Sibiu – declared as the European Capital of Culture
Founded in 12th century by the Saxons who came in Transylvania, Sibiu or Hermannstadt by its German name, was the largest of the seven Saxons citadels. There are some superlatives related to this place, such as: the world’s first homeopathic laboratory (opened in 1797 by Samuel von Hahnemann), first hospital on the Romanian territory (attested in 1292), the first pharmacy from Romania (attested in 1494), the oldest museum in Romania (Bruckenthal, opened in 1817), Sibiu’s first theatrical performance staged in the Great Tower in 1778 and not least the first book written in Romanian language in 1544.
Designated as European Capital of Culture in 2007, an overview of Sibiu structure shows a two leveled city, the Upper town and Lower town delimited by remaining portions of the medieval fortification and linked by narrow street which open into large squares. While the Upper town was inhabited by the wealthier people and housed the majority of commercial activities, the Lower town hold the production area.
In the historical center of Sibiu, one can visit the Huet Square, the Small Square, the Great Square, the Passage of Steps which links the Upper to the Lower town, the Bridge of Lies, the Goldsmiths’ Square.
Out of the 39 defensive towers that once protected this great fortification, only four resisted till today: Harquebusiers’ Tower, Carpenters’ Tower, Potters’ Tower and Great Tower. This prosperous city had also five bulwarks (angular structure projecting outward), four gates and five artillery batteries.
The Great Square
Described by UNESCO as an architectural monument due to the concentration of imposing buildings, this square was has been constructed towards the end of 15th century, becoming a very active commercial center but it also witnessed public executions.
The Roman-Catholic Church
Another outstanding objective is the Roman-Catholic Church from the Great Square. It was built between 1726 and 1738, the tower being added in the last year, and the following year was added the cross from the roof. Once entered in the church, you can see the stone grave of Otto Ferdinand de Abensberg, which ruled over Transylvania between 1744-1747, the organ used in the weekly recitals, ceiling frescoes, stone carvings on the naves and pink marble covering the side altars and columns.
Built in the 13th century, the tower had different purposes over the time: entrance to the second row of the fortified walls, a grain store, a fire watchtower, a prison, a museum of botany. Its present roof decorated with turrets dating back to 1826, had initially a pyramid form.
Built between 1778-1785 to serve as an official residence for Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, the palace also houses its collection of Romanian and Western pieces of art, a large library, religious sculptures and icons from the 16th – 18th century, as well as stamps and coins collections. The Blue House, a baroque style building from 18th century, flanks the Brukenthal Palace on its right side. It shelters the Romanian Art Gallery which can also be accessed from the second floor of Brukenthal Palace.
The Little Square
The access to the Little Square can be made from the Great Square through one of the two arcaded passages under the Council Tower. Today’s shops and offices along the north and east side of this square were in the past houses of famous master craftsmen.
The Evangelical Cathedral
Probably known mostly for the baroque organ designed by a Slovakian craftsman in 1671, and later in 1914 counting six thousand pipes, the Evangelical Cathedral houses the largest organ in the southeastern region of Europe. The Cathedral was erected in 1520 where was previously a Roman basilica. Inside, the cathedral features the north wall of the presbytery covered by an enormous fresco of Crucifixion designed by Johannes of Rosenau in 1445 and the south choir loft displays a fan-vaulted ceiling, specific for the Gothic style.