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Building C of the “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia

Within the fortress of Alba Iulia, known as the most important military center of Transylvania, the main building of “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia has, during the last 700 years, remained a space dedicated to culture and the spread of knowledge. A succession of promoters of medieval and modern culture stayed here, from the Augustinian Hermits (thirteenth to sixteenth centuries), the Dominicans (sixteenth century), and finally, in the same place but at two different periods, the Jesuits (in the sixteenth and later in the eighteenth centuries). Their heritage ensured the building remained a place dedicated to education, continued in the modern age by the Majláth Roman Catholic Superior Gymnasium, then by the Industrial High School nr. 4, and since 1996 by the University of Alba Iulia.

The C Building, built in 1900-1901, occupies the site of the former St. Stephen Protomartyr, a Gothic-style church belonging to a former Dominican monastery in the mid-sixteenth century, and taken over by the Jesuits in 1580-1588. The buildings of the monastery date back to the fourteenth century, and were presumably built by the Augustinian Hermits.

The complex of fourteenth-century buildings constructed by the Augustinian Hermits—that is, the church, later known as Báthory and its cloisters (the buildings added to the western side, oriented north-south, which nowadays the university uses as function spaces)—were places dedicated to the development of knowledge and culture. In the last decade of the sixteenth century, during the Counterreformation, the building was ceded to the Jesuit order. After twenty years of prestigious activity in education, the Jesuits were expelled. The order returned only at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This time, they founded a Theological Institute. It was around this time that the contours of the church appeared on the earliest plans of the city (Pianta d’Alba Iulia, end of the seventeenth century, and the plan drawn by G. M. Visconti, 1711).

The interests of the Jesuits and the Habsburgs were strongly aligned, such that during the building of the Vauban-type fortress (Alba Carolina), the monastery building was also repaired and embellished (1715-1718). After half a century (1776), when the monastic orders were abolished, the Jesuits’ buildings were taken over by the Catholic Theological Seminar.

On 30 May 1783, Emperor Joseph II visited the place. It was decided that the edifice would be dismantled. In 1783, the church was turned into a military depot. It was used as such until 1891, when the Catholic Church received it again. After 1898, the year of its partial demolition, the director of the museum, Dr. Adalbert Cserni, took some photos of the old edifice. On the site of the former church, the Majláth Superior Roman Catholic Gymnasium was built.

This edifice is one of the more grandiose buildings erected at the end of the nineteenth century, in neoclassical style. The complex has partially preserved the former cloister of the medieval monastery. The vaulted rooms of the cellar were constructed with Roman stone blocks from the Roman fortress. As one can see on the project plan and the photos from 1901, the building was destined for an educational institution, having a ground floor and two upper stories, with large rooms and wide corridors connected by central stairs. Since its foundation, the school has established two libraries, a sports room, classrooms, laboratories for physics and natural sciences, a museum of natural sciences, a chapel and offices. The triangular pediment on the main façade, along with the columns and other decorations specific to classical architecture, suggest to the onlooker an ancient temple.

After the unification of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918, the former gymnasium became the High School for Girls and, later still, Industrial High School nr. 4. From 1996, the “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia has been the owner of the buildings, which have been modernized. Nowadays, this building houses amphitheaters, course and seminar classrooms, laboratories, a museum collection with an archaeological exposition, and the offices of four of the five faculties of Alba Iulia University, namely the Faculty of History and Philology, the Faculty of Economic Sciences, the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, and the Faculty of Precise Sciences and Engineering. (L.S.)