The history of Timisoara, its buildings, and its most famous residents – we try to uncover the interesting stories of Timisoara.

 

Unirii Square (to be translated as the “Union Square”) is one of the biggest and most beautiful squares in Timisoara. Throughout its history, the square has had many names: it was once called Hauptplatz (main square), Domplatz (Dom square) or Losonczy square. Today we know it as Unirii Square. It received this name in 1919, after World War I and after the Banat region became a part of the now “complete” Romanian country. The square is said to be the place where the Romanian army was welcomed when they came to Timisoara.

The history of Unirii square, the most beautiful square in Timisoara

But the history of the square is much longer. Timisoara was freed from the Ottoman Empire in 1716, thanks to the troops of Prince Eugene of Savoy, of the Habsburg Empire. During the fight with the Ottomans, most of the city was destroyed. As the city had to be rebuilt, a new construction plan was created. What we know as Unirii Square today started being shaped back then. The buildings in the area were meant to serve administrative functions and the square itself has served as an agricultural market for a very long time. Most of the buildings in the square have been restored and reshaped several times; some building were added an extra floor, other were demolished, new ones were rebuilt. Over time, Unirii Square became the most beautiful square in Timisoara. These are some if its most imposing buildings:

St. George’s Cathedral, or the Roman-Catholic Dome

catholic-dome-timisoaraThe Catholic Dome in Unirii Square was built around the same time as the square itself, after the plans of Fischer von Erlach, an Austrian architect who also worked on monuments from Vienna, Prague, Gratz, and Salzburg. The Dome is a great sample of baroque architecture, one of most relevant in Timisoara. The interior is richly adorned with baroque and rococo elements. What most catches the eye are the 9 altars and the church’s organ, which dates back to 1908.

The towers of the dome have a height of only 35.5m, which is quite unusual for Catholic domes. But there is a reason behind it.  Back in the 18th century, Timisoara became a military strategic point, but was still a potential target. Back then, the city was a citadel that had protective walls around it. Higher towers would have been visible from outside of the city citadel, therefore making it a target. By projecting the towers at this height, it was “hid” from potential attackers.

 

The Baroque Palace and the Timisoara Art Museum

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Unirii Square may be an interesting destination for art lovers, as it hosts the Timisoara Art museum. But the building that hosts the museum is a work of art itself – we are talking about the building that is known as the Baroque Palace (Palatul Baroc). 

The Palace was built in the 18th century, when the square itself was defined. This was part of a larger city renovation, after the city was taken from the Ottomans by the Habsburgs. 

The palace was built in Baroque style, with some Rococo elements. It underwent a renovation between 1885 and 1886, when the attic and the hardware elements were rebuilt; baroque decoration elements were removed, especially at the level of the facades.

The Holy Trinity Monument – A sign of thankfulness for the ending of the plague

Between the 14th and 18th century the plague killed millions of people in Europe. Timisoara was no exception. The Holy Trinity monument was ordered and then donated to Timisoara by Dechan de Hansen, who was a counsellor at the city hall at the time.  The monument was constructed in Vienna and transported to Timisoara by boat on the Danube, the Tisa and the Bega River, to the old town port.

The story has it that the plague had killed the counsellor’s wife and daughter and he swore that if he survives he will build a monument as a sign of thankfulness. He kept his word and the monument exists even today. The monument is composed of a high triangular column, with its upper part symbolically adorned to represent the Holy Trinity. The Blessed Virgin Mary, is depicted kneeling at their feet. At the base of the column we can see the statue of various protective saints, but also three bas-relief sculptures, representing the three calamities – war, famine and plague.

The Serbian-Orthodox Episcopal Palace

Timisoara has always been multicultural and communities have always lived together in harmony here. In Unirii Square you can find two churches belonging to different religions in the same area. The Serbian-Orthodox Episcopal Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings here.

It was built around 1745, and as the years passed it was renovated several times. In 1905 it has been renovated by the city’s famous head-architect Lazlo Szekely, who added an extra floor and redefined the building’s style with new elements. 

Bruck House – Beautiful secession architecture

bruck-house-timisoaraThe present building was built in the early 1900s in the style of the Hungarian “Secession” current. It was ordered by the pharmacist Salomon Bruck and was designed by the city’s head-architect, Laszlo Szekely, to whom we owe many of the city’s “secession” buildings.

A pharmacy exists there even today, just like over a century ago.  On the windows you can also see the word “pharmacy” written in the four languages spoken in the city at the time: Romanian, German, Hungarian and Serbian.

 

What is your favourite building in Unirii Square?

Traveling to Timisoara for the first time?! Still wondering whether you should visit Timisoara?! This is one of the biggest cities in Romania and there are plenty of things to do for everybody. From architectural beauties to great food and an active nightlife – you can find it all in Timisoara!

If you are a bit of a history geek – or if you simply like good stories, you’ll love to hear that this city has a fascinating history, that is still reflected nowadays in its infrastructure, architecture and culture.

Here are 7 interesting things you probably didn’t know about Timisoara:

 

1. Timisoara is older than it looks

The city used to be a “place” even since the neolithic period. There have been relics discovered in various parts of the city that point out people have been living in the area for quite a long time. However, the first official records of Timisoara date back to the 13th century – back then it was just a small citadel, but it has sure come a long way!

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Illustration of Timisoara under Ottoman rule, 18h century

 

2. It is a culturally diverse city

The city hosts theatres in 3 different languages: Romanian, Hungarian and German. Timisoara has, throughout its history been part of the Kingdom of Hungary, under Ottoman rule and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This rich history is still reflected in the city’s diverse people and culture. Also, people are quite friendly and open to strangers – probably because we are used to diversity and appreciate it.

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Fabrik Neighbourhood – bilingual postcard (Hungarian & German)

 

3. It was the second city in the WORLD which had public illumination

Timisoara was the first European city and the second city in the world (after New York), that introduced public street illumination, in 1884.

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4. The first European city to host a tram

Timisoara was the first European to host a tram. The first tram, which was horse-driven, was introduced on July 8th 1869. It was a wooden tram, built in Vienna.  The city is also known as “little Vienna” thanks to its rich local culture, which is reflected in the city’s appearance.

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A tram in Timisoara, 1871

 

 5. It hosts the oldest beer factory in Romania

The city hosts the oldest beer factory in Romania, Timisoreana, dating back to 1718. Bonus tip: when in Timisoara, do try the local Timisoreana brand! We will be providing more tips on where to find Romanian beer in another article, so make sure you follow us for more!

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Timisoreana Beer Factory, founded in 1718