Istrita stone stairs

This is a pleading to those undertaking restoration and renovation works of Romania’s historic buildings to start using again the wonderful Istrtita stone, a local building material that was quarried for centuries by peasants from the villages dotting the the Istrita Hill in Buzau county, eastern Wallachia. It is a greyish brown limestone, resulted over the geological ages from cemented together fossil shells. The stone is found in the structure and decorative elements of many peasant and period town houses or historic public edifices from the region of Buzau, as are the picturesque stairs presented in the photographs bellow that embellish a late 1890s Little Paris style house in Buzau city centre. The Istrita stone was also extensively used in farther away places from Bucharest, Braila or Ploiesti. Its most interesting use is, in my opinion, as material for making traditional peasant crosses, which embellish old village cemeteries in south-eastern Romania. The Istrita stone is now practically forgotten, despite its high significance for the local architectural identity and excellent potential as building material. It has fallen out of grace once the industrially produced concrete became widely available in the 1960s and also because in the last two decades the market has been flooded with cheap imported construction materials, a large proportion of which comes from as far away as China or India.

Istrita stone stairs, Buzau; house from the 1890s (©Valentin Mandache)

Istrita stone stairs, Buzau (©Valentin Mandache)

Istrita Hill, Buzau county, Romania (Google Earth)

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Solar symbol in local stone

Ethnographic solar symbol (about 70 cm diameter) in lumachel limestone, Buzau (©Valentin Mandache)

The above ethnographic solar symbol adorns the doorway of the remarkable Palace of Justice in Buzau, south east Romania, a building designed by the great architect Petre Antonescu in the Neo-Romanian style with interesting Art Nouveau overtones; edifice completed in 1912. The solar motif features prominently in the Romanian peasant art and is found represented in contexts ranging from sewing patterns to wood and stone carvings. What I like in this particular representation is the fact that is carved in the local lumachel stone (greyish brown limestone, made from cemented together fossil shells). The stone comes from quarries located on the Istrita hill in the Carpathian piedmont (aka the Subcarpathians), not far from the city of Buzau. The stone, known locally as the “Istrita stone” is found in the structure and decoration of many peasant houses or public edifices from that region. It also used to be the main material for making peasant crosses, which imprinted the old local village cemeteries with an extremely picturesque, stone forest like character. The Istrita stone has seen a fatal decline in its use as building material ever since the industrially produced concrete became cheap and widely available in the 1960s, a fact that contributed to the loss of an essential component of the architectural identity and character of the Buzau county.

Above is a Google sattelite map of the Istrita hill

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.