The Brukenthal palace and gardens in Avrig

the brukenthal palace and gardens in avrig The late 18th c. summer residence of baron Samuel von Brukenthal, the Habsburg governor of Transylvania, is open to visitors.

Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, Habsburg governor of Transylvania, lawyer and art collector, lived between 1721 and 1803 and is today known mostly as the owner of the building in Sibiu, central Romania, that houses the first public museum in south-eastern Europe and one of the earliest on the continent. In fact, his extensive collection formed the core of what is today known as the Brukenthal Palace museum.

But there exists another Brukenthal palace, lesser-known but just as significant from an historical and architectural point of view, namely the baron's summer residence in Avrig. Located 26 km from Sibiu, Avrig lies at the foot of the Fagaras Mountains, in the Olt River valley. The home town of Gheorghe Lazar, the founder of modern education in Romania, Avrig was the choice of baron von Brukenthal for building a summer residence consisting in a big and comfortable manor house and gardens so beautiful that they were often referred to as "the Transylvanian Eden" and "the fountain of health".

Corina Combei, an event manager at the Brukenthal Palace in Avrig, tells us more about the history of the place where the baron and his family used to spend their summers:

"Building works on the palace began around 1783, but it took a while to finish the construction of the residence and the gardens. The entire grounds cover 15.5 hectares. The layout reflected the baron's exact wishes. The residence consists of three parts, namely the main building, which stands out for its architecture, and two wings on one level. The palace affords a wide panoramic view of the gardens and the river plain in the distance, and the gardens appear to be stretching for miles and miles, an optical illusion which was very much in tune with the late Baroque style. A majestic staircase on different levels, a fountain, various structures and ornaments placed geometrically and the alleys all lead to the gardens, which are located 12 metres lower than the palace. To the east of the palace, on sloping ground, we find the English garden, which is smaller than the French garden and is crossed by winding paths, with little nooks where you could catch your breath and which were signalled at the time by small decorative objects. A Dutch garden was initially located in front of the orangerie, where all kinds of fruits and vegetables were grown, as well as exotic plants. It is a well-known fact that the baron was the first to bring pineapples, lemons, coffee and nutmeg to Transylvania. Another peculiar thing about the grounds is that they also contain an animal farm. The baron had both an orchard and a vegetable garden and was also breeding animals, his intention being to make the entire estate independent economically."

The palace in Avrig has undergone various alterations in time. Its interior architecture saw the biggest changes as the palace was transformed into a sanatorium. Its exterior, however, has remained unchanged since the time of baron Samuel von Brukenthal, including the orangerie, where we can still find today decorative elements dating from the time of the baron, Corina Combei explains:

"The baroque style has been preserved since 1908 as much as possible. In effect, there have been no alterations to its architectural style. But some changes have been made over time. During the communist period, the palace was turned into a sanatorium and a maternity hospital, so the rooms were adapted to meet the new functions. After 1990, however, the whole estate went back to its initial concept, that of a historical building. We preserve the style of late Baroque, including in the case of the gardens, and try to keep alive the memory of the place as much as possible and the spirit in which it was built by baron von Brukenthal."

After being nationalised when the communist party came to power in Romania after WWII, the estate in Avrig was returned to private hands post-1990, and has since been managed by the Samuel von Brukenthal Foundation, on behalf of the Evangelical Church Council in Avrig. Currently in urgent need of restoration, the Brukenthal estate in Avrig could well become a centre for the arts and culture and for landscape art.
Publicat: 2019-10-13 14:00:00
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