DESTINATION: ROMANIA/ Braila's Old City centre, an A-ranked historical monument

The historic centre of Braila, the Old City Centre, stretching over 160 hectares and including real, priceless architectural jewels, erected at the end of the 19th century or on the eve of the 20th century, is declared an A-category historical monument.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

A research on the cultural heritage built in the southeastern part of Romania by architect Doina Bubulete shows that from a quality's point of view the Old City Centre of Braila displays remarkable features which give it a sole position within the national cultural heritage. "The old historic centre of Braila has got a remarkable urban, architectural value," says Doina Bubulete.

"Braila has a complete aggregate of historical edifices and monuments, heritage assets, a fairy-tale Historic Centre," says in his turn the Museum of Braila director, Professor Dr. Ionel Candea.

Among the representative architectural historical monuments of the Old City Centre are the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' and 'The Annunciation' churches, the 'Maria Filotti' theatre, the 'Perpessicius', 'Panait Istrati', 'Petre Stefanescu Goanga' memorial houses, the 'Nicapetre' Cultural Centre, The Museum of Braila, the Great Public Garden, the 'Mihai Eminescu Street'.

The Old City Centre of Braila, known as the old centre, is declared an A-ranked historical monument meaning with national value alongside the 'Traian Square' compound dating back at the beginning of the 18th century, the 'Mihai Eminescu Street' compound from the 19th century and the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Church dating back in the 19th century.

Currently the area stretching from Al. I. Cuza Av. to the Danube, including many streets, is declared a historical monument. Braila's Old City Centre has recently suffered an ample revamping process which began in 2007 and was completed in 2011. The revamping project cost over 10 million euros and was achieved with European funds within the 2004-2006 PHARE Programme — Economic and Social Cohesion, Big Projects of Regional Infrastructure. 'It was a project which pursued that in the end this very significant place — Braila's Old City Centre — regains its value. Now we have to take advantage of the opportunities it offers from the tourist viewpoint ', the Braila mayor Aurel Simionescu says.

The Traian Square, which was initially called 'The Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Square is 'the very heart of the Old Centre and stretches on 11 sqm. The square dates back in 1833, and after 1840 it was paved with cubic stone and became of an utmost importance for all events in Braila. It was once called the Rally Square, after the name of the 'Maria Filotti' Theatre of today, then the Dumitru Ionescu Square, after the name of a mayor of Braila, and in the communist years it was called the V.I. Lenin Square. The idea of building a square occurred once with the liberation of Braila from the Ottoman occupation, when the 'New Braila' plan was organized. In 1834, the town's architect A. Borrooczyn thought a small park should have been organized around a former mosque, which had become an Orthodox Church.

In the very core of the Traian Square lies the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Church, the only Orthodox settlement of Romania which stays on the place of a mosque, its edifice preserving even today the Oriental elements and being one of the few churches of Romania with no towers.

One of the most representative buildings of the Traian Square is the Public Clock, made in 1909 by Carol Sakar of Prague. It is considered a rare urban furniture piece of work, since in that period the horologes of the churches' towers or of the public buildings were preferred. The clock is over 11.5 meters high and it is made of four quadrants supported by a metallic framework imitating an interior clock. The expenditure for its fabrication was supported by Petru Naum, who wished a horologe tower to be erected for the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Church. The monumental clock suffered three reconditioning operations in 1968, 1993 and 2011. The restoration of the Public Clock was part of an ampler project of reconditioning of the historical objectives with the Traian Square, which included also the revamping of the Traian Statuary and the Artesian Well, which regained their old times' glamour.

The idea of making the Traian Statuary occurred in September 1902, during the visit of a group of Italian students, members of the Corda Frates International Federation of Students. The funds for the carrying out of the statue were gathered by a teachers' committee with the 'Nicolae Balcescu' High-School. Architect Ion D. Trajanescu was designated to draft this statuary. Following the imperial model, the statue was sculpted in bronze by Take Dimo Pavelescu. The Traian Statuary was placed in the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Square and the monument was unveiled on November 8 1906, on the occasion of the celebration of 1800 years since Dacia was conquered by Emperor Trajan. The bas-relief on the pedestal represents scenes of the Dacian-Roman wars.

The Artesian Well of the Traian Square was designed in 1887 by engineer M. Mironescu and set in the square in 1892. It is a decorative, Baroque-style item, with a shape of a storey-cup with its margins to the outside. The Well is made of pig iron, its pedestal is garnished with palmettes, and its circular basin measures 6-metres in diameter.

In the park nearby the Traian Square trees declared monuments such as magnolia from China, the white pine of Spain and the cranberry from the Mediteranean lands are planted. All around the Traian Square several monument buildings exist, sheltering important objectives of the Historic Centre, such as the Braila Museum, the 'Maria Filotti' Theatre and the Traian Hotel.

The edifice that shelters today the Braila Museum was built before 1850, when it ran under the name of The Armelin Casino'. Its first owner was Nicoletto Armelin, a reputed grains' exporter of those times. Before 1860, in one of the house's chambers theatre shows were producing, a reason why the building is considered the first space in Braila where such artistic events ever took place. The long of the time, the building was recognized also through the fact that it hosted two significant events: in 1854, the then ruler of Wallachia, Barbu Stirbei, celebrated his birthday, and in 1862 the first January 24 was celebrated there as Romania's National Day. At the ground floor of the Casino several shops have had their headquarters, the most important being 'Hepites', the first pharmacy of the town. Until 1945, the building hosted the Great French Hotel and the French Restaurant with a pub and café. Ferdinand, as a prince, in 1902, and as a king in 1925, (historian and politician) Nicolae Iorga, (playwrite) I. L. Caragiale, (writer) Cezar Petrescu were among its most significant guests. In 1945, on August 6, the building is taken over by the Soviet troops. Starting with 1958, the building's ground floor and with 1967 its upper floor too were destined to shelter the collections of the Braila Museum. Braila Museum bears the name of Carol I since this August 23, given that King Carol I is the founder of the settlement and this year 100 years since his last visit to Braila are celebrated.

With over 150 years of tradition, of which 50 years of uninterrupted activity, the 'Maria Filotti' Theatre is currently in the elite of the world theatres, being acclaimed and awarded by the most important national and international festivals of the kind.

Opposite the Traian Square is the Traian Hotel, erected in 1972, the highest building of the city counting fort 110 rooms.

As entering the Great Garden, on its left one could see the Water Castle, built in 1912 and declared a B-ranked monument. When it was erected, its 35 metres made the building to appear as the highest building of the kind in Romania.

The Great Garden is the place where the traces of the longest defensive system ever built the long of the river Danube are preserved, a chain of military cellars, respectively, which stretched beneath the houses of the Old City Centre to the Danube.

The Fortress of Braila was erected by the Turks in October 1540, in the today's perimetre of the Cetatii, Citadelei, Cazarmii and Militara streets, on an area at North of Great Garden and the Vadu Schelei till the Cuza Av., where it is supposed to be the place where the cellars' net was stretching. The fortress was smashed down and erased from the face of the earth by the Russians, after the Adrianople Peace (1829).

In order to promote the Braila's historical targets, the City Mayor unfolded in 2012 a project called 'Braila — culture, places, traditions and ancient customs' valued at over one million lei, financed through the Regional Development European Fund. The project aimed at putting into value the buildings of the Braila Old Centre to attract more tourists to the city on the Danube. The organisers thought of a tourist route to promote the old churches, which included the 'Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel' Church, the only church without steeples in Europe, the 'Saint Nicholas' Church — at the time of its erection the highest building in the town, which was also an observation tower, the Lipovan Russians' Metropolitan, which is the World Centre of the Orthodox Church of the Old Rite, the 'Annunciation' Greek Church visited annually by thousands of pilgrims for its healing, miracle-making water which springs underneath the Holy Shrine.
'Braila has numerous monuments which give it a special charm and make any visitor think with pleasure to the moment of seeing it again. Being placed in concentric semicircles, its streets always lead to the Danube, where the locals come to fill their souls with beauty. The city attracts through its architectonic splendor and by preserving the old style. Tourists who dare to reach Braila would never regret it. They will discover step by step the beauty of its history, the traditions' preservation, as well as the quiet of the spots,' says the director of the Culture, Education, Sport and Tourism Department with the Braila City.