The Museum of the First Romanian School

Today I just got back from a short weekend trip from Brasov. Probably most of you know where it is, but for the ones who don’t, it is a city in the center of Romania, in Transylvania (and no, it is not full of vampires nor people put garlic on the top of their doors).

Brasov is renowned for a lot of things, one of the most important being, beside the nature and amazing landscapes, the vast history that lies behind it. Starting with the beautiful gothic Black Church (which is one of my favourite spots in Brasov, and probably even in the entire Romania) and continuing with a large collection of museums and great things to visit, it provided a large amount of our country’s intellectuals, especially at the end of the 19th century.

Although there are lots to be said about the things to visit in Brasov, I will stop only over one of the most interesting ones, at least from my point of view. It is none other than the Museum of the First Romanian School.

The historical context is that, as it is normal, in the old times people were not going to school, because it was not necessary. Everybody was living out of the things they were producing and they were happy. But, as the society evolved, the needs evolved also.

On the other hand, all the church services were held in slavonic, which almost nobody was able to understand. So the need for a school with Romanian speaking was necessary, together with a reformation of the church documents and services, including the services in Romanian (which will be done much later in the history)

The school was first built in 1495, according to the chronic of Radu Tempea, and then was renovated in 1760 by building an additional floor. The school worked in this formula until 1946, when all the students were moved into some other building.

Until today, the museum is supported by a really nice priest called Vasile Olteanu, which in my opinion is one of the best priests I have ever met. Actually, although the museum is full of history and interesting information, it wouldn’t have any charm without his dedication and passionate storytelling. I think he is the main reason why the school managed to stay up for so long. Otherwise it would have been a bunch of books but with a history that nobody would have understood without a guide. I think people should really start giving him more credit, focus also on his presence since he is one of the main reasons we have the museum.

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Vasile Oltean, the wonderful guide from the museum

Also, all the books that he has written bring a lot of value, because there are information which you can hardly find in some other places. Mainly because they are either deeply stored in libraries where you cannot find them, or you need to check a bunch of sources in order to reach a valid result.

Prima Scoala Romaneasca, Brasov
Example of a book written in kirilic

One really interesting thing that I found out was about Coresi, a Romanian typographer who used a printing press in order to create books written in Romanian. But don’t imagine that printing was as easy at it is today. Printing involved sculpting each letter in wood, but with each letter written in reverse. And each page had to be sculpted before being printed. It was a very difficult process, reason why a book being printed could have taken even two years. I found this information even more interesting since they teach us in school about this, but you never give it much importance until you actually see the process itself.

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Example of a matrix for printing

The classroom is original (if I understood correctly), together with the benches, giving the place an additional bohemian charm. When you enter the classroom you feel again like a pupil ready to be tested, reliving all the emotions and feelings from back then. I liked the story that the guide told us, that in the first bench were put the naughty ones, while in the last bench were put the ones who were repeating the same year. Also, he showed us a stick which was used to punish the nasty ones, called Saint Nicholas by the writer Ion Creanga . The story of this nickname is also funny. It seems that at the ecumenical synod in 325, Saint Nicholas was also present. One of the things that they were trying to combat was the theory of Arius, a priest from Alexandria, who was denying the salvation of the human being through Christ. At the ecumenical synod, Arius kept sustaining his position, although he had counter arguments from everybody. So Saint Nicholas got angry and slapped him in the face as a punishment. This is the reason for the nickname. To punish the ones who refuse to accept being good. Although this theory is sometimes put to a doubt (no wonder since Saint Nicholas is famous for being a very calm man), it is still an interesting correlation that Ion Creanga has made. It seems that all the clericals know this story.

prima scoala romaneasca | Weekend de weekend prin România
The original classroom together with “Saint Nicholas” (on the table in the front)

I personally liked this place a lot. I first visited it yesterday, buying three books, and then visited today again, buying some other two (I know, I cannot help it, don’t use Saint Nicholas on me).

If you want to find out more about the place and the keeper, you can try to read this interview (unfortunately it is in Romanian, but maybe I will translate it in a future article, because it is worth it).

There are a lot more to be said about this place, but I don’t want to keep repeating the information that is posted everywhere on the internet maintaining the personal note of my blog as usual.

Also, if you ever plan in getting there, you can use google maps. It is very easy to get there since it is right in the center of Brasov, in Unirii Square.

In the end, even if it is not in the scope of the blog, I would like to recommend you a magnificent place to eat, called Sergiana restaurant. They have a vast list of traditional foods, absolutely exquisite, and also a very nice historical building made out of brick, which takes you far behind in the past. The personnel is awesome and the restaurant is also close to the city center. You can find the way as well through google maps and it is really worth trying it.

Sergiana Restaurant – Inside

I encourage you to have a taste of the museum as well as the food and keep in touch until my feature post.

© picnicontheshelf, September 13, 2020

One Comment

  • temp mail

    Fantastic website with a wealth of knowledge. In addition to sharing it on Delicious, I’m forwarding it to a few friends. Naturally, I value your work.

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