Sibiu Cultural Capital of Europe
Sibiu is called Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian, and Cibinium in the Latin medieval charters. The town was founded at a strategic position in the valley of the river Olt, close to the Turnu Rosu (Roten Turm, 11311f56l Vöröstorony, Turis Rubee) pass through the southern Carpathians.
The town grew on an ancient Roman settlement, named Cibinium. As over the whole Transylvania Neolithic findings prove that the region was inhabit already for thousands of years. Most history books will write that the Hungarian king invited the Saxons to colonize the deserted region. This is only partly correct. There is evidence that there were already colonists before this invitation. It seems that the theory that these early colonists were crusaders from the People's crusade looks more correct. The large group of Saxon settlers that arrived a century later absorbed these crusaders and from then on all these colonists were named Saxons. They founded villages and towns and made trade with the west. The treat of the invading migrating people from the east and Turks obliged the Saxons to defend their towns. The Hungarian king send in the Teutonic Knights to organize the defense and to built a series of fortresses. They successfully kept the Cumans away from Transylvania. The devastating Mongol invasion from 1241 forced the people to fortify their new homeland even better. The colonized land was then called Siebenburgen and also around this name there are some mysteries open.
Sibiu grew over the years to the best fortified town east of Vienna with
at some places 7 rows of ring-walls. The town flourished as it was the border
town between the Catholic Transylvania and the whole west and the Orthodox
east. Thanks to its defense structure, the town was never captured. The history
of the town was more or less similar with towns in the west. Guilds were
created and trade flourished, not only for the town but also for the
Once the political and administrative organization of the Saxons was structured, Sibiu becomes the head quarter of The Saxon University, coordinator of all German communities (16th-19th. c)
When Transylvania was subdued by the Austrian - Hungarian, Sibiu becomes the capital of the Principality (1692 - 1791; 1849 - 1867). Sibiu's connections with the West and East of Europe generated it as an outstanding factor of culture and civilization.
Schools, libraries, hospitals, cultural societies raised its prestige. In 1791, after the edict giving the right to Romanians and Hungarians to settle down inside the walls of the city, Sibiu became one of the most important cultural and religious centers for the Romanians in Transylvania, playing an important role in accomplishing the unity of the Romanian national state (1st of December 1918
The town grew around
the initial lower town (Orasul de Jos) and around the Evangelic Church at the
Huet Square in the upper town. After the damages caused by Tatars invasion
(1241 - 1242), the survivors decided to reinforce the system of fortifications.
During the 13th & 15th centuries, two fortified quarters develop in the
Upper Town, including The Small Square and then The Large Square and a wide
area on Cibin upper plateau. The lower town is also included in the
fortification. The walls and portals of the town here reinforced with towers
The whole fortified area in the 17th century is of 72 ha, Sibiu being the most powerful fortified city in Transylvania, compared to Vienna that had a fortified area of 92 ha.
The length of the walls measured over 4 km. There were four strongly fortified gates - Cisnadie, Turn, Ocna and Gusterita - five bastions, five artillery platforms and 39 defense towers transformed the ancient medieval town into an almost unconquerable stronghold.
When becamed European Cultural Capital
On May 27, 2004, the European Council decided that Luxembourg and Sibiu would be the cultural capitals of Europe in 2007. Conferring this status to a city from a country which was not a full member of the European Union at the time was a bold decision. Luckily, the accession happened on the date we expected, allowing for the development of the project "Sibiu-Culture Capital of Europe 2007" as the first major project of the new member state - Romania.
This kind of project should be the expression of a culture which, in its historical emergence and contemporary development, is characterised by having both common elements and a richness born from diversity. The event should open up to the European public particular aspects of the culture of the city, region or country considered.
As for Sibiu, both the historical character of its cultural diversity, as well as the cultural aspect at the time of the decision, were extremely powerful arguments. The historical, cultural and linguistic ties of the former German colonists (Transylvanian Saxons), who established the city under the name of Hermannstadt, with the Luxembourg Region can be noticed even today through the language. Also, the striking resemblance between the architecture of Sibiu and that of Central Europe also comes to confirm the century-old ties throughout the European area. The cohabitation of Romanians, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, Roma etc. in Sibiu has generated, from an ethnical and religious point of view, some sort of miniature Europe. The cultures of these communities have developed in themselves, but the mutual influences and interferences are obvious.
The Culture Capital of Europe is, in my opinion, an exceptional project put into practice by the European Union, and I am sure that the future editions, which are scheduled to take place until 2019, will confirm my point of view.
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