Sibiu


Sibiu (Romanian pronunciation: [si'biw]) is a city in Transylvania, Romania.  



Nowadays the capital of Sibiu County, between 1692 and 1791 Sibiu was the capital of the Principality of Transylvania. Formerly the centre of the Transylvanian Saxons, the old city of Sibiu was ranked as "Europe's 8th most idyllic place to live" by Forbes. 

   

Sibiu is one of the most important cultural centers of Romania and, in tandem with Luxembourg, it was designated a European Capital of Culture for the year 2007. 

     

Geography

Sibiu is situated near the geographical center of Romania. Located some 282 km north-west of Bucharest, the city straddles the Cibin River, a tributary of the river Olt. 

Set in the Cibin Depression, the city is about 20 km from the Fagaras Mountains, 12 km from the Cibin Mountains, and about 15 km from the Lotrului Mountains, which border the depression in its southwestern section. The northern and eastern limits of Sibiu are formed by the Târnavelor Plateau, which descends to the Cibin Valley through Gusteritei Hill. 

The city administers also the ski resort Paltinis. 

   

History

In the proximity of Sibiu, at Caedonia (Gusterita district) there is a Roman settlement, not yet systematically researched. It is well known in the literature the Biertan Donarium (IV century AD) whose Latin inscription, Ego Zenovius votum posui (I, Zenovius, I put this offering), attests a Romanized (Latinized) population in Dacia, after Romans departure (271 AD). This population survived the harsh conditions of the migrations period, populating the valleys of the Olt, Cibin Hârtibaci or Tarnavelor till today.

     

The first official record referring to the Sibiu area comes from 1191, when Pope Celestine III confirmed the existence of the free prepositure of the German settlers in Transylvania (Teutonic- ecclesia Theutonicorum Ultransilvanorum), the prepositure having its headquarters in Sibiu, named Cibinium at that time. 

 

In the 14th century, it was already an important trade center. In 1376, the craftsmen were divided in 19 guilds. Sibiu became the most important ethnic German city among the seven cities that gave Transylvania its German name Siebenbürgen (literally seven cities), and it was home to the Universitas Saxorum, the assembly of Germans inTransylvania. 

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became the second and later the first most important center of Transylvanian Romanian ethnics. The first Romanian-owned bank had its headquarters here (The Albina Bank), as did the ASTRA (Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and Romanian's People Culture). After the Romanian Orthodox Church was granted status in the Habsburg Empire from the 1860s onwards, Sibiu became the Metropolitan seat, and the city is still regarded as the third most important center of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Between the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and 1867 (the year of the Ausgleich), Sibiu was the meeting-place of the Transylvanian Diet, which had taken its most representative form after the Empire agreed to extend voting rights in the region. After World War I, when Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, Sibiu became part of Romania.


Milestones in Sibiu's history

1191 - Mentioned for the first time in a document of the Vatican, under the name "Cibinium" (due to the river Cibin that flows through the city)

1241 - Mongol victory over the Hungarian army, April 10

1292 - The first hospital in the Kingdom of Hungary was opened.

1380 - The first documented school in the Kingdom of Hungary.

1494 - The first pharmacy in the Kingdom of Hungary.

1534 - The first paper mill in the Kingdom of Hungary.

1544 - The first book in the Romanian language was printed in Sibiu, funded by John II Sigismund Zápolya. This was in Cyrillic letters.

1551 - Conrad Haas's experiment with rockets.

1570 - The Ottoman-dependent Principality of Transylvania was formed after the Ottoman conquest in Hungary.

1671 - Methane gas was discovered near Sibiu.

1782 - Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein discovered the chemical element tellurium.

1788 - First theatre in Transylvania.

1795 - The first lightning rod in Transylvania and in Southeastern Europe was installed in Nagydisznód (present-day Cisnadie).

1817 - The Brukenthal Museum, the first museum in Transylvania was opened.

1867 - The Principality of Transylvania was reunited with Hungary in the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary

1872 - The first railway opened between Sibiu and Copsa Mica

1896 - The first use of electricity in Austria-Hungary, and the first power line in Southeastern Europe.

1904 - The second city in Europe to use an electric-powered trolley.

1905 - The Electric Tram is inaugurated (replacing the trolley)

1918 - Upon the Union of Transylvania with Romania, Sibiu became part of Romania.

1928 - The first zoo in Romania.

1989 - The third city to take part in the Romanian Revolution.

2007 - European Capital of Culture 2007


Main sights

The old city of Sibiu lies on the right bank of the Cibin River, on a hill situated at about 200 m from the river. It consists of two distinct entities: the Upper Town and the Lower Town. Traditionally, the Upper Town was the wealthier part and commercial outlet, while the Lower Town served as the manufacturing area.

The Lower Town (Romanian: Orasul de jos) comprises the area between the river and the hill, and it developed around the earliest fortifications. Most of the exterior fortifications were lost to industrial development and modern urban planning in the late 19th century; only four towers still exist.

This area has the oldest church in the city, dating back to 1292. 

   

The Upper Town (Romanian: Orasul de sus) is organised around three city squares and a set of streets along the line of the hill. As the main area for burgher activities, the area contains most points of interest in Sibiu. 

   

Grand Square

Grand Square (Romanian: Piata Mare, German: Großer Ring) is, as its name suggests, the largest square of the city, and has been the center of the city since the 16th century. 142 m long and 93 m wide, it is one of the largest ones in Transylvania.

Brukenthal Palace, one of the most important Baroque monuments in Romania, lies on the north-western corner of the square. It was erected between 1777 and 1787 as the main residence for the Governor of Transylvania Samuel von Brukenthal. It houses the main part of the National Brukenthal Museum, opened in 1817. Next to the palace is the Blue House, an 18th century Baroque house bearing the old coat of arms of Sibiu on its façade.

On the north side is the Jesuit Church, along with its dependencies, the former residence of the Jesuits in Sibiu. Also on the north side, at the beginning of the 20th century an Art Nouveau building was constructed on the west part, now it houses the mayor's office. 

   

Next to the Jesuit Church on the north side is the Council Tower, one of the city's symbols. This former fortification tower from the 14th century has been successively rebuilt over the years. The building nearby used to be the City Council's meeting place; beneath it lies an access way between the Grand Square and the Lesser Square. 

On the south and east sides are two- or three-storey houses, having tall attics with small windows known as the city's eyes. Most of these houses are dated 15th to 19th centuries, and most of them are Baroque in style. 

Lesser Square

As its name says, the Piata Mica (Small Square) is smaller in size, being rather longer than wide.

The square is connected to the other two squares and to other streets by small, narrow passages. The main access from the Lower City is through Ocnei Street, which divides the square in two. The street passes under the Liar's Bridge - the first bridge in Romania to have been cast in iron (1859). 

 

To the right of the bridge is another symbol of the city, The House of the Arts, an arched building formerly belonging to the Butchers' Guild. On the left side of the bridge is the Luxemburg House, a Baroque four-storey building, former seat of the Goldsmiths' Guild.


The fortifications

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Central Europe. Multiple rings were built around the city, most of them out of clay bricks. The south-eastern fortifications are the best kept, and all three parallel lines are still visible. The first is an exterior earth mound, the second is a 10-meter-tall red brick wall, and the third line comprises towers linked by another 10-meter-tall wall. All structures are connected via a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways, designed to ensure transport between the city and lines of defense.

In the 16th century more modern elements were added to the fortifications, mainly leaf-shaped bastions. Two of these survived to this day, as the Haller Bastion (all the way down Coposu Boulevard) and "Soldisch Bastion".


Passage of the Stairs

The steep Passage of the Stairs leads down to the lower section of Sibiu. It descends along some fortifications under the support arches. It is the most picturesque of the several passages linking the two sides of the city.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibiu

http://www.sibiu.ro

http://www.turism.sibiu.ro/index_en.php

http://www.sibiu2007.ro/

http://www.descopera.org/sibiu-un-oras-medieval/

Additional information