Sibiu orthodox cathedral – universalist message in architecture

Sibiu orthodox cathedral, old postcard (1900s), Valentin Mandache collection

The city of Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian) is the second largest urban centre of historic Saxon Transylvania. It is, as its varying names show, a multi-ethnic city. The main faith of Sibiu’s ethnic Romanian population is Christian orthodox, with its centre of worship at the majestic cathedral depicted in the old postcard pictured above, inaugurated in 1904 and designed by the Hungarian architects Josef Kamner and Vergilius Nagy. The postcard was published by the Sibiu archdiocese in the period immediately after its inauguration. The crisp drawing and lively hand applied colours convey, in many ways better than a photograph, the architectural message and the monumental proportions of this remarkable ecclesiastical building. The cathedral is modelled after Saint Sophia in Constantinople, embracing also elements of local Trasylvanian architecture and baroque, the style ubiquitous throughout the Habsburg empire, whence Sibiu was then a frontier city in the vicinity of the old Kingdom of Romania. I like the universalist message of its architecture, making references to the church of the first millennium of the Common Era, before the Great Schism and the Reformation, which had its centre in Byzantium. That obvious integrative symbolism was so much in contrast with the ethnic tensions prevalent throughout the Habsburg Empire in its last decades of existence, when the cathedral was conceived and built, a situation that ultimately led to the demise of that once great polity.

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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.

Art Nouveau pavilion in Ocna Sibiului spa town

Ocna Sibiului (German: Salzburg; Hungarian: Vizakna) is a small spa town in historic Saxon Transylvania developed especially during the Victorian era, when the region was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Many of its hotels, restaurants and baths were designed in the Art Nouveau style, as is shown in the old postcard bellow (published in the early 1910s). I have not visited yet the place, but I understand that a number of those wonderful Art Nouveau edifices and decorations are still around and even “restored”, which in the context of today Romania should in fact mean aggressive restoration. I like the sight of the Saxon church bell-tower, pictured in the background of the postcard, rising over the old village and spa pavilion.

Art Nouveau style pavilion in Ocna Sibiului (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

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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.

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

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.

Daily Picture 27-Feb-09: Art Deco Spa Building in Saxon Transylvania

The 1929 Art Deco style of the 'mud-bath" pavilion in Bazna spa town (Baussen in local German dialect) in Saxon Transylvania, central Romania. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

Bazna is located in the region known as Saxon Transylvania, traditionally inhabited by ethnic Germans from the c12th until c20th. This industrious and highly civilized community was forced to emigrate during the communist period to West Germany because of the harsh economic conditions and unbearable nationalist policies against ethnic minorities of the state of Romania. This is also an important natural gas producing area, known as the Transylvanian salt domes region, endowed with a geology that contains large such hydrocarbure deposits, which in the inter-war period made Romania one of the main European gas producers and today makes this EU region much less dependent on the capricious Russian gas supply. That complex geology favoured the development of an important spa resort town in Bazna during the Victorian period, when the area was within the confines of the Habsburg Empire. The old post card above shows the mud-bath pavilion (“Schlammbad” in German) during the brief inter-war flourishing of the local German community. It is built in an attractive minimalist, essential early Art Deco style (the year 1929 as is mentioned on the central tower). I like the “Salve” inscription on the pediment of the Art Deco doorway which greets the customers, a typical cheerful spa town decorative artefact used since the Roman times. The photograph is a glimpse of a long gone happy epoch reflected in architecture. Bazna nowadays is littered with ugly modern buildings of uncouth architecture, a consequence of the wild Romanian property boom of the last few years. It is also an expensive place, despite its run down infrastructure in terms of holiday resort. That makes even more poignant the contrast with the beautiful inter-war atmosphere and architecture depicted in the postcard above.

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

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

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