Neo-Romanian architecture in Transylvania before the union with Romania

Neo-Romanian style cultural centre building, inaugurated in 1913 in Seliste, southern Transylvania, then part of the Empire of Austria-Hungary; press cut from a Romanian language Transylvanian newspaper.

The Habsburg Empire hosted an important Romanian population, especially in the provinces of Transylvania and Bukovina. After the the Compromise Act of 1867 which saw the reorganisation of the empire on the basis of a dual Austrian – Hungarian monarchy, Transylvania fell under the direct rule of Hungary, which pursued an unveiled policy of cultural and linguistic assimilation of the other ethic groups making up the province, a policy infamously known as “forced Magyarisation”, a sort of cultural identity cleansing. Those policies provoked a strong reaction from among the targeted nationalities (Romanians, Germans, Slovaks, etc.), which tried through diverse means to preserve their culture. The Romanian population greatly benefited in that regard from the support offered by the authorities of the neighbouring Romanian kingdom, entity called by the Transylvanian Romanians as Tara (the Country). That situation was not unlike that between the c19th Greek state and the Ottoman Empire, regarding the preservation of the cultural identity of the Ottoman Greeks. The Romanian state helped its ethic kin population in Transylvania in setting up a series of cultural centres or sponsored newspapers and magazines. The press cut presented in the image above dates from 1914, just before the start of the Great War, and is from a Transylvanian Romanian language periodic newspaper detailing the inauguration, the year before, of a cultural centre in the village of Seliste in southern Transylvania, near the city of Sibiu (in Romanian)/ Hermannstadt (in German)/ Nagyszeben (in Hungarian). The explanatory text accompanying the photograph points out the Neo-Romanian style architecture of the house, which by itself is a powerful ethnic identity statement expressed in architecture, mentioning that the design was by an architect named Cerna, from the Country (Romania). I like how the journalist defines the [Neo]-Romanian style as “the style of the old boyar cula [fortified yeoman house] encountered in the Country.” The harsh Hungarian cultural assimilation policies and the tensions generated within society backfired in a big way in the aftermath of the Great War, when the targeted ethic groups opted for self-determination, in the case of the Romanians, to unify their provinces with old Romania, facts that ultimately led to the obliteration of the once mighty Habsburg Empire.


I endeavor through this series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.