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Culture & People


Romania has a unique culture, which is the product of its geography and of its distinct historical evolution. Like Romanians themselves, it is fundamentally defined as the meeting point of three regions: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, but cannot be truly included in any of them. The Romanian identity formed on a substratum of mixed Roman and quite possibly Dacian elements, with many other influences. During late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the major influences came from the Slavic peoples who migrated and settled in near Romania; from medieval Greeks, and the Byzantine Empire; from a long domination by the Ottoman Empire; from the Hungarians; and from the Germans living in Transylvania. Modern Romanian culture emerged and developed over roughly the last 250 years under a strong influence from Western culture, particularly French and German culture.


In the technical domain one can note the spectacular achievements in the field of aviation made by Traian Vuia, Aurel Vlaicu, Aurel Persu, and Henri Coandă and also the works of George Constantinescu in the fields of engineering and sonics. Also many achievements have been made in the architectural and engineering domain, thus Bucharest became known as the small Paris, the longest bridge in Europe was constructed by Anghel Saligny linking Dobruja with the rest of Romania, the Peleş Castle became one of the most beautiful and modern castles in Europe, etc.

In mediaeval architecture, influences of Western trends can be traced, to a greater or lesser extent, in all the three lands inhabited by Romanians. Such influences are stronger in Transylvania, and weaker in Moldavia, in forms absorbed by local and Byzantine tradition. In Wallachia, Western elements in architecture were even fewer; there, from the 14th century architecture was based on the local adaptation of the Byzantine model (the Princely Church in Curtea de Arges and the Cozia Monastery).

There are monuments significant for the Transylvanian Gothic style preserved to this day, in spite of all alterations, such as the Black Church in Braşov (14th-15th century) and a number of other cathedrals, as well as the Bran Castle in Braşov County (14th century), the Hunyades Castle in Hunedoara (15th century).

A great number of fortresses were built or rebuilt during the reign of Moldavia's greatest prince, Stephen the Great (1457-1504). Suceava, Neamţ, Hotin, Soroca and others were raised and successfully withstood the sieges laid in the course of time by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, by the kings of Poland and Hungary.

It was during his time that the Moldavian style, of great originality and stylistic unity, developed, by blending Gothic elements with the Byzantine structure specific to the churches. Among such constructions, the monumental church of the Neamţ Monastery served, for more than a century, as a model for Moldavian churches and monasteries. The style was continued in the 16th century, during the rule of Stephen the Great's son, Petru Rareş (1527-1538, 1541-1546). The main innovation was the porch and the outer-wall paintings (the churches of Voroneţ, Suceviţa, Moldoviţa monasteries). These churches of Northern Moldavia have become famous worldwide, due to the beauty of their painted elegant shapes that can be seen from afar.

The 17th century, the zenith of the pre-modern Romanian civilisation, brought about a more significant development of outstanding lay constructions (elegant boyard mansions or sumptuous princely palaces in Moldavia and Wallachia, Renaissance-style lordly castles in Transylvania), as well as the expansion of great monasteries. The latter were endowed with schools, art workshops, printing presses, and they were significant cultural centres. To this period belongs the church of the Trei Ierarhi Monastery in Iaşi, raised in 1635-1639, a unique monument due to its lavish decoration with carved geometric motifs, coloured in lapis lazuli and golden foil, all over the facades. The architectural style developed in Wallachia, especially under the reigns of Matei Basarab (1632-1654) and Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714), is of a remarkable stylistic unity. The Brancovan style is characterised by integration of Baroque and Oriental features into the local tradition. Some examples are the Hurezi Monastery in Oltenia or the princely palace of Mogoşoaia, both of which are lavishly decorated, with beautiful stone carvings, stucco work and paintings.

The 18th century (the Phanariot rule) brought to Wallachia and Moldavia elements of Oriental influence in urban civil architecture, where the number of religious constructions decreased relatively. In Transylvania, the Baroque dominated both religious (the Roman Catholic churches in Timisoara and Oradea) and lay architecture (Banffy Palace in Cluj and Brukenthal Palace in Sibiu).

In the first half of the 19th century, urban life grew considerably and there was a Western-type modernisation policy, due to which the architecture of the Romanian lands became a combination of Romantic and Neo-Classical elements. In the second half of the century a national tendency developed, to use to a great extent elements and forms of the traditional local architecture. Ion Mincu (1852-1912) was founder of both trends and of the Romanian school of architecture. His works, the Lahovary House or the Central Girls School in Bucharest, are among the most prominent achievements of this movement. It is due to an opposite trend that they designed houses and administrative buildings in the spirit of French eclecticism (the Justice Palace, the Central Post Office) or by adapting classicism (the buildings that now hosts the House of the Men of Science, or the Cantacuzino Palace in Bucharest).

That was the time when the Romanian Athaeneum, one of the capitals most famous buildings, was erected in the same style (1886-1888). All those French-looking buildings raised around 1900 were a reason to nickname Bucharest Little Paris. Other important architects, like Petre Antonescu (1873-1965), Horia Creanga (1893-1943) and Duiliu Marcu (1885-1966) stood out by their commitment to simple and functional forms.

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