Brasov

 

Brasov has a unique location at the feet of the Carpathian mountains at one of the most important mountain-passes. The origins of the town are not very well defined as the location was already inhabit in the Neolithic era. Later on the Dacians built 3 fortresses near the actual town. The roots of the Romanian people originated by the Dacians and they continued to inhabit the place during the dark Middle Ages. The Hungarians invaded the region around the year 1000 and soon after that colonists started to invade Transylvania. Some sources claim that all these settlers from Central- and West Europe were invited by the Hungarian king Andrew II, bus this don't fit completely. There were earlier already French, Luxemburger, Dutch, Flemish, Walloon and  German settlers from Rhine and Mosel in the region. Most likely they came from the first crusade (peoples crusade) that took place in 1096. Later on King Andrew II invited Saxon settlers and these settlers came in large numbers and mainly absorbed the earlier settlers. In the same time also the Teutonic knights were invited by the Hungarian king to defend the new land against invading tribes from the east and they built in about 15 years time 7 wooden fortresses. This was the time that the town Brasov more or less got it's shape. Soon after that Transylvania was raided by the Mongols (1241) and left the country devastated. Shortly after that all the towns started to build strong defense walls. Unique in Transylvania was that not only a defense wall was built, but the churches became included as active part of the defense system. The Saxon population flourished and made from Brasov a strong town with defense walls, bastions and defense towers. The Romanian population wasn't allowed inside these walls and they lived in the Schei district. The old town remained more or less intact since that time. 

 

Piata Sfatului: best-known square of the town with many historic buildings. The Old Town Hall Square, surrounded by venerable houses, has witnessed much that has taken place in town history. During the middle Ages the flanks of the square were called, the Flower Market, the Grain Market, the Butter Market and further the Horses Market and the Oxen Market. 

 

Council House (now history museum) in the center of the Piata Sfatului. Built in 1420 and destroyed in the great fire from 1689. The building you see now is mainly a reconstruction in Baroque style. The tower was much older then the old city hall and was in the very beginning constructed as a watch tower. (12th-13th c.) The tower was then named the Trumpetower. The building now exhibits the story of the Saxon guilds. Tower is 58m high. (open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm)

Black Church: (built 1385-1477)

Initially known as Saint Mary's Church, the Black Church (14th-15th centuries) is the largest Gothic church in Romania and within the territory between Vienna and Istanbul. It is said on this place it was a small chapel destroyed by Tartars in 1242. Building start ed in 1385 and took a century to finish (1477). The year 1477 is written in Gothic letters on the front gate, the only wooden part that resisted the fire started by the Austrians in 1689. The church got its name from its blackened walls after the fire that destroyed not only the church but also a big part of the town. The church is built of natural stone (limestone). Some exterior statues didn't withstand the elements and had to be replaced. The oldest statue presents Saint Peter and is located at the southern wall of the church. The church has six portals, with different architectural styles from Gothic- to Renaissance style. The portal on the East side of the church was built in 1436, and ordered By Matthei Corvin. Inside the church there are three naves splitted by pillars. In 1689 the church was nearly destroyed by the great fire. The restoration took about 100 years. It was then that the Black Church received his appearance with his characteristic roof of 20 m height. The roof covers also the gallery of tracery that formerly went around the church at the height where the roof begins. 

Because of the restoration the interior lost a good deal of his Gothic character. The original Gothic vault was replaced by a simple  semi-cylindrical one. Baroque lofts were built (1710-1720) in the lateral naves to increase the capacity of the church. They are incorporated with great tact in the architectural structure. The church shows some particular cult-objects. The bronze font - given by the town's vicar Johannes Reudel in 1472 survived the great fire in 1689 - is a very representative work of the native medieval bronze art. The art-smith Mesen Hannes made in 1716 the wonderful lattice work. The wall painting in the southern entrance hall (1476) represents the Holy Virgin between the Holy Katherine (with a wheel and a sword) and the Holy Barbara (with a tower). This painting is still in Gothic style, but it shows already the influence of the italian renaissance. The altar is in neo-gothic style (1866). In the front of the northern side nave is an image of the Brasovean painter Hans Eder representing the wedding in Kana (1932). On a pillar in the middle-nave are the coat of arms of the town and King Matei Corvin. The baroque pews in the side-naves date from the 1st half of the 18th century. The painted guild panels on the pews show folkloristic interesting motives. These pews date from the 2nd half of the 19th century; the oak-benches in the middle-nave date from 1937. 

On the North side there is a Golden gate with a small portico placed somewhere between the buttresses. The portico is covered by a simple ogive and on the facade there is a semicircular arch. Right above there are sculptured leaves, reminiscence of the Gothic style. There is a very important collection Oriental carpets from the 17th and 18th centuries (largest in Europe out of Turkey), donated by Saxon Merchants after a safe trip. Well known is also the chronicle of the black church, from which you can see vaguely something on the northern wall of the choir. The chronicle was written in latin and copied before it got destroyed. Organ recitals on the 4000-pipe instrument are held on Tuesdays at 6pm. The Black church ghost also the biggest bell from Romania, a 6 ton! heavy monster. Can you imagine, the thing came already twice unvoluntary down during chiming... once in 1605 and once in 1750...

 

Defense walls, bastions and towers

The old fortified medieval town was relatively small. There was one defense wall running south- east at the foot of the Tampa hill. This wall is for the main part still visible with gunpowder-, furriers- and drapers towers. In the south corner along this wall is the Weavers bastion. Opposite is the Blacksmiths bastion in the southwest corner of the town. In the middle of the southern wall was the Ecaterina gate. 

The Ecaterina's Gate, erected in 1559, has on its front a bas relief of the town's coat of arms. The gate has a main spire and four small spires in each corner showing foreigners that the town had its own justice system and could give death sentence for crimes that took place within the towns perimeter. The tailors protected this gate.

 

West - north is another wall, starting with the Blacksmiths bastion, again built down the slope. 
Along this wall is the Graft bastion and you find the black and white towers, built outside the wall. 

 

In the north was a citadel built on a hilltop. In the early days in wood, later in stone (16th-17thc.) Blacksmiths Bastion. Built in 1529. In the beginning of the century the tower was turned into an archive. The archive hosts more than 100,000 old and rare documents among them 80 letters belonging to rulers Neagoe Basarab, Serban Cantacuzino, Mircea cel Batran and Nicolae Mavrocordat (14th-16th century), the oldest letter ever written in Romanian language (The letter of Neacsu, the merchant from Campulung -1521) and documents attesting the existence of Slatina and Braila districts.

 


Graft Bastion was erected in 1521. A rectangular structure, the bastion has four levels and is
accessible through interior staircases. Upon completion of the rehabilitation, levels II, III and IV will display medieval objects, while level I will serve as rest area for visitors.

 


The White Tower is located 60m far outside the citadel's walls, near the Graft bastion. The construction was erected late half of 15th c. It has a horseshoe form and is 14 m high. 

 


The Black Tower: was built in 1494 on a rock on Straja hill, near Blacksmiths' Bastion. It has a square form. In 1599 the tower was destroyed by lightning. It got its name from its walls being blackened by the fire

 


Citadel: In the 16th century there was a wooden fortification on this hill that gradually was being transformed (17th - 18th c.) in the stone building that you see now. There is a restaurant and a fine weapon collection There is an 80 m deep well, and you have beautiful views over the town. 

 


The Drapers bastion: built from 1450 till 1455. Located on the East side of the old citadel, the bastion has three floors. Initially the tower belonged to the goldsmiths guild and was transferred to the drapers in 1640.

 


The Ropemakers tower, Tiberiu Breticeanu Alley. Built in 1416 and is one of the oldest towers. It has the form of a hexagon and is 10-12 m high. The fire from 1689 destroyed a big part of the tower.

 


Gunpowder tower and Furriers Tower: In restauration and they are part of the east-west wall

 


Weavers bastion (1421-36), houses the museum of the Birsa land fortifications, on Strada Cosbuc, has three levels of wooden galleries and storage rooms for meat and other provisions in case of siege. Museum Tues-Sun 10am-4pm, with splendid diorama of medieval Brasov, further pictures and weaponry

 


The Schei Gate just to the east of the Ecaterina Gate, was erected at the beginning of the 19th. c. The gate is built in baroque style has the form of a triumph arch. 

 

Ecaterina gate

Graft bastion

White tower

Weavers bastion

Schei gate

Downtown Brasov

 

Downtown Brasov is very lively. It is a small town center and about all tourist objectives related with the Saxon population are located within the perimeter of the medieval town center. There are many shops, pedestrian streets, terraces, restaurants, museums and churches. The Schei district is to the south and starts directly outside the Saxon fortifications. Everything is on a very convenient walking distance. the old town center is bordered to the west and east by 2 high mountain ridges. the east ridge (Tampa Mountain) is accessible with a funicular. To the north of the Saxon town center is the citadel built on a hill top. 

 

Junii  festival

 

The Junii pageant: First sunday after Orthodox Eastern
This habit whereby the young men had to make a test to become an adult got transformed over the years. Still the basic principles are the same, but now there are 7 groups (the young Junii), most of them founded between 1880 and 1920, groups related to different old army divisions. They are followed by the adult Junii. They make a parade between the market square in Schei and the large square in Brasov. They are wonderfully dressed in a "Bulgarian style" costume. There is the leader (Vataful), and his 2 helpers the "Armasi mare" and "Armasi mic". The celebration has also another interesting fact: it was the only day that the Romanians were allowed to enter Saxon Brasov without restrictions. 
Nowadays the procession starts in the Schei district at Piata Unirii and goes through the Schei gate to the Piata Sfatului (big square in Saxon Brasov) After that the people go the Salomons Rocks to have a big folk fest up the hill. The Junii are dressed in beautiful colorful costumes, some 150 years old. They are joined by brass bands. 

 

 

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