The Romanian speaking population were very much regarded as second class citizens and were not allowed to live in the Saxon city. They settled the area to the south west which was referred to as the “Romanian Quarter.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_eight/eight_four/index.html They were only allowed to enter the city at set times and had to pay a toll at Catherine Gate. They were not allowed to use the other gateways. The present building dates from 1559 and was built on an earlier gateway. It is named after a nearby monastery. The four small towers at the top symbolise the ancient privilege of the medieval city leaders to carry out the death penalty.
In the early C19th the Schei Gate was built to replace the Catherine gate which was too small for increasingly large cartcart traffic and is still used by traffic today. It has two smaller gateways for pedestrian traffic.
The Romanian quarter is characterised by its narrow winding streets lined with old houses, some still with gateways into yards.
At the centre is Piata Uniril, surrounded by splendid buildings. At the centre of the square is a small shrine with frescoes on the walls and a painted stone cross. This was built in the C19th over a demolished wooden church dating from 1297.
St Nicholas Church with the First Romanian School stand back off the square and are surrounded surrounded by a wall with gateways.
“ST NICHOLAS CHURCH”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_eight/eight_five/index.html (3*) was the first Orthodox Church to be built in Transylvania between 1493-1564 and has a later free standing wooden belfry. The outside walls of the church were originally covered with frescoes although these are not as well preserved as those on the walls of the “painted monasteries”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_six/six_one/index.html of Bucovina.
The inside of the church was restored in 1920 when the frescoes were repainted. these are predominantly shades slate blue and beige giving the church feel dark and drab, especially on a dull day.
The church is open daily and here is no charge to enter. Photography is not allowed in the church but there are pictures “here.”:http://www.welcometoromania.ro/Brasov/Brasov_Biserica_Sfantul_Nicolae_e.htm
At the end of the C15th, Brasov was the leading place in Transylvania for Romanian-language education. The “FIRST ROMANIAN SCHOOL”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/day_eight/eight_six/index.html (4*) was built in the grounds of St Nicholas Church. Each village chose one child who came here to learn to become a teacher, notary or priest. Each pupil had to pay a fee of a bucket of wheat, a wagon of wood, and 3-4 pengos (the equivalent of 3-4 calves).
Deacon Coresi brought a printing press here in the mid C16th and began to print some of the first books in Romanian. Texts were translated from Slavic into Romanian and printed in the cyrillic alphabet. Everything had to be carved onto wooden blocks and it could take up to two years to produce one book. Only thirty nine books were produced which included the Bible, gospels, psalters, Catechism and liturgy. Copies of the books were sent to churches throughout Transylvania.
The present building dates from the mid C18th. The school closed in 1941 and was reopened as a museum in 1964. The Communists told the Romanians they had to burn their archive of books. Fortunately the priest managed to hide a lot of the books which were rediscovered in 1967 and are now on display in the museum along with the printing press.
The school room with its simple wooden benches, teacher’s desk and abacus is on the ground floor. Pupils used slates. At the back was a small cast iron stove. On the walls are examples of icons painted on glass, which are typical of Transylvania. They were painted by peasants on homemade glass.
In the room opposite is the original C16th printing press. Vasile Oltean is both the caretaker and the guide, having been a pupil and teacher in the school and then priest. He gives guided tour demonstrated the working of the printing press.
The two upstairs rooms contain a collection of old books. The school is open daily and there is a small charge to visit. Vasile Oltean is both the caretaker and the guide, having been a pupil and teacher in the school and then priest. He gives guided tours of the School and also demonstrates the working of the printing press.
We are all familiar with old school rooms and this was possibly the least interesting part of the visit. The printing press and its operation were fascinating and the selection of books on display was good. This is well worth visiting if in Brasov – and makes a change from the churches!
We visited during an eight day trip to romania. My full report and all the pictures are “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/index.html