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Temeschburg Fabrikstadt Elisabetstadt Josefstadt Mehala Fratelia Freidorf

History of Mehala - Franzstadt


Mehala is in the 5th district of the city of Temesvar (also known as Temeschburg or Timisoara) in the Banat. The Banat lies in the western part of present day Romania, between the Theiß, Marosch, and Temesch Rivers. Besides information of the history, pictures tell excerpts from the life in the Banat. Connected to selected sites which complement this site.

     The exact age of this urban district of Temesvar is not known.  It is indeed a very old, if not the oldest suburb of Temesvar.  The age was derived from the name.  The Turkish word “Mahale” means, as far as we know, district on the outskirts or suburb, a synonym used for the suburbs of Bucharest.  Under Turkish rule (1552 – 1716) this suburb of Temesvar was already known as “Mehala”.

     For safety reasons all fortress gates were closed before darkness fell.  Coming from the west the road led into the fortress above Mehala.  Whoever wanted to enter the fortress, but did not catch it at the right time, had to wait for daylight in the suburb.  This was still the rule at the time of Count Mercy.  So the first lodgings, stables, and restaurants in Mehala already came into being.  Gradually they were established as competition with the landlord inside the city walls.  The Temesvar fortress was surrounded by the branched out part of the small Temes (Bega) River in the first half of the 18th century.  The bogs and swamps at the west, south, and east flanks of the fortress formed a natural and effective protection.  In the evening it was advisable to keep the windows closed because of the smell from the swamps.  The slow flowing water and frequent flooding led to many fish being stranded on the dry land after the water level receded and the fish stunk in the sun.

     The meadows and forests of Mehala were partially surrounded by swamps. It was therefore suitable for building a summer home for the early rulers of the fortress.  Already in the 164 year rule of the Turks there was a fortress here.  Traditionally the people could reach the protection of the fortress through underground passageways.  Pascabrunnen (Wells of the Paschas) was the name of this residence under Turkish rule.  After the displacement of the Turks in 1716 it was rebuilt by the new rulers of the city and renamed the President’s Garden.  In 1849 the summer residence burned up to the foundation walls and was not erected again.  On Torontaler Street one could still recognize the remainder of the ruins for a long time.  It was assumed that settlement by the Turks, Serbs, and Wallachians began very early.  There is documented evidence of the fortress Temesvar itself as “castrum regius Temesvar” since the year 1212.  In the many decades of Turkish rule even slight offenses were severely punished.  This could be the reason why the few people in this thinly settled land lived as far as possible away from the fortress to eke out an existence.  How did things look in the beginning of the 18th century in the Banat?  The Banat painter Stefan Jäger illustrates this impressively in his landscape paintings.  A wild magnificent plant world with a southern climate.  Wide stretches of land were really depopulated or sparsely settled.  The soil had no longer seen a plow since Roman times.  Some swamps passed through plains where there were primeval forests.  The deserted villages seemed to be extinct as wolves lived in their earthen huts.  In the summer innumerable frogs hopped about in the swamps.  Enormous swarms of mosquitoes covered the swamps.  Vultures and ravens were persistent in their search for food.  Then the fateful year 1716 …

     The Austrian Empire was militarily strengthened in the beginning of the 18th century by several victories which confirmed its fighting capability.  After the victory at Peterwardein  on the 5th of August 1716, Prince Eugen decided on the conquest of the Banat, the last part of Hungary still in Turkish hands.  Prince Eugen could count on the support of powerful allies.  The time was coming to be freed from the constant threat of the Turks.  He could convincingly present his plan in the imperial yard in Vienna  to drive the Turks out up to Belgrade.  Prince Eugene knew that the Temesvar fortress was the key to the Banat.  So it had to be decided to attack this fortress and conquer it.  Because of the summer heat the march to Temesvar could only succeed at night and in the early morning hours.  The further one came the more difficult the terrain was.  Bogs, swamps, and branches of the river surrounded the city on three sides.  In the north the suburb extended out from the fortress, the so-called “Great Palanka”.  And only from the north could this fortress be stormed.  On the soil of today’s Mehala tents of the imperial troops stood in the autumn of the year 1716, under the leadership of Prince Eugen of Savoy.  After a siege of more than 40 days and after two days and two nights of sustained fire, the Temesvar fortress could be shot up in the fire.  Above all, the Great Palanka, where houses were built mainly of wood, burned up almost completely.  Inside the fortress 15,000 Turkish soldiers waited with 156 cannon for reinforcements.  A Turkish cavalry of 20,000 soldiers could no longer intervene in the fighting.  Count von Starkemberg brought things under control and broke it up.

   Mehmed Aga finally gave up & hoisted the white flag on the 13th of October, 1716.

     The Turks surrendered right away.  Prince Eugen feared winter would start early.  The imperial troops were weakened by the autumn weather with its persistent rain as many soldiers complained of falling ill.  The surrender treaty between Prince Eugen of Savoy and Mehmed Aga Azabani Edwed was signed in the summer residence according to tradition.  The Turks left the fortress in accordance with the surrender treaty.  On 2/11/1716 Prince Eugen traveled back to Vienna, Count Claudius Mercy took over the upper command over the Austrian armed forces in the Banat, and fortress commander of Temesvar was Paul Wallis.

     As governor Count Mercy, in the framework of his function, provided for the upswing.  He had wells drilled to ensure drinking water would be provided; he had the Bega Canal dug so the water quickly drained off with it.  Swamps were drained, the settlement of the land with farmers and craftsmen was encouraged.  From the old homeland grafts of fruit trees, grapevines, and potatoes were introduced.  Count Mercy got one hundred thousand mulberry trees from Sicily to line all of the country roads with them.  Many silk caterpillars, which presented the first silk factory of the land with cocoons, could be nourished from the leaves.  In the hot summer months the trees offered shade, in the fall the sweet fruit of the mulberry was treasured.  The cathedral in Temesvar, new laws for the protection of the settlers, and much more can be credited to the work of Count Mercy in the Banat.  The Banat was settled and developed further.  Several coins, daggers, and sabers were found many years later by the farmers working in the fields of Mehala.

     For the next 65 years Mehala was made part of the city of Temesvar and in 1716 it received the name "Neustadt."  In the year 1781 Mehala was again separated as a city district and placed under the control of the administration of the Comitat as an independent village under the name “Mehala”.  Lengthy judicial arguments about where Mehala belonged were finally concluded after much trial and tribulation with a judicial sentence on 1 January 1910.  The supreme court decision intended that Mehala be officially assigned under the new name of “Franzstadt” as the 5th district of the city of Temesvar.  On the historical map before 1910 Mehala was still shown as an independent village.  From 1900 on more new settlement villages existed on the edge of Temesvar.  The Ronaz, where the workers of the Josefstädt Industrial Park such as the railway men, built their houses, as well as the Anhauer, Blaskovici, and Weiß districts.  The oldest documented building of Mehala is the Serbian church, erected in the year 1786.  The catholic Marien church was consecrated in September 1923.  The foundation stone to the largest building in Mehala, the orthodox Romanian church, was laid on the 28th of August, 1924.  Present at this event were King Ferdinand of Romania, the Queen Maria, hereditary Prince Carol, and hereditary Princess Elena.  One of the king’s signed documents was settled in the framework of the foundation stone celebration.  The church was consecrated on the 10th of October, 1937, after a building period of 13 years.  Between the old city border of Temesvar and its suburb “Mehala” remained an undeveloped stretch of land known as the Green Belt which existed until 1964.  The construction began on these vacant spaces. 

     A milk factory was erected, then a record manufacturer was built south of Gheorghe Lazar Street.  Gradually, step by step, a military exercise area was also built on the meadows situated in the north.  The only streetcar connection to the inner city until then, Line 4, was replaced with a new bus connection called Firobus.  The new part of the city developed called the "circumvalatiunii."   A pond which served as a natural rainwater reservoir, the "balta verde", was built and filled.  Once this pond was a popular meeting place in the winter.  Ice skating on this large free surface was a welcome leisure activity, not only for the children.  A popular meeting place over the whole year for many generations was in the churchyard, as it was the central key element in the social life of the Germans in Mehala.  Now much time has past since those days and most Germans have moved away.  Many old homes are dilapidated, and others have fallen victim to the development of the expanding new quarter up to the end of the ‘80’s.  The appearance of Mehala has changed, what remains are memories.

Translations provided by Brad Schwebler

Special Thanks to Georg Grega for his collaboration with us to create an English Website of his German version of Mehala - Timisoara.  Appreciation and thanks also goes to Brad Schwebler who has contributed his time and talents in translating various pages from German to English, for us to benefit.  [German Version of Georg Grega's Mehala]


History of the Temeschburger Fortress [German]


Temeschburg / Temeswar Coordinator: Jody McKim Pharr, GA, USA

© 2003-2012 Jody McKim Pharr, unless otherwise noted.  
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Last Updated: February 29, 2012