The Fortress Square in Baia Mare

the fortress square in baia mare The central square in Baia Mare, dominated by Saint Stephen's Tower, was built in the 15th century.

Baia Mare, the residence of the County of Maramures, one of the most picturesque areas in Northern Romania, was first mentioned in historical documents as early as the 12th century. The city is a symbol of multi-culturality and multi-ethnicity, with various ethnic groups - Hungarian, Romanian and Saxon - living together in harmony. Evidence of the long history of the city can been seen all over the place, although some of its buildings and monuments have been left to decay. Their restoration also entails including them into a project that can provide a modern function for an old building and also including them in the city's daily life. 

This is the situation of the central square in Baia Mare, dominated by Saint Stephen's Tower, built in the 15th century. Also, the square hosts the foundations of the 1347 Gothic church, the Holy Trinity Roman-Catholic Church, a former Jesuit monastery from the 18th century, and the Degenfeld House, a compound of buildings erected in the 16th and 17th century. St. Stephen's Tower is the bell-tower of a former church whose patron was "the Holy King Stephen". Although the tower was built in the 15th century, the church dates from an earlier date, sometime in the 14th century. 

The tower was built at the initiative of the Transylvanian Prince of Hunedoara. Its building started in 1446 and was only completed in 1468, under the rule of the Hungarian King Matei Corvin, Iancu of Hunedoara's son. In 1847, St. Stephen's Church was dismantled, and only the tower was left standing. The recent project to rehabilitate the central square, also known as the Fortress Square, has focused particularly on bringing back to the city's public memory the most important ecclesiastic structure dating from the time when Baia Mare was called Rivulus Dominarum (in English Ladies' River), in the 14th century. 

Architect Stefan Paskucz, whose firm designed the rehabilitation project, tells us more:

 "The aim of the project was to restore to the city its most notable ecclesiastical building, St. Stephen's Cathedral, to which St. Stephen's Tower is linked. Both structures date from the early days of Rivulus Dominarum, as Baia Mare was called back then. The project sought to turn the central square into an urban area serving a predominantly cultural purpose. I think we have managed to achieve this aim. The square we see today has an entirely new feel to it. It is both a place of inspiration and a place where people come together. It is like a stage that can by itself generate cultural events, all of which take place against the background provided by the historical remains unearthed through this project. I'm referring to other churches brought to life by the archaeological work and about which we knew a lot less than about St. Stephen's Church, the main building in the square, namely St. Catherine's Church and St. Mark's Church. There are no less than five different churches within a surface area of 4,000 square meters, and two of them are still standing, namely St. Nicholas' and the Holy Trinity Church, while the other three are in ruins."

 The modernisation of the central square and of St. Stephen's Tower that dominates it also implied the addition of some new elements in a way that does not alter the mediaeval appearance of the whole ensemble. Architect Stefan Paskucz tells us about what was added:

 "It used to be impossible to go up the tower. There used to be no access way for visitors, only a steep staircase, as was common in mediaeval towers, that provided access to the bell-ringer. So the tower has been redesigned and is today very popular with visitors. We also restored its clock, which is more than 300 years old. It dates, in fact, from 1670, and it's one of the three clocks of its kind still to be found in Europe. It was restored by a Dutch firm and is now working properly, something no one believed could be possible. The aim of our project was to give the central square in Baia Mare back to the city's residents and visitors and make it a popular public space. We believe we have achieved this aim."

Tourists are not the only ones to be impressed with the new appearance of the Fortress Square in Baia Mare, but also international experts. The project was one of the 355 from around Europe to earn a nomination to the Mies van Der Rohe Award, the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.
Publicat: 2017-06-03 14:04:00
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