All places are anchored in both history and legend. Usually, the legends are born when the true history remains unknown or does not provide data spectacular enough for the public.
The first “stories” are generated by settlement names. Rupea was regarded differently by its ancient inhabitants. Taking into consideration its Hungarian name, taken over a long time ago and also used by Romanians – Kohalm, Cohalm – the site was remarkable due to a “stone hill” (kö = stone; halom = hill, in Hungarian) that was in sharp contrast to the surrounding soft hilltops. A group of other villages in the Seat of Rupea took their name from on site elements: a low land (Bodendorf, Buneşti), a rock (Stein, Dacia),or a place with fish (Fisch = fish in German, Fişer). Who knows nowadays what generated the name “The Village of Cats” (Katzendorf, Caţa)? It might have been the numerous wild (certainly not domestic) cats in the area. As everywhere else, churches also generated foundation stories. Viscri (Deutschweisskiche) was always remarkable due to the shining, contrasting white color of its church, while Ioneşti was named from the dedication of its parish church to St. John. The name of Criţ was derived from the Holy Cross (Kreuz, in German).Other foundation stories were connected to unique people, holding special place in the collective local memory for their setting of the first house or garden fence pole; they were people who organized their few fellows in setting boundaries and using forests, pastures and water courses. These were the forefathers par excellence. Nevertheless, place names do not always reveal their origin. The village of Beia is such a case. Did it derive from the name of such a forefather or from a place with numerous bees which gave the name of a meanwhile lost fortification? The story of Jimbor is also divided, since its German name mentions a “Fortification of the Sun” (Sommerburg), while its Hungarian name (Zombor) indicates a legendary character from the pre-Christian Hungarian history.
The fascination with the first serious foundations has always surrounded stone monuments, especially if they were placed in advantageous locations and were of significant size. It was only (physically, not socially or culturally) strong people who were able to build such solid constructions far from village centers! Thus, for a long time, in the mind of simple folk fortifications were perceived as the constructions of giant-men, giants with unusual origin or men with super-human powers – and such perceptions still linger. Those original creators cut down entire hills, built fortifications in no time, lived differently. People are left to discovered and admire the wonderful or miraculous remains: tunnels, with dozens of meters carved into the rock, leading out of the fortifications towards various strategic points inside the settlements; one such tunnel always led to the old church. People also believed in the existence of basements full of treasures that persisted in the imagination of each generation. Thus, sometimes it is enough for some small thing to be taken out of the ground that people light up and foundation fantasies are given new fuel. Then, according to the power and talent of those delivering the rumors, the stories become entangled and various knights and beautiful girls, kings and negative characters (that might be envisaged as dragons) are mixed in, according to peoples’ experience with the rich ethos of universal stories.
All stories and traditions were filtered by rural intellectuals (priests, teachers, petty administrators) who absorbed them vividly, embellished them with new bows and epithets, and spread them further. This was the time of Romanticism, when ruins, the Middle Age, heroism and idyllic love were venerated.
Orbán Balázs, the late romantic, noted and passionately re-wrote two of the oldest stories in the Seat of Rupea, connected to Jimbor and Rupea.
The oldest is placed in 1421 when Murad II’s Turks (Murad-bey in the story) organized the first significant invasion of Transylvania. Warned by the Turks’ advancement, the population took shelter between the walls of the fortification in Jimbor. Two of the people inside were Ioan Lebei from Mărtiniş and his dear wife Maria. The young husband tried to fight on the wall together with those able to bear arms but the Turks prevailed and, through an opening in the walls, started the slaughter. The couple miraculously survived the slaughter that filled the fortification of blood up to one’s knee, but the man was taken captive and the wife fled into the woods. The saga of the loving wife starts after the Turkish retreat; selling all her belongings, she headed south. The story tells show she reached Jerusalem, then traveled through Syria until the shores of the Euphrates where, eventually, she found her husband in chains. Her tears and pleading convinced the cruel Sarazin to free her husband in exchange for three pieces of jewelry. Maria worked miracles with her tenderness and perseverance, melting the hearts of other villains, bending the forces of nature and taming lions guarding prisons. Finally, after five years of detention, the freed husband was taken with great care through the Syrian desert, safely reaching the „Ptolemais” harbor and then back to their homeland; the story does not continue until the final destination, certainly because of the trivial happy end.
The Turks are involved in the other story as well. The hero, Hedvig Veres, is a royal judge in the Seat of Rupea. He was also taken captive and hopelessly chained in the famous Edikule in the capital of the Ottoman Empire. His savior is no other than the drummer Menenges, who, seeing his master so afflicted, took him out of the cursed prison with the aid of an enchanted cloak. The two heroes flew to a place called “Seeburg” and the chains were placed in the fortification’s arsenal as relics proving the deed.