Daily Picture 10-Jan-10: Village School in the Shape of a Greek Temple

A peculiar village school designed in the shape of a Doric Greek temple, built in 1884. Valea Stanciului, Oltenia region. The inscription on the architrave is aimed at peasant pupils and reads: 'Enlighten yourself and thus better appreciate the work with the plough and on the fields'. (©Valentin Mandache)

I was quite astounded to find, in one of my field trips to the deep countryside of Oltenia region in SW Romania, the above village school desingned as a classical Doric order temple. It is a school built and endowed by the local landowner, Nicolae Mihail, in 1884, to the memory of his father, according to an inscription on one of the side walls. At the height of the Victorian era, there were numerous philanthropic activities among entrepreneurs and aristocrats that got prosperous in the globalised world of that time. Romania was no exception, and I was able to find throughout the country a number of great examples of community charitable works put together and endowed by the local wealthy people. A most eloquent example was Pricopie Casotti and his village school, hospital for peasants and church building, a landowner about which I wrote an article on this blog dedicated to his country mansion: Casota Conac. In the particular case illustrated above, we have a similar and somehow more imaginative example. The local landlord was from a family of Vlachs that have their origins in Northern Greece in the village of Megarova. The Vlachs are a Latin ethnic group in the Balkans related to Romanians, similarly how on the Western side of Europe the smaller Romano-Celtic ethnic groups in the Pyrenees (Catalans) or the Alps (Savoyards) relate to the French group. The Greek temple design is an allusion of Nicolae Mihail’s familly’s ancestral origins in Greece and also a suggestion to the local peasants about the Victorian values modelled on the Greek and Roman ideals. The inscription on the architrave of the mock Doric temple (considered as the purest form of Greek temple architecture) reads as “Enlighten yourself and thus better appreciate the work with the plough and on the fields’ (in Romanian: ‘Luminati-ve ca sa pretuiti mai bine plugul si munca campului’), which is a very Victorian message, encountered in countless corresponding examples of educational works throughout the then world.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

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