On more than 3,000 square kilometres or rd 1.7 pct. of the country’s territory and a population counting for more than 220,000 inhabitants, depository of some historical testimonies dating back to the 6th century BC with traces of a Scythian settlement at Barsesti, the Vrancea villages treasure spiritual, moral and cultural values which give identity to the said land of the Romanian people lasting in an area bordered by the Oriental Carpathians and the river Siret.
Photo credit (c) TRAIAN NEGULESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE
The Vrancea villages count a land of 68 communes and over 300 villages or hamlets, remote from the towns’ noisy tumult, and are profound in the Romanian values’ richness exactly through their apparent simplicity.
Vrancea has a great number of ethnographic values, from the simplest work tool, to houses and installations of the popular technique, all ‘speaking’ to the watcher of the creativity of the inhabitants of these places, of their inventive and practical spirit, and also of their artistic sense which awaits to be discovered by the thirsty traveler of knowledge and beauty.
‘Ceramics, the stitches’ motifs on the shirts and skirts, the hand-made wooden tools, all are revealing an abstract, geometric ornamentation. This geometrical artistic fund is having its roots from the Thracians and it is the strongest, the rest of the ornaments have an auxiliary role,’ Ion Diaconu, the most important ethnographer who was born here and studied the Vrancea folklore, says.
Emil Giurgea, in his work ‘Vrancea-based lands’ says that ‘a few areas of Romania have kept with such fidelity the rich legacy of the past generations, such as Vrancea.’
The Vrancea villages which gave the Romanian culture personalities whose names last over time, among whom metropolitan Varlaam of Moldavia, deputy in the Moldavian Parliament Ion Roata, painter Gh. M. Tatarascu, architect Ion Mincu, the father of the national school of architecture, writer and diplomat Duiliu Zamfirescu, scholar Simion Mehedinti, founder of the Romanian school of geography, are special through their houses’ architecture, through building the space of habitation, through the functional arrangement of their households, through placing their belongings as basis of their living, yet also as a mirror of its cultural practices.
The people of Vrancea lived in areas covered in woods, which is why most of their houses were made of wood, by using various techniques, with a great variety of geometric motifs.
As for the religious sites, made of wood, erected most of them from the initiative and contribution of the inhabitants, local talented and inventive craftsmen, most of whom anonymous, the specialists say they meant an important political, social factor of the Vrancea villages’ life.
The wooden churches and monasteries, some built back in the past six centuries, are places of worship still preserving the Orthodox traditions of the inhabitants of this county and cultivate as well the feeling of solidarity and respect for the elder generations, through the social or cultural settlements they have under their wings. On Vrancea territory exist 45 such monuments. The most representative to be included in a future tourist promotion plan are located at Manastioara, Nistoresti, Valea Sarii, Prisaca, Ruginesti, Anghelesti, Musunoaiele, Herestrau, Buluc, recently introduced on the national heritage list of monuments.
The characteristics of these wooden worship places are their shape of vessel, with a high roof and large eaves, reminding of the architecture monuments of Moldavia erected during the rule of Stephen the Great and Saint. So are the wooden churches of Ruginesti, Chitcani, Movilita and Campuri-Tei.
Not only the wooden churches, but also the houses of Vrancea are decorated by carved traditional motifs, such as rosaces, ropes, sun in case of those of Anghelesti and Ruginesti. The ornamenting consists in carving the porches’ and patio’s pillars and the transformation of the board to make the ‘fence’ of the verandha, an ornamental board put vertically at the outside edge of the eaves roof’s rafter in order to hide its ends.
The costumes, used currently only in the rural celebration’s day are in general specific to the shepherds, with predominant white.
Photo credit (c) CRISTIAN NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE
A special chapter of the Vrancea-based popular art is the ceramics. The older pieces were made of a porous paste mixed with straws and then of a finer material, cleaned of impurities, and the finite goods were made with richer ornaments, as they are easily to be seen in the Cucuteni culture’s vases. They used to be and still are made at the wheel.
In Vrancea County, the most valuable centre for ceramic is Iresti, the potters there keeping the Dacian tradition in the vases’ shape. Some older potters still work red and black ceramics of Dacian origin, as the Poiana and Bontesti sites’ discoveries do attest. Yet, next to the traditional ceramics the enameled ceramics is still worked, which adapted to the transformations imposed by life and taste of the Vrancea population.
The most interesting popular Vrancea artistic achievement is ‘undoubtedly’ according to specialists the wood indentation art. The large forests covering the Vrancea Mts. have always offered the raw material for the houses’ construction, the furniture, the household tools and items necessary to living.
A special field, through the technique used in Vrancea is the poker work which applies especially on large water vessels and small such vessels, on wooden boxes. This is a technique practiced in particular in the Nereju and Paltin communes. Their ornaments consist of geometric or simple floral motifs, yet especially attractive, through repetitions and symmetries.
The Vrancea-based artistic creations, in their entire amount of achievements, offer the image of a high popular art, impressing not only through the variety of the artistic elements and diversity of compositions, but also through unveiling the permanent attraction of the inhabitants for beauty. They prove an aesthetic, charming, refined taste, where soberness is at rule, elements the tourist discovers with the passion of the novelty and balance and harmony.