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The Hall of the Saxon Seats

The building which today houses Alba County Education Authority is also known as the Hall of the Saxon Seats. This name is a reminder of the time when Alba Iulia was the capital of the principality of Transylvania and the princes strove to transform the former episcopal city to reflect its new political role. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, various cities and counties in Transylvania and Partium, as well as the Saxon and Szekler Seats, owned accommodation facilities in Alba Iulia for use by their delegates to committees, Diets, or missions to the princely court.

The arrival of Queen Isabella and her son, King John Sigismund, in Alba Iulia in 1542 had important consequences for the future development of the city. The next princes of Transylvania to live in this city embraced the objective of turning the former episcopal city—which already had an episcopal palace, a provost’s house, and a residence for the archdeacons—into a real princely capital. Alba Iulia’s heightened political role made it desirable for the administrations of other cities, counties, and the Saxon and Szekler Seats to purchase buildings in the princely capital that would provide accommodation for their representatives visiting Alba Iulia for political or business meetings. During late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many such houses existed within the precincts of Alba Iulia fortress, as well as outside the walls.

The hall of the Saxon Seats was located on the northeastern corner of the fortress, on the former Saxon Street (Zaz utza). In this area, at the end of sixteenth century, the city of Brașov paid 700 florins for the house and garden of Michael and Gabriel Lenches de Varadino, next to the house of Pancras Sennyey, a former counselor of Prince Sigismund Báthory. The Saxon Street (also known as Sibiu Street) runs along the eastern wall of the fortress and past the academic college with a north-south orientation. In 1624, Bistrița, another Saxon city, paid 110 florins for a house located in the same area that Mediaș, Sighișoara and Sibiu had their own houses.

Today’s U-shaped building is the result of several stages of construction. The oldest part is the northern side, which was perhaps one of the houses bought by the Saxon Seats in late sixteenth century. The northern side of the building was erected above the wall of the Roman fortress. Ground plans from the early eighteenth century show a few square or quadrangular buildings grouped together in the location of the current building. During the early nineteenth century, the eastern and southern sides of the U-shaped building were added. The building has served various purposes since the eighteenth century, reflected in its various names. In 1736 it was the seat of the director of the fortification, and in 1747 it became the location of the main body of guards. In 1823 it was called the “Engineers’ House” and, in 1903 it was the offices of the Direction of Engineers. In 1920, it was transformed into an officers’ pavilion and in 1939 it was assigned as the residence of the Prefect’s office. (C.P.G.)