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The studio from an UNESCO monument house

Prejmer - restoring a heritage house

(After an article by Cristina Turlea June 23, 2010 Ziarul de Duminica)

Prejmer 1777. On the Pompierilor Street, nearby the fortified church, house number 13 was being built. It was a small house towards the street side, consisting of a semi-basement, ground floor and an attic. The house was no different from other of its kind, with the typical vernacular architecture of the Saxon villages. It was a traditional Franco household type, specific for its residents primarily preoccupation: agriculture and animal husbandry.

On one of its beams the year 1777, the year of construction, was written. This happening made this building to be enlisted on “The list of historical monuments from 1955”.

Nowadays the house can be found on the list of historical monuments published by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Heritage, along with the Fortified Citadel (under UNESCO protection), Evangelical Religious School and another four houses from Prejmer village.

Constructed of durable materials, placed in successive layers of stone with brick and covered with a wooden roof structure with roof tiles, the building was inhabited almost continuously by its rightful owners.

In the more than 200 years of existence, the house “grew” as a living organism, responding to the needs of the owners. More buildings were added to the main house three along the courtyard and one isolated from the street, all having the role of household annexes. The ones along the courtyard, built in the early twentieth century, were the stables and the barns; the annex from the street, originally intended only for the bread oven has become by extension a summer kitchen. These buildings were made of durable materials, brick walls and wood framing, covered with tile. The three ones attached to the main house had basement, ground floor level with two rooms and an attic. In 1990 some repairs, changes and fixes were made to the main building by the former residents.

The house has been transmitted from generation to generation until 1991, when the owner at that time left the country and leaves it in a local administration. In 1995, their owners requested to the administrator to fully restore its interior. Unfortunately the decay has continued in an increased pace, due to errors regarding the technical solutions adopted in stages of repair, renovation, and the geo-climatic conditions.

The history of this house could have ended here. It is no exaggeration, as the house was not inhabited and was becoming more and more a ruin. The administrator wanted to buy the land cheap so he did not only left the house to be destroyed by weather and wind but also he bit by bit damaged it.

The house destiny changed when Mrs. Stela and Mr. Gheorghe Onut from Brasov noticed it. Mrs. Stela who is an artist and Mr. Gheorghe, who is a professor in sociology and author of several books, saw beyond the shrinking walls and the state of decay and ruin. They didn’t think about obstacles and they really believed in a restoration project for the house.

In spite the obstacles like financial problems, getting permits and licenses for rebuilding, and going through a lawsuit to get rid of the old administrator of the house, Stela’s persistence prevailed in the end. Through Prince Charles Foundation she raised the funds for the restoration of the façade; she also came in contact with specialized craftsmen in the art of restoration.

Stela would not have succeeded without the help of a team of specialists, such as: architect specializing in restoration - Ileana Fantana (who studied at the School of Restoration from Cluj), Anca Binder engineer, construction consultant engineer Horatiu Pop and specialized firm and house builders Craft House-restorers : Radu Trifan and Florin Brebeanu.

We selected a few from the hundreds of the existing photos, which describes how the house was restored.



an UNESCO world heritage monument from Transylvania

The Teutonic Knights constructed the fortress Tartlau in 1212–1213 as part of their colonization of the Burzenland region. The town of Prejmer near the castle had begun development by 1225, and was the eastern-most settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons. Prejmer was repeatedly invaded throughout the Middle Ages by various groups, including the Mongols, Tatars, Hungarians, Ottoman Turks, Cossacks, and Moldavians. However, the castle was only captured once, by Gabriel Báthory in 1611. Most of Prejmer's German population fled the town during World War II.

Prejmer is noted for its fortified church, one of the best preserved of its kind in Eastern Europe. Between 1962–1970, the Romanian government carefully restored it to its present condition; the restoration work was done under the direction of architect Mariana Angelescu and engineer Alexandru Dobriceanu. The church is modeled after churches of Jerusalem, as well as built in the style of Late Gothic churches from the Rhineland. In the 15th century, it was surrounded by a wall 12m high, forming a quadrilateral with rounded corners. The wall was reinforced by four horseshoe-shaped towers, two of which have since disappeared. The entrance—a vaulted gallery—is protected by a barbican and flanked by a lateral wall. The defensive structure is strengthened by embrasures and bartizans, while the covered way is surrounded by a parapet. The granaries and rooms that accommodated the villagers are arranged on four levels above the cellars.

Inside the fortifications you'll find 272 rooms disposed on 3 levels. Each family in the village had a room in the fortress. The whole family used to leave in such a room in wartime. And they kept their provisions here in peace times. The number of each room correspond to the number of the house in the village.

Prejmer fotifications surrounding the church

Beside all ordinary defending things you can see an unusual one. It's called "The Death's Organ". It's about a device consisting of more guns which shut all at once and brought panic among the enemy's rows.