ROMANIAN CULTURALHERITAGEBy Bucharest eTwinning team
World Heritage Sites in RomaniaMedieval towns, fortified churches, paintedmonasteries, wooden masterpieces andancient Dacian ruins are just some of theattractions that make up Romania’sexceptional cultural heritage. 25 of itsbeautifully preserved architectural gems havebeen included by UNESCO in the WorldCultural Heritage in acknowledgement oftheir natural, scenic and monumental appeal.A tour of these sites is a good way to discoverRomania’s history, artistic wealth and populartraditions. Each and every stop on this routewill reveal a unique and stunning location.
Romania’s UNESCO World HeritageSites:» Monastery of Horezu» Medieval fortified churches ofTransylvania» Historic centre of Sighisoara» Painted Monasteries of Bucovina» Wooden Churches of Maramures» Dacian Fortresses of the OrastieMountains
» The Monastery of HorezuLocation: Walachia – Southern RomaniaNearby large town: Ramnicu Valcea (27 miles east)Nearest train station: Ramnicu ValceaFounded in 1690 by Prince Constantine Brancoveanu, themonastery of Horezu is a masterpiece of the Brancovenestistyle. Renown for the richness of its sculptural detail, thetreatment of its religious compositions and its painteddecorative works, the monastery houses precious collectionsof frescos and icons dating from the end of the 17th centuryand beginning of the 18th century. The Hurezi School of muraland icon painting established at the monastery in the 18thcentury had a profound influence on religious art andarchitecture in the Balkan region.The monastery museum, housed in the princely residence,features masterpieces of Brancovenesti art: icons, books,embroideries, silver collections and an interesting library ofold books containing approximately 4,000 volumes. Overnightaccommodation available.
The Medieval Fortified Churches of TransylvaniaTransylvania is home to nearly two hundredvillages with fortified churches built by theSaxons between the 13th and 15th centuries.Having to withstand constant invaders, thevillages’ central areas, where the church waslocated most of the time, were fortified withdefense walls, having the capacity to shelter alarge number of people. Seven of the fortifiedchurches have been designated by UNESCO asWorld Heritage Sites. A visit to these quaintvillages, placed amidst lush farmland and greenrolling hills, will give travelers a taste of the long-gone medieval times.
» Biertan Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large town: Sighisora (18 miles east)Nearest train station: Dumbraveni
Calnic Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large town: Sibiu (30 milessoutheast)Nearest train station: Miercurea SibiuluiDarjiu Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large town: Sighisoara (20 mileswest)Nearest train stations: Saschiz, Sighisoara
Prejmer Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large towns: Brasov (11 miles southwest)Nearest train station: PrejmerSaschiz Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large town: Sighisoara (10 miles west)Nearest train station: Saschiz
Valea Viilor Fortified Churchocation: Transylvania – CentralRomaniaNearby large town: Medias (8.5miles northwest)Nearest train station: CopsaMicaViscri Fortified ChurchLocation: Transylvania – CentralRomaniaNearby large town: Sighisoara(25 miles northwest)Nearest train station: Rupeai
Historic Centre of SighisoaraLocation: Transylvania - CentralRomaniaNearest train station: SighisoaraFounded by German craftsmen and merchants known as theSaxons of Transylvania, Sighisoara is a fine example of asmall, fortified medieval town which played an importantstrategic and commercial role on the fringes of centralEurope for several centuries.Sighisoara, one of the most beautiful towns in the heart ofTransylvania, looks today much as it did 500 years ago. Thismedieval town was also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula -nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) - ruler of Walachiafrom 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stokersfictional creation, Count Dracula. His house is just one of themany attractions here. Others include the Church on the Hill,with its 500–year old frescos; the Church of the DominicanMonastery, renown for its Renaissance carved altarpiece,baroque painted pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th-centuryorgan; and the Venetian House, built in the 13th century.
Among the most striking attractions is the 210-feet highClock Tower (Council Tower), built in the 14th century,where each day a different wooden figure emerges from thebelfry on the stroke of midnight. The tower was raised inthe 13th and 14th centuries when Sighisoara became a freetown controlled by craft guilds, each of which had tofinance the construction of a bastion and defend it duringwartime. The fortification walls, built in the 14th and 15thcenturies, were up to 50-feet high and featured 14 defensetowers. Most of the old structure and 9 of the defensetowers can still be admired today.
The Painted Monasteries of BucovinaAmong the most picturesque treasures of Romania are the PaintedChurches of Bucovina (northeastern Romania). With their paintedexterior walls, decorated with 15th and 16th century elaboratefrescoes (featuring portraits of saints and prophets, scenes from thelife of Jesus, images of angels and demons, heaven and hell),deemed as masterpieces of Byzantine art, these churches are one-of-a-kind architectural sites in Europe. Far from being merely walldecorations, the paintings represent complete cycles of religiousmurals. The purpose of the frescoes was to make the story of theBible and the lives of the most important orthodox saints known tothe villagers, by the use of images. Their outstanding composition,elegant outline and harmonious colors blend perfectly with thesurrounding landscape. Whether you are interested in religion,history, art or architecture, you will be intrigued by the constructionand decor — exterior and interior — of these edifices. The bestpreserved are part of monasteries in Humor, Moldovita, Patrauti,Probota, Suceava, Sucevita, and Voronet. Another, a small church, islocated in the village of Arbore. Seven of the churches were placedon UNESCO’s Word Heriatage list in 1993. The eight one, Sucevita, isawaiting sanction to be added soon.
Arbore ChurchLocation: Bucovina – Northeastern RomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (20 milessoutheast)Access: car, bus (from Gura Humorului orRadauti)Nearest train stations: Darmanesti, RadautiHumor MonasteryLocation: Bucovina – Northeastern RomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (25 miles east)Access: car, bus (from Suceva), trainNearest train stations: Gura Humorului
Moldovita MonasteryLocation: Bucovina – NortheasternRomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (55 milessoutheast)Access: car, train (from Suceava toVama, 1 ¼ hours, and from Vama toVatraMoldovitei, 35min)Nearest train stations: Vatra MoldoviteiPatrauti ChurchLocation: Bucovina – NortheasternRomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (5 milessoutheast)Access: car, bus from SuceavaNearest train stations: Darmanesti,Suceava
Probota MonasteryLocation: Bucovina –Northeastern RomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (31miles northwest)Nearest train stations: DolhascaSaint George’s Church / SaintJohn the New Monastery(Biserica Sfantul Gheorghe /Manastirea Sfantul Ioan cel Nou)Location: Suceava –Northeastern RomaniaAddress: Str. Ioan Voda Viteazul2Nearest train stations: Suceava
Voronet MonasteryLocation: Bucovina – Northeastern RomaniaNearby large town: Suceava (20 miles east)Access: car, bus (from Gura Humorului), 3 ½-milewalk from Gura HumoruluiNearest train stations: Gura Humorului
The Wooden Churches of MaramuresThere is a strong tradition of building wooden churches acrossEastern Europe, from Karelia and northern Russia all the way tothe Adriatic, but in terms of both quality and quantity the richestexamples are in Maramures. The Wooden Churches of Maramuresare unique in shape and ornamentation and eight of them – inBarsana, Budesti, Desesti, Ieud, Plopis, Poienile Izei, Rogoz andSurdesti,– have been recognized by UNESCO as World HeritageSites.The characteristic high roofs and tall, narrow, pointed steeplesare often collectively described as the Gothic Style of Maramures.The primary wood material used by the artisans was local oak,which has survived the elements with sturdy elegance until today.The interior walls of the churches were painted by local artists,with biblical scenes often juxtaposed against the familiarlandscape of the village. Most of these houses of worship havestood proudly since the 17th and 18th centuries – some evenlonger. The oldest wooden church in Maramures is the Church onthe Hill in Ieud, which dates from 1364.
Barsana Village(Biserica Intrarea Maicii Domnului in Biserica)Location: Iza Valley, Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (10 miles northwest)Nearest train station: Sighetu MarmatieiBuilt in 1720, the wooden church in the village of Barsana(tracing its name to barsani, the local shepherds who breedlong-haired sheep) features some impressive interiorfrescoes with baroque and rococo influences painted byToader Hodor in 1806. Originally part of a monastic complexclosed down in 1791, the church was moved to its presentlocation at the beginning of the 19th century. Thisoutstanding church boasts an impressive collection of iconspainted on glass and old religious books.
Budesti Village(Biserica Sfantul Nicolae)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (20miles north)Nearest train station: Sighetu MarmatieiLaid out the foothills around the Cosau Valley,the beautiful church in Budesti (1643) is hometo a valuable collection of icons painted onglass depicting folkloric scenes; the churchalso houses a unique collection of 15thcentury wooden icons painted on both sides.The outstanding Last Judgment fresco,painted by Alexandru Ponehalski in 1760s,has been preserved in it entirety. Theinfluence of the Western Gothic style can beseen in the arrangement of the main belfry,which is surrounded by four smaller turrets.
Desesti – Saint Parascheva Church(Biserica Cuvioasa Paraschiva)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (15miles north)Nearest train station: Sighetu MarmatieiThe beautiful wooden church with a tallspire and steep, low-reaching, double-skirted roof in Desesti was built in 1770 intraditional Maramures style and painted bythe renowned post-Byzantine fresco painterRadu Munteanu. Of significant interest arethe Genesis, depicting the creation ofAdam and Eve, and the Last Judgmentscenes.
Ieud(Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (30 milesnorthwest)Nearest train station: Viseu de SusBuilt in 1364, the Church on the Hill is the oldestchurch in Maramures. Built of pine and fir with smallwindows, a double roof and a single, impressivesteeple, it features 15th century primitive Byzantine-style murals. Fourteen icons, illustrating momentsfrom the Judgment to the Crucifixion biblical scenesare placed along the path leading up to the churchto recall The Way to the Cross that Jesus Christwalked to Golgotha.
Plopis(Biserica Sfintii Arhangheli Mihail si Gavril)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (25 milesnortheast)Nearest train station: Viseu de Sus Builtbetween 1796-1798 and painted in 1811, thischurch’s construction combines architecturalelements from both the Maramures andTransylvania regions. High walls endowed withtwo rows of windows increase interiorillumination and add to the distinctive style ofthe church, the only one in Maramures with avaulted roof.
Poienile Izei(Biserica Cuvioasa Paraschiva)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Sighetu Marmatiei (23 milesnorthwest)Nearest train station: Viseu de SusThe church at Poienile Izie, built on fir logs between1604 and 1632, is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved architectural monuments in Maramures. Thechurch’s interior frescoes, painted in 1794 by Gheorghedin Dragomiresti, feature some of the most dramaticdepictions of hell, illustrated in the Last Judgementscene. An interesting element is the metal horned moonunder the cross, considered a means of protectionagainst the Tartars.
Rogoz(Biserica Sfintii Arhangheli Mihail si Gavril)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town:Baia Mare (30 miles northwest)Nearest train station: Baia MareBuilt in 1663 and painted in 1785, the wooden church inRogoz features an asymmetrical roof with the northernside larger and lowered to protect the people standingoutside during important religious celebrations. Theoverhanging roof protects the stylized horse-headcarvings, believed to keep evil spirits away. Unlike thetypical churches in Maramures, this church has a muchsmaller interior space, with walls no higher than 10 feet.
»Surdesti(Biserica Sfintii Arhangheli Mihail si Gavril)Location: Maramures – Northern RomaniaNearby large town: Baia Mare (20 miles west)Nearest train station: Baia MareDating from 1767, the famous wooden church in Surdesti,built of oak beams skillfully intertwined, displays well-preserved interior watercolor canvases and a remarkable175-feet tall belfry. Surdesti is known to be one of thehighest oak buildings in the world with an overall heightfrom ground level to the top of the steeple of 235 feet.Remarkably, no metal was used to erect the belfry as eventhe fastenings are made entirely from wood.
Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie MountainsLocation: Transylvania – Central RomaniaNearby large town: Hunedoara (15 miles northeast)Dating from the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D. and strewn fromOrastie to Retezat Mountains, the Dacian and Roman fortressesrecognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites are anarcheologist’s delight. Built as a defense ring around the capitalof the Dacian kingdom, Sarmizegetusa, they include the ruins ofthe fortresses at Banita, Capalna, Costesti - Blidaru, Costesti –Cetatuie, Luncani - Piatra Rosie, as well as pre-Roman Daciancapital (Sarmisegetuza).
The fortresses show an unusual fusion of military andreligious architectural techniques and concepts from theclassical world and the late European Iron Age. The sixdefensive sites, the nucleus of the Dacian Kingdom, wereconquered by the Romans at the beginning of the 2ndcentury A.D.; their extensive and well-preserved remainsstand in spectacular natural surroundings and give adramatic picture of a vigorous and innovative civilization. AtSarmisegetuza you can still see the remains of the forum andthe elliptical brick and stone amphitheatre where gladiatorshows were held.Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy the trails in the nearby RetezatNational Park, the oldest in Romania (established 1935).Covering 95,000 acres of pristine forests, alpine meadows,peaks, and some 80 glacial lakes, the area was designatedas a UNESCO Biosphere Reservation and providesunforgettable hiking experiences among its peaks, valleys,rivers and gorges.