Sibiu, ROMANIA - Writer: Raphael Igrisianu, Siegen (born in Sibiu, Romania)
Sibiu also known as Hermannstadt in German and Nagyszeben in Hungarian has a long history which leads all the way back to the year 1191 on December 20th, to a document issued by the Celestine Pope III in Rome. It was permanently exposed to threats and attacks from the south and east so the city decided to build concentric fortifications and defense towers. Lying on the verge of the Christian world, almost every single Transylvanian Saxon village had built fortified churches or large strongholds. It was all about survival. In case of an attack all members of the community could find shelter in a fortified church. Thus it was a lot easier to rebuild the village and return normal life as soon as the threat was gone.
In 1241 however, Sibiu was almost erased from the map. A colony of Tatars from the Golden Horde preyed and ruined the city. The number of inhabitants was slaughtered down to 100 who somehow managed to save themselves. The survivors reconstructed most of the city by replacing the wooden fortifications with bricks. A renaissance followed after that crucial trial which evolved by starting from the core of the fortified churches towards the outskirts. The small plaza was the first place where people could conduct their trade. The big fairs were held on the great plaza underneath which the grain supplies were hidden. The lower city was home to the craftsmen which were divided into streets bearing the names of their trades which stayed like this up to this very day. There was a time when a quarter of Europe's gold was processed right in this historic town.
The 170 acres surrounded by the city walls made Sibiu the largest fortified City in South Eastern Europe at that time. In medieval times the town magistrate was entitled to punish people by death penalty upon trial all of which took place in the center of attraction, the great plaza of the citadel.
The 15th and 16th century were marked by failed attempts of Turks trying to conquer the "Red City" right at a time during which Sibiu became quite famous in Europe as the invincible citadel as well as a cultural and mighty trade center.
Pope Eugen IV described Sibiu in 1438 as the "Christianity's most powerful bastion", which repelled four Turkish attacks in only 10 years. It consisted of 39 defence towers and 5 bastions, which made sure it the remained the only city in the region not to be conquered or destroyed.
In 1442 to be precise, Sibiu managed to stay victorious in a crucial battle versus the Turks thanks to the help of Prince Iancu of Hunedoara (John Hunyadi) who was the Voivode of Transylvania. So to a certain extent Sibiu is historically someway connected to the fact that the Pope ordered European Churches to ring their bells each noon to gather the Christians for a prayer in memory of those who were fighting at the Belgrade victory in 1456 against Sultan Mehmed II.
In 1554 half the population became victim to the plague which had spread across Medieval Europe which returned periodically of the following centuries until they decided to crack a hole into the wall of the citadel in 1787 so as to create a swifter access to the cemetery. This opening is still being remembered to this day as the "Gate of the Dead".
In 1610 the transylvanian prince, Gabriel Bathory forced the entry into the city, even though the city was under the direct rule of the King and the voivodes of Transylvania had no power over the city, still he cast out the inhabitants. The ones who managed to survive were only able to return to the city after 4 years.
"The Black bear" pharmacy, which is the Museum of Pharmacy today, was opened in 1600 and worked for 350 years unchanged. The secretary of the Baron of Brukenthal, Samuel Hahnemann, founded right in this place the very first laboratory of homeopathy in the entire world. Sibiu became the military capital of Transylvania at the end of the 17th century by locating headquarters of the Commander of the Army over there.
The 18th century brought enlightenment to Sibiu when the bookseller and typographer Martin Hochmeister got the permission to turn the Great Defense Tower into a city theater making it the first ever on today's Romanian territory.
Baron Samuel von Brukenthal who was the governor of the Grand Principality of Transylvania, had his art collections opened to the public in 1790 just two years after the his Palace was built in a late Baroque style resembling the Vienesse palaces, but three years prior to the opening of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Vienesse almanac ranked the Brukenthal Museum as the 2nd most valuble in the entire Empire. At the end of the 18th century Sibiu reached its prosperity peak after it became the cultural, administrative and military capital.
During the World War I it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire fighting the Triple Entente so they were under siege and bombed by the Romanian Army. At the end World War II Sibiu was on the side of the winners but the Anglo Saxons experienced retaliation due to the alliance with Nazi Germany.
Subsequent to this the black years of communism began and fortunately came to an end in 1989 as in the 80's the communists had started to destroy the city's identity including the historic center. In the new Millennium it has somehow managed to find its identity again and to revitalize its European spirit upon the entry of Romania into the European Union in 2007 as well as by the fact that Sibiu was the first city of Eastern Europe to be named as the European Capital of Culture.
Sibiu is holding many records, but here are the most mentionable ones:
1292 - The first hospital in Romania is certified
1330 - The first library in Romania is mentioned
1376 - The first regulation of the guilds is made in Sibiu
1380 - The first attestation of a school in Romania
1494 - The first pharmacy in Romania opens
1525 - The first printing house in Transylvania and the second in Romania are certified
1544 - The first book is printed in Romanian in Transylvania
1555 - Conrad Haas experiments in Sibiu the first stepped rocket in the world 1612 - seems to be the first calendar on the current territory of Romania
1671 - Methane gas is discovered around Sibiu
1717 - The first brewery is inaugurated
1778 - The first newspaper in Transylvania is published, "Theatral Wochenblatt für das Jahr 1778"
1779 - The world's first homeopathic laboratory is established
1782 - The chemist Franz Joseph Müller von Reichenstein discovers in Sibiu the chemical element Tellurium
1786 - The foundations of the future Faculty of Theology "Andrei Saguna" are laid
1788 - The first theater building in Romania is inaugurated
1793 - The first book of Romanian medicine published in Sibiu by Ioan Piuariu Molnar
1817 - The Brukenthal Museum opens, the first in Romania and southeastern Europe 1849 - The first Meteorological Station in Southeast Europe is inaugurated in December
1853 - The Romanian Telegraph appears, the oldest newspaper in Southeast Europe
1853 - First mention of electricity at the Evangelical Gymnasium
1859 - The Bridge of Lies is the first cast iron bridge in Romania
1863 - The first hospital for nervous diseases opens, the first settlement of its kind in south-eastern Europe
1872 - Banca Albina is inaugurated, the first bank with fully Romanian capital 1886 - The Iosif Datky factory is established, the first spring factory in Romania 1894 - Păltiniş becomes the first mountain resort in Romania
1895 - The Natural History Museum is opened, which includes the oldest herbarium in Romania
1897 - Hess opens the first weighing factory in Romania
1898 - The first Romanian Encyclopedia is published
1904 - An electric public transport without rails (omnibus) is introduced
1904 - Baia Populară is inaugurated, the first Spa in Romania
1921 - The first handball match and the first handball team in Romania
1923 - The Archives building is inaugurated, 1st in the country 4 the preservation of the archival patrimony
1929 - The first zoo in Romania is opened
1934 - The Thalia cinema garden opens, the first open-air cinema in Romania 1944 - "Junii Sibiului" is founded, the first professional folk ensemble in Romania
1989 - Sibiu is the second city in Romania, after Timisoara, to rise up against communism
1993 - The first museum of universal ethnography in Romania opens
2007 - Sibiu becomes the European Capital of Culture, the first city in Eastern Europe to receive this title
2011 - Sibiu is the first city in Romania to be awarded 3 Michelin stars
2017 - Raphael Igrisianu, born in Sibiu, set a world record (fastest marathon dribbling abasketball)
The marginal region of Sibiu is declared as a "European Destination of Excellence".
Especially interesting about Sibiu is the fact that it has preserved visible marks of all the stages of its evolution over a course of over 829 years.