Ottoman Empire Romania II – Byzantine Turks

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Walk in the path of the Ottomans and Byzantines in Romania

In my first post “Ottoman Empire Romania I” I wrote about the way the Turkish language had entered into the Romanian tongue. However words aren’t the only traces of the Turks left in the country today. In most cities and towns there are beautiful architectural and cultural signs of the influence of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires.

Here’s a small selection from the things I saw.

The black church in Brasov

Modern day Brasov was located at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire to Western Europe. This, and the fact the city was privy to certain tax exemptions, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth and exert a strong political influence in the region. One of the largest structures still standing, which is a testament to the cities Ottoman past, is the black church. Built between 1385 and 1477, construction of the Marienkirche as it was known to the city’s German inhabitants, was hampered by extensive damage caused during Turkish raids in 1421. Damaged again by fire in 1689 the building was finally completed one hundred years later. Now, 119 Anatolian carpets hang from the interior walls. Thankful to have survived their trips into the “barbaric” lands south and east of the Carpathians, German merchants donated the carpets to the church in the 17th and 18th centuries. This collection is largest of its kind in Europe. Photography is forbidden in order to protect the weavings, but elsewhere in the city I was able to take photographs

Step inside for a Turkish pastry treat!

Somewhere nice to grab a snack
The perfect accompaniment for a sweets is a Turkish coffee followed by fal.

Turkish coffee anyone?

Or maybe just some ice cream

You don't need to travel all the way to Kahramanmaras for great ice cream!

A predominantly Germanic town, Sibiu, once one of the largest and wealthiest of seven walled citadels built in the 12th century by German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons, appears at first to have few connections to Turkey. Make your way to the spectacular Orthodox Mitripolitan Cathedral and you’ll change your mind.  Built between 1902 and 1906 on the site of a former Greek church, it clearly shares a similar style with the Haghia Sofia, originally a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal bascilica, in Istanbul.

The Greeks first entered Romanian through apoikiai (colonies) and emporia (trade stations) founded in and around Dobruja. This part of Romania was once part of the Eastern Roman Empire before coming under Byzantine rule. It then became part of the Bulgarian Empire in the 6th century AD. During this time Romanians were converted to Orthodox Christianity which many people still practice today.

The interior of the Orthodox Mitripolitan Cathedral in Sibiu is dominated by a massive gold chandelier and features neo-Byzantine decorations. It is the second largest Orthodox cathedral in Romania and on the day we visited, was jam-packed with people dressed up in their best clothes to celebrate the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

Orthodox Mitripolitan Cathedral - a must see!

Dobruja was occupied by the Ottoman Turks in 1420AD and remained under their rule until the late 19th century. Constanta, also once part of Dobruja, was founded by the Greeks as a port on the Black Sea for trading with inland people. It was called Tomis in the 6th century BC. The city was later renamed after Constantina, niece of Constantine the Great (272-337AD) who rechristened Byzantium (modern day Istanbul) after himself.

The Great Mosque, built in 1910, was first public building made of concrete in Romania. It was a gift from King Carol I to the local Muslim community. Built in the Moorish style in honour of Sultan Mohamed II, it is a fairly austere structure with little decoration in comparison to Turkish mosques, although it does boast a luxurious Hereke carpet.

At the beginning of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, most of Dobruja’s population was composed of Turks, Bulgarians and Tatars, but, during the war, a large part of the Muslim population was evacuated to Bulgaria and Turkey.

If you get the chance I recommend you visit Romania. It has a fascinating history, the people are well educated and have a good sense of humour. You won’t regret it.

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