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Sibiu Tourist Guide

Sibiu History

Sibiu today is a bustling, modern city, quickly upgrading it's roads and other infrastructure. The old city is the main attraction for tourists and locals alike, with beautifully restored colourful buildings and often a carnival atmosphere.

The history of both Sibiu and Transylvania is complex, with waves of settlement and occupation by different countries and ethnic groups, as you can read below:

101 AD The Roman Empire under Emporer Trajan conquers the Dacians to form the province of Dacia Romana, extending from the Danube river north into the region now known as Transylvania.

271 AD The Romans are forced to abandon Dacia Romana following attacks by the Goths. This leads Romania into the Dark Ages. The land is occupied successively by the Goths, Huns, Avars and Slavs who live among the local people.

896 AD The Magyar conquer Transylvania and make it part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

1150 Saxon colonists establish a settlement called "Villa Hermanni" on the site that is now Sibiu/Hermannstadt. The Saxons had been invited to settle in Transylvania by King Géza II of Hungary in order to cultivate the land and to defend the southeast border of the kingdom. Most 'Saxons' actually came from the region around Luxembourg.

1191 Sibiu is mentioned for the first time in Vatican church documents. The name "Cibinium" deriving from the river Cibin that flows around the old town.

1224 The Diploma Andreanum (Golden Charter of Transylvanian Saxons) is issued, granting provisional autonomy to Germans residing in the Siebenbürgen region (roughly equating to Transylvania).

1241 Following destructive raids by the Tartars (Mongol Horde), work on fortifying the city begins, and continues into the 15th century, making Sibiu one of the safest cities in Transylvania and a centre of commerce and industry.

1292 The first hospital in Romania1 is opened in Sibiu. The building and associated Gothic Hospital Church are located just north of Piata Huet in the old town.

1366 The German/Saxon name Hermannstadt is mentioned for the first time and Sibiu officially receives city status.

1376 The craftsmen of Sibiu are organised into a total of nineteen guilds representing different crafts. Crafts ranged from metal and wood working to scythe making and wool weaving. Money accumulated by the guilds was used for buildings, towers and fortificaitons.

1380 The first documented school in Romania1 opens in Sibiu.

1421 The first organised Ottoman military campaign against Transylvanian territories razes towns and villages in the south.

1438 The Union of the Three Nations enshrines rights for the nobility, Hungarian and Saxon communites, relegating Romanians to a lesser status. The alliance is designed to protect the ruling class against both Ottoman incursions and peasant revolts.

1494 The first pharmacy in Romania1, known as La Ursul Negru (The Black Bear), is opened in Sibiu and operates for more than 150 years. Items from the pharmacy are on display in the Pharmacy Museum.

1526 Ottoman Turks establish control over most of Hungary and put Transylvania under their authority.

1544 The first book in the Romanian language, The Lutheran Catechism is printed in Sibiu. The book is used by the Saxons to attract the Romanians to their new faith. Until this time Romanian was not a written language.

1551 Conrad Haas arrives in Sibiu as head of the war arsenal. In a manuscript discovered in 1961 he describes the principal behind multi-stage rockets and their potential use even in spacecraft.

1570 Transylvania becomes an autonomous province.

1600 The principalities of Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldovia are united by Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), who is promptly assasinated the following year, destroying that union.

1661 Transylvania becomes a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

1683 Following defeat at the Battle of Vienna, over the next 16 years, the Ottomans lose control of both Hungary and Transylvania.

1692 Sibiu becomes capital of the Principality of Transylvania until 1791 when the seat of power moves to Cluj-Napoca.

1699 Austrian Habsburgs drive the Turks out of Hungary.

1711 Transylvania loses it's autonomy and becomes an administrative area of Hungary.

1789 Construction of the Brukenthal Palace in the main square of Sibiu is completed.

1791 An edict grants Romanians and Hungarians the right to settle inside the Sibiu town walls. The capital of Transylvania is moved to Cluj-Napoca until 1849 when it returns to Sibiu.

1817 The Brukenthal Museum is created after Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, Governor of the Principality of Transylvania, dies heirless and bequeaths his entire inheritance to the Evangelical Church of Sibiu, with the stipulation that the collections be opened to the public.

1848 During the Springtime of the Peoples revolutions the Saxons support more political rights for Romanians, but are opposed by Hungarians who want unification with Hungary.

1859 Wallachia and Moldavia are united under the name Romania, without Transylvania and other regions. In Sibiu, the Liar's Bridge becomes the first cast-iron bridge built in Romania1.

1860 Romania switches from the Cyrillic to the Roman script.

1867 In the Austro-Hungarian Compromise Hungary becomes an autonomous partner in the Austro-Hungarian empire and Transylvania becomes part of Hungary proper.

1877 Romania, fighting on the Russian side, gains independence from the Ottoman Empire. On 9 May the Romanian parliament declares the independence of Romania as the will of the Romanian people.

1906 The newly constructed "Holy Trinity" Orthodox Cathedral is consecrated in Sibiu.

1907 In Moldovia and Wallachia the Romanian peasants revolt over land rights. The revolt is ultimately quashed by the Romanian Army with 20,000 either killed or arrested.

1918 On 1 December the region of Transylvania becomes part of greater Romania following the Treaty of Trianon, a moment still painful to many Hungarians. In the following years 200,000 ethnic Hungarians leave Transylvania for Hungary, though many also remain.

1923 Romania adopts a new Constitution. The country is divided into 71 counties (judeţe) with Sibiu and Brasov belonging to Făgăraş County.

1929 The first Zoological Garden in Romania is opened in Sibiu.

1938 King Carol II abolishes the democratic constitution of 1923, replacing it with a Royal Dictatorship. Romania is divided into 10 administrative 'lands' with Sibiu being part of the Mureş region, encompassing Alba Iulia, Turda, Târgu Mureş and Miercurea Ciuc. In 1940 Carol is forced to abdicate and Ion Antonescu becomes the new ruler.

1941 Romania allies with the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and joins the German invasion of the Soviet Union. In February 1941, 680,000 German troops mass on the Romanian-Soviet border as part of Operation Barbarossa, a simultaneous offensive along the entire Soviet front.

1944 Overrun by the Soviets, Romania changes sides and the Red Army occupies the country. German troops withdraw, and Transylvanian Saxons start leaving Romania. Throughout the country German speakers of a fighting age are rounded up and sent to Siberian labour camps. The Saxon population declines from 750,000 in 1930 to just 15,000 in 2002.

1946 The Romanian Communist Party wins power in Romania following disputed elections. Antonescu is sentenced to death for war crimes.

1947 Abdication of the Romanian King Michael is followed in 1948 by formation of a Communist "Peoples Republic" closely aligned with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

1950 The territory of Romania is divided into 58 counties (județe) including Sibiu County, made up of Sibiu, Sebeş, Mediaş, Sighişoara and Făgăraş.

1952 A new Consitution proclaims that Romania "was born as a result of the historic victory of the Soviet Union against German fascism and the liberation of Romania by the glorious Red Army." Sibiu County in merged into Brașov County (now called Stalin County) with Brașov (Stalin) as the capital.

1958 Soviet military forces withdraw from Romania. Under Gheorghiu-Dej, Romanian foreign and economic policy begins to diverge from that of the Soviet Union, becoming resistant to outside economic control and critical of various Soviet military actions.

1965 Following the sudden death of Gheorghiu-Dej, and after quickly eliminating all his rivals, Nicolae Ceauşescu takes power. A new Constitution is drafted, officially creating the Romanian Socialist Republic. Ceauşescu is seen as a valuable ally to the West at least up until the late 1970's.

1967 The Astra open air museum on the outskirts of Sibiu is opened to the public for the first time.

1968 The territory of Romania is reorganised into 39 judeţ (counties,) plus Bucharest, with two more added in 1981 and 1997 leading to the current number of 41.

1969 President Richard Nixon makes a state visit to Romania. Romania is granted 'most-favored-nation' status for trade with the United States, which lasts from 1972 until 1988 when it is revoked over human rights concerns.

1974 Ceauşescu becomes president of Romania. His rule is characterized by an increasingly erratic personality cult, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations. His efforts to pay back large loans from the West lead to food shortages and rising discontent.

1989 Blood is shed on the streets of Sibiu as Romania undergoes revolution. Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife are summarily tried and executed by a military tribunal.

2004 Sibiu applies for UNESCO heritage status for the 'Historic Centre of Sibiu and its Ensemble of Squares'.

2007 Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union (EU) on 1 January.

2007 Luxembourg ("Reaching beyond borders") and Sibiu ("City of Cultures") are designated European Capitals of Culture for 2007. To mark this occasion, the main squares in the old town are completely renovated and hundreds of cultural events and performances organised.

2010 The Sibiu bypass is officially opened on 1 December to muted fanfare. First practical use of the road is by Nicolas Cage during filming for Ghost Rider 2.

2011 Sibiu politicians react badly to proposals from Bucharest for reducing the number of counties down to a total of 8 or 16. In both plans Sibiu would belong (again) to a region having Brașov as its capital.

2014 Klaus Johannis, former mayor of Sibiu, becomes the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority (Transylvanian Saxon).

(1) 'Romania' refers here to the borders as established in 1918.