Saturday, September 15, 2007
HISTORICAL TIMISOARA AND HIS MONUMENTS
The oldest buildings of the present historical center of Timisoara were built at the beginning of the 18th Century, which is why it is often known only as a Baroque city. The town it self is much older but,except for parts of the Huniade castle, neither the medieval urban structure nor any building dated before 1716 can be seen today.
Timisoara is located in a swampy plain where two rivers, Timis and Bega, periodically flooded the territory. The confused network of subsidiary streams and swamps led to the fact the city, built on bothsides of the river Bega, took its name from the river Timis.
Today It Is hard to imagine that Timisoara, this beautiful and orderly town rose from the marshes. The way it looks
nowadays is, all in all, the result of its people's courage,ingenuity and diligence. Like very many other medieval towns
of Europe, Timisoara was born under the protection of a fortress and around it. That is why, the center and the oldest
part of the town bears the suggestive name of "Cetate"(Citadel). This was the nucleus from which it developed into an
urban settlement, in the course of centuries, the evolution of its town planning being a real book of history.
At the beginning, the citadel, rectangular in shape, was made of palisaded fortifications, surrounded by moats. It
included a church, several modest buildings, lodging people who had administrative and military prerogatives. In the 15th
century the fortress was enlarged and consolidated as it was temporarily chosen for a royal residence.In the written documents of the time mention is made of two churches and two monasteries as well as of the area of buildings erected beyond the outer walls of the fortress. On the hearth of the former rural settlements around the citadel,the future districts were to be founded. After Timisoara's having fallen under the Ottoman rule, major changes were effected in the town-planning of the area within its bounds and outside the citadel. New fortifications were also created, new streets and buildings, private houses, public edifices and religious establishments.
What was Timisoara like in the middle of the 15th century ?We learn something about it from a valuble description made in
1860 by the Turkish traveller Eviia Celebi. The citadel had, by then, a pentagonal shape, and was divided into four districts
with narrow, crooked, plankfloored streets. It took an hour's walk to cover the town's perimeter. Five vaulted massive, iron- made, double gates opened into the solid walls, defended by stone towers, on sides. Within the citadel's boundaries there were about 1200 public and private buildings, the latter made of wood or adobe, with shingle roof. Four bathing houses,several coffee houses and inns, depots and warehouses, nearly four hundred shops made the town comely and fervently active.
The castle with its brick vaults and turrets, the Grand Mosque,the janissary Barracks, the eight monasteries and ritual
proceeding places, all stood out proudly above the citadel's architectonics. Beyond the outer walls there were ten outlying
quarters, with approximately 1500 houses, disorderly scattered around the churches and other holy enclosures.
The Habsburg rule would entirely change Timisoara's aspects,equally trying to change its ethnic composition. The whole town would be rebuilt. In 1727, at the War Council in Vienna, Count Mercy, the first governor of the Banat presented the
"Regulations for Erecting Buildings in the Town and Citadel of Timisoara." They stipulated that a larger and stronger fortress should be built in the future, that the old wood or adobe houses would be demolished and replaced by brick houses; that a new network of streets be rigorously drawn, so that those buildings might make up uninterrupted frontages and rectangular quarters. Naturally, a special attention was given to building the new fortress, concluded by 1765; it was considered among the main four important citadels of the Habsburg monarchy.
The result was a strongly fortified fortress, star-shaped, lying on an almost circular plane, defended by strong corner bastions.As late as 1733, most of the old buildings were pulled down. A new town was set up in their place: barracks, military high commands, dwellings for officers and clerks, churches belonging to various religious faiths, the Governor's Palace, hospitals, public edifices, monuments, etc. The architectonic pride of the central part, the, Cetatea" consisted in the squares, the orderly aligned streets bordered by churches, monuments and administrative palaces. Near the outer walls of the citadel, except for a band of 949 m of land, there began the erection of the new districts of Timisoara, in keeping with a minutely detailed plan. Old houses were pulled down, modest new ones erected, aligned in straight streets, in rectangular residential districts. The oldest of the districts, inhabited by Romanians, was immediately rebuilt after Timisoara's having been taken by the Habsburg troops. The design was specific of the Banat planned villages. "Maierele" which was built in the south of the citadel, would develop into an area called Elisabetin, after 1836. On the east and south- east of the Citadel, Count Mercy, in 1720 innaugarated the first buildings in the Fabric district. That was the place where the first industrial units were born. In 1744, the Iosefin quarter was set up. Concomitantly, towards the end of the 18th the Mehala district was built. Thus Timisoara came to be a complex urban system, consisting of several distinct areas. The town proper roughly covered the central area, and the adjoining districts with streets oriented towards the heart of the urban ensemble. Although there were many vacant patches of land among the sites occupied by buildings, the then urban system made up a modern, balanced, organic whole. Timisoara, "Small Vienna", as it was called, at the time, was one of the most beautiful towns of south-eastern Europe.
The oldest architectonic monuments date back to the 18th century, apart from the Castle. The Castle (today turned into
the Banat Museum) was built between 1307 and 1315. Later on, between 1443 and 1447, Iancu de Hunedoara (John Hunyadi) built another castle on the foundations of the former one. It encircled a rectangular square, having a high ground floor and two storeys. The voyevod brought his family here and, in the short intervals between battles, the Transylvanian nobles used to join him at the castle, a witness of many an eventful century of history in Timisoara. In the 18th century, it was turned into an arsenal and barrackss. Heavily strafed in 1552,1716, 1849, the castle was rebuilt in 1856 and most of it has survived to this day. During the epoch of Romanticism the castle underwent shapely constructive modifications, following
an older architectonic style, with Romanic and Gothic elements.An old part still preserves the original pre-Romantic stone
The 18th century has left us with a number of monuments lending a special mark to Piata Unirii (The Union Square), and
to Piata Libertatii (Liberty Square). The Roman Catholic Cathedral (the Dome) was built in 1736 by the Viennese architect Fischer von Erlach junior. It has a cross-shaped design blending classic patterns and baroque decoration. The two altars harmoniously bring together baroque and rococo elements; due to the design of the vaults the acoustics are excellent for the organ concerts. On the opposite side of the square stands the Serbian Orthodox Church, erected between 1744and 1748, restored and completed with two towers, in 1791. Its sculptures are baroque and the beautiful religious painting was
made by Constantin Daniel in the 19th century. The great lofty architecture of the Baroque Palace (the President's House)
rises proudly above the Union Square. It was built in 1733, extended in 1754, restored and then completed in the following
century. The edifice was to be used for administrative purposes (the prefect's office, the County Residence). In the future, it
will house the Art Museum. At the heart of this square, formerly used for military parades and religious ceremonies, one can see the Holy Trinity carved in stone, (Vienna, 1735-1740) and initially erected (1740) in Piata Transilvania. (Transilvania Square). It is a remarkable 18th century baroque work. The monument consists of several suffering plague- stricken human beings grouped around a baroque column. The Black death haunted the Timisoreans between 1738 and 1739. Piata Libertitii (Liberty Square) was opened in 1720, and it became the military center of the town. The roughly square-
shaped place is dominated by the Commander in Chiefs Residence,built between 1744 and 1752, with its rococo-decorated facade.Between 1731 and 1734 Primaria Veche (The Old City hall) was erected on the foundations of a former Turkish Bath. The construction has been altered several times in the course of time. Its facade is symmetric with arches decorating it. Near
it, about 1730, a massive building sprang up - the War Chancellery. In the middle of the square stands St. Mary Monument (1756), sculptured by Blim and Wasserburger in Vienna.In the architecture of "Cetate" district also stand the Borough Civilian Hospital (1744-1745) the Oncological Hospital, today,rebuilt after the 1849 siege; the Military Hospital (1744-1766)
completed with storeys at the beginning of the 19th century;the Misericordian Church and Residence edified by the monks of
that order, for health purposes (1735-1737). After the fire caused by the siege of 1849, these would be restored in 1851.
They have a simple architecture with little decoration, typical of the European Baroque. The Episcopal Palace (4 Augustin Pacha Street) a mid-eighteenth century construction was used for administrative purposes; although entirely renovated (1889), it still preserves old forms of baroque architecture. The Deschan Palace (1735) is, today, in 5 Proclamatia de la Timisoara Street; partially renewed in 1802, it has remained an outstanding neoclassic feat of engineering combined with
elements of the Corinthian order. Behind the main building there is a wing of the initial architecture with a richly-arched facade. The Mercy Palace (the County Commercial Bank,today) was designed for the first Governor's residence,immediately after the Habsburg rule set In. Both the inside part and the exterior are architectonically simple, having but
little decoration on; with all its massive appearance, this edifice shows elegance and balance. Not far from it rise the
Food Waiehouse Barracks (now the Museum of Ethnography) and Theresia Bastion (dating from 1730-1733). The latter one and some fragments in Brediceanu Street ("700" Square) are, in fact, the only remnants of the former star-shaped fortress.
Today the onlooker is impressed by this solid and strong architecture. Fragments of two other constructions have also
survived to this day: 1788, (the former monastery in 1st Ungureanu Street) and "Prince Eugene" Gate embedded in the
thickness of the wall in another building erected in 1817 (24 Eugeniu de Savoya Street). 18th century architecture is also to
be found in the "Fabric" District: St. George Orthodox Church (1745-1753) in Traian Square; the Romanian Greco-Catolic Church(1765) in Alexandru Sterca Sulutiu Square; the Old Brewery(1764). Bisericii Square ("Old Maierele") also includes the
Romanian Orthodox Church (1784) renovated in 1894 and 1927.The ample economic development during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th determined important changes in the structure and the urbanization of Timisoara. The old walls with their narrow gates stood a barrier for the expansion of constructions in the central part of the town, for the transportation and for the digging of water supply canals and of the sewerage system. Moreover, the new art of war was in
discrepancy with the anachronic system of fortifications and the great destructions of the 1849 siege evinced it quite
clearly. In 1892 the Administration decided that the fortifications should be pulled down and sanitation Measures be
adopted. Their decision was put into practice only after 1900 but it meant a real turning point and a feat of engineering for
Timisoara's future development. In the place of the dilapidated ditches, bastions ind ,ewers, there sprang up modern buildings and streets, wide boulevards, and new roads opened towards the older districts. The street network and the areas with constructions having grownn, the vacant spaces among the districts became fewer and fewer. The town planning also
extended over the outskirts which equally grew in the number of buildings erected on larger and larger sites. The architects
designed straight and wider streets grouped in quarters,covering vast areas. The private houses, generally ground-floored, were surrounded by gardens, and the apartment-houses made small square enclosures (Barnutiu Street, Asachi Street, Cermena Street). The population of these districts grew considerably. In the middle of the 19th century, more than 53% of the civilian population lived in the "Fabric" district, due to the rapid industrial development at the time. The "Josefin"district extended on both sides of the Bega river. Its new streets (Vacarescu Street, Tineretii Street, General Ion Dragalina Street a.s.o.) show a markedly 19th century architectural style. The importance of this district in the town's life also stepped up with the building of the North Railway Station (1857), of the Tobacco Mill and Lamp-oil Plant.Towards the end of the last century, the building sites having been filled, practically, the "Elisabetin" and the "Iosefin" districts were united, while the "Mehala" still maintained its rural character. Still more numerous monumental buildings sprang up, during the 19th century, lending the town a special architectural aspect. The Dicasterial Palace (1855-1860) was meant to be the Banat governor's residence; it is Timisoara's largest construction, with three inner yards, 273 rooms, halls,cellars, etc. Its facade has an interesting decoration of the Florentin Renascence style. Today it houses several admi-nistrative, financial and law offices. In front of this lofty edifice in Ionel C. Bratianu Street, one ran see the Evangelic Church (1837-1839) and its rectory, the former Evangelic School, erected before the 1848/1849 Revolution. In the place of the Rascian City hall (1755), between 1877 and 1879, the Higher Science School was built; today it houses the "Nikolaus Lenau" German High School. The New Synagogue (1863-1865) (6Marasesti Street) with its Moorish style and brick-faced facade brings a special color" into the baroque architecture of the place. The House of the Orthodox Community (5 Unirii Square) dating from 1828, the Old Museum (1886-1891), nowadays the Library of the Romanian Academy Timisoara Branch, 7 Augustin Pacha Street, the Electromotor High School (1899-1900), all these are harmoniously integrated in the architecture of the central area. Several other monumental buildings date from the same period: The New Synagogue of "Fabric" district (1899), also in "Moorish style"; the Institute for the Deaf-Mutes(1894-1897), the former "Notre-Dame" High School (1881) in General Ion Dragalina Street, the Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) Bridge, the Roman Catholic Church of "Fabric", built in"Roman style". Among the relatively few historical monuments dating from the last century, mention should be made of the Victory Memorial (today in the Lipovei Street cemetery) set up (1850) in the Old City hall Square, to celebrate the victory of the Austrian troops over the 1848/49 revolutionists. The pedestal is evocative of Timisoara's fortifications, defended by towers; above them a canopy shelters the statue of a woman holding the keys of the town in her hand. The four statuettes, flanking her on sides, embody Honesty, Obeyance, Vigilance and Sacrifice. In "St. Mary Square" there is St. Mary's Monument, erected in the place where, according to tradition, Gheorghe Doja was executed. Legends hold that, while Gheorghe Doja was tortured, the Jesuit monks (singing religious hymns) saw St.Mary's gentle face. That is why they brought an icon of Mary in a glass box and put it up in the placeof the ordeal. In 1865 a stone statue was placed there. The monument we can see today dates from 1906. It is made of Carrara marble, nesting inside a Roman granite chapel. After 1900, on the "decertified" sites, new squares, boulevards and streets were cut within a large perimeter (Victory Square, Horatius Square, Revolutiei 1989 Square). The use of new building materials (metal frames, reinforced concrete) made it possible for the architects to give up observing the norms of classic architecture and to create massive, widely-spanned constructions. In Timisoara, like in the rest of Europe, the "1900 style" gained ground. It was characterized by the blending of various architectonic elements and by a large variety of suggestive architectonic expression given life on the facades of the buildings. We find, for example, edifices in which classic architectural elements combine with vegetal, geometric ornaments, typical of the "1900 style". In other constructions attempts were made at lending them Romanian specificity by employing Byzantine architectural formulas. In the period prior to World War 1, architecture manifested predilection for monumentality and the creation of large spans of street fronts (with buildings having shops at the ground floor), very much like those in the great European urban centers.
It was then that many constructions were set up to cover the social-cultural needs: the Children Asylum (1904), the Pediatric Clinic and Hospital (1904), the School of Commerce (1914), today the Municipal City hall; the Piarist High School(1908-1909), nowadays part of the Technical University; the Girls' High School (I 903-1904), today the "Eftimie Murgu"
Pedagogical High School, the Boys' High School (I 902-1903), today the "Constantin Diaconovici Loga" High School, the
General Post Office (1910-1943), the Neptune Palace ("Neptune"Bath) 1913-1,914, a massive construction built in the
"Secession style", the Casino in "Iosefin" (1902-1903); the"Apollo" cinema (1909). Other edifices were erected for special
purposes: financial institutions (Timisana Bank - 1913);religious, (The Romanian Orthodox Church - 191 1; in Andrei Saguna Street) painted by Ion Zaicu; administrative (the Timis-Bega Society 1900/1902 - today the Romanian Railway Regional Administration; economic (The Slaughter House - 1904/1905), etc. The "Iosefin" became the most important economic district due to the position of the Railway Station and of the port. However most of the constructions were erected in "Elisabetin". There our eye is caught by the Catholic Church (1913-1919) a piece of architectonic curiosity, neo-Gothic in
style, looking on the Balcescu Square; the quarter built between Plevna Square and Splaiul Vladimirescu closely keeping
with the "1900 style". An important role in creating the urban unity of Timisoara was played by the chain of parks organized on both sides of the river as well as all over the town: the People's Park (1868); Central Park (the second half of the 19th century), dominated by the "Memorial dedicated to the Romanian soldier"; the Doina Park, the Plevna Park (after 1900), later completed by other green areas of great beauty: the Rosarium, the Alpinet Park.The town is thus given a special charm thanks to the presence of the parks and numberless areas covered with verdure and flowers, wonderful places of rest and entertainment, oasis of peace and freshness. Timisoara has consequently won recognition as "the town of parks and of roses".
After the Great Union of 1918, the town was naturally integrated in the new historical reality; it went through a spectacular development in the period between the two world wars. The planning worked on, no more determined by the existence of the castle but in keeping with a long-term perspective, covering several decades. The old districts are now connected by bituminized or macadamized streets, by wide and bright boulevards; many new elegant quarters were built in the vacant areas between Iosefin and Elisabetin, or between Fabric and Elisabetin. The dynamics of civil engineering was significant for Timisoara development after the 1918 Union. In 1914 there had been 5590 buildings, 596 storied ones whereas in 1941 there were 11 812, 1531 with one or more storeys. These constructions are massive and strong, some of them real palaces, stylistically varied, arrayed in continuous spans alongside the streets. In almost all the districts they make up a real architectonic symphony: edifices with simplified elements of the Byzantine architecture others bearing specifically neoclassical, modern, neo-Romanian or even Cubist decoration.
The National Theater and the Orthodox, Cathedral stand proudly in the stately esplanade of the Victory Square, one of the most beautiful inter-war architectural achievements. The National Theater (1872-1875) went through fire twice, in 1880 and in 1920, being then renovated (1920-1928) by Duillu Marcu, an architect who superimposed elements of neo-Byzantine
architecture. The monumental arch spanning over its facade lends it distinction. The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedra(1936-1940) was designed by a renowned architect - Traianescu in keeping with the traditional Romanian architecture of the
Moldavian style. It Impresses us through its size, the high quality of painting and of sculpture, through the harmonious blending of architectonic patterns. The sides of the square are occupied by monumental buildings (the Lloyd Palace, the Lofler Palace, the Dauerbach Palace, the Marbi Palace). In the middle of the square we can see the Mother-wolf statue, donated by Rome in 1926, as a symbol of the Romanian people's Latin origin. Mention should be also made of other massive constructions, built within the same stretch of time: the Timis Prefecture Palace (1938-1943), the "Capitol" Cinema (1929-1930), the "Timisoara" Hotel (1930); the "Banatia" High School (1924-1926; today the University of Medicine and
Pharmaceutic, the "Ciobanu Palace", the "Classical" Lyceum (1930 - the Students' House of Culture, nowadays), the Old
Building of the Faculty of Mechanics (1923), the Hygiene Institute (1929), the Orthodox Church of Mehala (1925-1937),
After the Second World War a relative stagnation set in, as far as the urbanities development was concerned. Then an intense
building activity started, many constructions springing up in the town's panorama: industrial, social and cultural establishments, blocks of flats, making up the large quarters of Circumvalatiunii, Torontalului Avenue, Aradului Road,
Tipografilor, Buziasului Road, Sagulul Avenue, etc. In the last three decades many constructions have been erected, but at the
expense of so many people's privations and sacrifices.Generally, their architecture has completely broken away from
the traditional background and physiognomy of the town, as was pointed out by M. Opris, the author of Timisoara's, A Short
Urbanities Monograph, Editura Tehnica, Bucharest, 1987, a piece of literature with ample references in the domain of