Sibiu orthodox cathedral – universalist message in architecture

Sibiu orthodox cathedral, old postcard (1900s), Valentin Mandache collection

The city of Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian) is the second largest urban centre of historic Saxon Transylvania. It is, as its varying names show, a multi-ethnic city. The main faith of Sibiu’s ethnic Romanian population is Christian orthodox, with its centre of worship at the majestic cathedral depicted in the old postcard pictured above, inaugurated in 1904 and designed by the Hungarian architects Josef Kamner and Vergilius Nagy. The postcard was published by the Sibiu archdiocese in the period immediately after its inauguration. The crisp drawing and lively hand applied colours convey, in many ways better than a photograph, the architectural message and the monumental proportions of this remarkable ecclesiastical building. The cathedral is modelled after Saint Sophia in Constantinople, embracing also elements of local Trasylvanian architecture and baroque, the style ubiquitous throughout the Habsburg empire, whence Sibiu was then a frontier city in the vicinity of the old Kingdom of Romania. I like the universalist message of its architecture, making references to the church of the first millennium of the Common Era, before the Great Schism and the Reformation, which had its centre in Byzantium. That obvious integrative symbolism was so much in contrast with the ethnic tensions prevalent throughout the Habsburg Empire in its last decades of existence, when the cathedral was conceived and built, a situation that ultimately led to the demise of that once great polity.


I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.


If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.