program meant to glorify Emperor Charles VI, render it the most impressive of the sixth gates. Through the quality of its figurative art, this monument, together with the other gates of Alba Carolina fortress, has influenced the development of Baroque sculpture in Transylvania.

The Third Gate was built in 1715-1728 by a team of stonemasons and sculptors. Documents mention the Bavarian Johann König in this connection.

It is a monumental gate in the shape of triumphal arch. In the upper part is a prismatic aedicule topped by an equestrian statue of Emperor Charles VI. The gate has three accessways, one for vehicles and two smaller ones for pedestrians. In front of the gate was a mobile bridge that was raised at sunset, closing the gate until sunrise.

The decoration of the east-facing outer façade of the gate is rather abstemious. It was built using architectural elements borrowed from the Greek Dorian style. Two massive pilasters supporting a Dorian-style frieze flank each of the access ways. The frieze is made of alternating metopes and triglyphs decorated with weapons (cannons) and military equipment (helmets and armour) represented in bas-relief. An accolade-shaped cornice shields the frieze. In the median part, it shelters the double-headed crowned eagle, with wings wide open and the coat of arms of the Transylvanian principality. In its claws are the symbols of power: the sword and scepter.

Above the pedestrian accessways are two bas-relief panels, representing The appointment of Eugene of Savoy by the emperor at the head of the anti-Ottoman coalition on the right side, and The return from a victorious campaign and triumphal reception of the command on the left side. The spaces shaped like a triangle with a curved hypotenuse are also decorated with bas-relief representations of ancient weapons and other military equipment.

The parapet below the aedicule is punctuated by elongations of the pilasters of the lower façade and decorated with the same military motifs: weapons, military equipment and flags. On the edges, above the lateral pilasters, are two statues, each displaying two Turkish prisoners tied to a column embellished with the symbols of war: flags, armour, cannon muzzles, trumpets and drums.

The decoration of the west-facing inner façade is much richer, exuberant even, and is in the Baroque style. The pilasters on the sides of the accessways are profiled and have Ionian capitals with volutes decorated with vegetal wreaths. In the lower part of each of the four pilasters is a pedestal (stylobate) supporting a column that serves as platform for an atlas who bears the capital, the four together sustaining the entablature. The atlantes’ bodies look strong, though bent by the weight and expressive of different attitudes: indignation, resignation, indifference and pain.

Two panels decorated in bas-relief and representing scenes of battles against the Ottomans are placed above the pedestrian accessways. Each of them has a princely coat-of-arms represented in high relief on the lower side. The wall above the accessways is decorated with weapons, cannons, cannon balls, shields, armour and helmets.

The entablature has a slightly profiled architrave, a continuous frieze richly decorated with military equipment and an accolade-shaped cornice, which in its median part shelters a shield bearing the emblem of Emperor Charles VI. In the upper side is a parapet punctuated by the elongations of the pilasters, decorated with the same military motifs and flanked by putii. Above each pilaster is a statue representing one of the four virtues: Abundance (Peace), Glory (Wisdom), Justice (Temperance) and Fortitude (War).

A stairway leads from the right side of the western façade to the base of the aedicule, which is a small construction, in the shape of truncated pyramid with curved sides. An equestrian statue of the emperor is located above the aedicule. The emperor passes majestically among the Turkish prisoners who lie low down to the sides. He wears Roman military gear, suggesting the idea of his authority originating in that of the ancient Roman emperors.

The aedicule has a short, narrow room. It can be entered through a door located on the western side, while on the eastern side there are two small windows. For decades, rumour had it that this was the room where Horea, the leader of Romanian peasant uprising of 1784, was jailed before his execution but in the absence of any credible evidence, this is no longer considered likely. (C.A.)