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The First Gate

The First Gate is part of the most important Vauban-type fortification in Transylvania and is located below the terrace on which the fortress is built, on its eastern side. This is first point of access into the fortress, followed by the barbican, a walled road climbing uphill towards the Second Gate.

The First Gate was built of stone, in the shape of a triumphal arch with three passageways: two for pedestrians and one for vehicles. The sobriety of the stylized architectural decoration displayed on the pillars and pilasters suggests elements specific to Doric style. The gate is richly decorated with sculptures. The panels placed above the pedestrian passageways on both facades display sculptures in relief. On the central pilasters in the upper part—where the statues of Mars, the god of war, and Venus, goddess of love and beauty were placed—ronde-bosse sculptures appear. On the lateral pilasters two bombard mortars with short muzzles are represented.

Above the vehicle passageway, positioned in the middle on a small pedestal with volutes, appears a double-headed eagle with crown, bearing on its chest the monogram of Emperor Charles VI. The double-headed eagle holds in its claws a scepter and a sword: symbols of power, representing the emblem of the Austrian Empire.

On the outer façade to the left, above the pedestrian passage, the legendary founder of Rome, Aeneas, son of Anchises of Troy and the goddess Aphrodite, is depicted carrying his father on his shoulders, saving him from the city which was set alight by the Achaeans. On the right, Hercules is portrayed, fighting Antaeus the Giant, son of Poseidon and Gaia (Earth). As legend tells it, Antaeus could not be defeated as long as he remained in contact with his mother, the earth. Hercules raised him into the air and killed him.

On the inner façade, on the left relief, Hercules is shown again, this time killing the Nemean lion, a bloodthirsty beast that terrorized the region, thus completing the first of the “labors” which he undertook at the order of his half brother Eurystheus, King of Argos. On the relief above the right pedestrian passage, Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, is depicted holding the head of Medusa, fulfilling a task requested by Polydectes. In the left hand he holds his sword with the point downwards. At his feet lies the beheaded body of Medusa. This rich sculpted decoration was produced during the construction of the fortress (1715-1738) by a team of stonemasons and sculptors, the most famous of whom was Johann König, born in Bavaria. (C.A.)