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Maramures - a cultural brand name ( I )

The Wooden Churches

We open the list of the brands from Maramures with the most representative (recognized and appreciated) component, the church, close to perfection in composition, architecture, and the artistic expression specific to its cultic use, and being made of the fundamental material: wood. It joins the material universe and the spiritual realm of re¬li¬gious structure, particularized by the superimposition of archaic, pre-Christian elements (defined by Mircea Eliade [1969] as “cosmic Christianity”), and the institutionalized forms of the church.
The results of this symbiosis are some of the most attractive targets for the religious type of tourism from Europe and the whole world (part of them included in the UNESCO heritage).
“It is well known that some of the most interesting religious constructions in the world can be found here [in Maramures]; not only from our country but also from the entire Europe. The wooden churches form Maramures have long ago gained a well deserved fame not only in the eyes of the specialists but also in the eyes of the visitors from many countries of the world. There is no doubt they represent one of the highest achievements in the art of building with wood on our continent” (Paul Petrescu, 1969).
Evidently, this complex of cultic heritage from Maramures has to be regarded as an integral part in a system particularized by local solutions in construction and archi¬tecture in Romania (see also the monastic sites of Voroneţ, Suceviţa, Moldoviţa, Putna – in Moldova, or Curtea de Argeş – in Muntenia), as well as in Central and Western Eu¬rope, coming from the Middle Ages, as a prolongation of the art of Antiquity into that of the Renaissance.
These churches from Maramures have treasured some of the oldest documents and testimonies of the Romanian language; these are the places where the elders of the communities gathered to make decisions in crucial moments of history; these are the places where weddings were celebrated and infants were baptized, and these are also the places where our fathers and forefathers were buried.
As a rule, these churches were built on heights, with apparently exaggeratedly high steeples and bell towers. In the past, the bell tower had served also as watch tower, and in cases of danger (invasions, fire) they used to beat the wooden plate and ring the bell in a special way, warning the community to take the security measures required by the situation” (Grigore Man, Bisericile de lemn din Maramureş, 2005, p.5).
The oldest and most valuable of these monuments are situated in the historical Land of Maramures, some of them dating from the 14th century, but the majority of them were in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Small size “pre-Renaissance cathedrals” can be found also in the ethnographical zones of Chioar, Codru, and Lǎpuş, and this recommends the entire administrative and territorial area of Maramures County as an important target for religious tourism.
Remains of 17th century mural paintings can be seen in the church from Breb. There are relics of Celtic civilization in the churchyard of Sat Şugatag. The church tower from Budeşti-Josani is situated above the church porch that has four smaller towers. The church from Cuhea was built in 1718, on the site of the former wooden church the Tartars had burnt down in 1717. The church on the hill (Deal) from Ieud dates from 1364 and is also called the church of Balc, after the name of a local voivode, while the one on the plain (Şes) is considered one of the most beautiful and monumental “wooden cathedrals” from Maramures, representing also a sample of gothic architecture (see Mihai Dǎncuş, 1986).
It is worth remembering that, on Sundays and on religious holidays, services are still held in many of these ancient churches, although now they are too small for the number of worshipers. Maybe this detail has saved them from destruction, the people’s spirit and faith having remained intact.
Where the local people abandoned them (in favour of the new churches made of stone), the constructions show visible signs of decay.
The wooden churches are a brand, an insignia, a remembrance of the history of these places.

The Traditional Homestead

When visiting for the first time a region, the tourists’ expectations are to benefit of good services, find suitable accommodation, and enjoy the picturesque landscape. In order to learn about the most interesting material and spiritual goods of the local people they will certainly plan to visit the existing museums.
Those who come to Maramures will be surprised to discover that almost each village is in itself a living museum, populated with people whose life unfolds quite na¬turally among the “exhibits”. Each settlement seems to be a “village museum”, with unpaved lanes, guarded on either side by farmhouses and outbuildings made entirely of wood – genuine monuments of folk art and architecture.
The traditional homestead in Maramures bears the specific local stamp (as concerns materials, architecture, and ornaments); it is a brand due to its originality and unique character in comparison with “reservations” of this type from other regions. And it will continue to be a brand when the rural traditionalism disintegrates in the future (as certain tendencies already predict), and the tourists will admire these homesteads only in the enclosures of specialized open-air-museums.
The traditional farmhouse and the associate buildings were usually placed on two or three sides of the farmyard forming an architectural whole. Everything, from the base to the shingle roof, was made exclusively of wood.
Ethnologist Francisc Nistor (1977) writes that the buildings of the homestead are arranged according to precise rules which take into consideration first of all functionality, and it is the arrangement of the buildings that creates the architectural complex with an evident aesthetic effect.
For those who would like to approach with empathy this ethnographic micro-uni¬verse of Maramures, we will offer some technical, descriptive details and refer to the function of each component part of the homestead.
The farmhouse has always had an ordering function, the outbuildings being disposed in accord with it.
The barn and the stable become a complex construction only if the farmer’s social and economic status allows it. The wooden structure is always set on river boulders (or from a stone quarry), and the roof has invariably in four slopes.
The stable floor is made of thick wooden beams and the loft is placed only above the lateral compartments of the barn.
The barns have usually monumental doors so that a cart stacked with hay could freely pass. The barn serves also for storing tools and agricultural equipment: pitchforks, rakes, ploughs, harrows, yokes, accessories of the cart, and the vessels in which the fruit collected during the summer or autumn are fermented, becoming the raw material for the twice distilled alcoholic beverage called “horinca de Maramureş”.
The shed is a wooden construction made of four poles joined with oak twigs and covered with a two-sloping roof. It is used to store fire wood, the log for cutting wood, but also the cart, tools and agricultural equipment.
The hay store is made of four, about 7 meter long, wooden poles, joined on the upper and lower parts with square wooden bars. The roof has the form of a pyramid and slides up and down the poles according to the quantity of the hay. It is interesting that ethnologists have found such constructions (hay stores with sliding roofs) also in Nordic countries. For instance, in Holland they have the same structure as those in Maramures (P. Petrescu, 1969).
The wickerwork maize shed has trapezoidal form and is made of woven hazel or cornel wickers. The roof has four slopes and is made of twice fixed shingles.
The larder is used for storing foodstuffs and household objects. It has the form of a miniature (mono-cellular) house, with a porch, a door, but has no lateral windows.
On a homestead you can find one or two square draw-wells, set with round river boulders, either with a shadoof (usually), or a lifting wheel. There are also wells that are used by two households.
The traditional fences surrounding the farm are made of wickerwork (in the form of a braid or crown) and are covered with hay and shingle.

Riverside Technical Installations

“The life of a village does not unfold only in its cult buildings but also in the places where its living inhabitants can meet in order to remember and worship their ancestors; it does not unfold only on the farmstead or in individual houses, but also in the places where there are installations that belong either to a family or to the whole village community. These are: mills, fulling mills, and whirlpools etc., which used to play an important part in the life of the villagers in Maramures and they still do nowadays” (Francisc Nistor, 1980).
Whatever makes these installations spectacular and famous is the ingenuity of the technical systems made entirely of wood, even in their mechanical parts.
The most simple and archaic installations were those worked manually and used for milling the grains (hand-riding mills). For the crushing of the seeds and the obtaining of edible oil there were manual presses with either a ram or a screw.
As old as these and used on a large scale are the hydraulic installations due to the existence of many rivers and streams in the region. Among these the grain mills, the whirlpools and sawmills are of most interest.
Usually, the mills and the whirlpools make a complex and are situated on river courses with a reduced flow of water. In the middle of the 20th century, in the basins of the rivers Tisa, Iza, and Vişeu, 276 such technical installation were registered, while in the basin of Lăpuş, 144 mills. There are documents from as early as the 14th century in which they are mentioned as part of “an ancient hydraulic civilization in the north of the Danube” (Corneliu Bucur, 2005).
The technology of the construction of mills was identical with that of house buil¬ding, with the only exception that the foundation of the wall near the wheel was higher. The water was brought to the wheel by a deviation of its course. The wheels (with pots and teeth) were fixed on an axel. The diameter of the millstones was about a metre.
But what mostly impress visitors are the whirlpools, genuine A+ class washing machines. These are installed in the historical Land of Maramures (in the Cosău valley, at Rona de Sus, Dragomireşti and Glod) and also in the Rona - Lăpuş area, and in the Land of Chioar at Preluca Nouă, Boiu Mare, Şişeşti, Şindreşti, Coplanic, Fânaţe, Ciocotiş, and Chiuzbaia.
The whirlpools, traditional installations which function on the hydraulic prin¬ciple, are used for the washing and rinsing of large dimension textiles. They are conical constructions, made of wood logs, in which the water produces a powerful current (A. Viman, 1989). The water is collected from a mountain stream and is brought to the whirlpool with the help of a dam, so that the flow can be regulated periodically, accor¬ding to the seasonal rainfall. The water falls in the wooden washtub where the various woollen textiles are cleaned and fulled. Many townspeople have lately taken their jute, woollen or synthetic carpets and also their winter clothes made of thick fabrics to be washed in the whirlpool. This entitles one to hope that the traditional whirlpools will remain of interest in the future, integrated in a profitable economic system.
The advantage of these installations, besides their belonging to tradition, is the eco¬logical aspect and principle of their functioning and exploitation: the use of “green energy” as an alternative source. The more so, as recently, with the installation of upstream micro-hydroelectric stations which could provide homesteads with the nece¬ssary electric energy, the whirlpools have been integrated in a complex energetic sys¬tem.

The Wooden Gates

The tourists visiting Maramures cannot but admire one of the most impressive sights of this ethnographical universe: the monumental wooden gates of the traditional homesteads to be found especially in the Mara, Cosău, or Iza valleys, and also in some villages of the Lăpuş Land.
Generally, they are made of oak wood, of three posts supporting the upper part of the gate that is covered by a shingled roof. The gates of this region have often been compared to real “triumphal arches” through which the peasants used to pass with dignity, proud of their noble origin.
The series of monumental gates are a living testimony of a particular historical reality. During the feudal period, in the communities of Maramures, a number of princes (cneaz) appeared who periodically elected their voivode. In time, the nobles’ power and privileges had been attentively fragmented and distributed to a growing number of families. For centuries, the members of this “caste” (with the dimension of a real co¬mmu¬nity!) resisted the attempts to deprive them of their privileges. This is the explanation of the amazing result of an 18th century Austrian statistics that situated Maramures “on the first place in the whole empire as concerns the reported percentage of noblemen of the county’s population.” The number of the registered noblemen with their rank certified by authentic documents was no less than 15,000, most of them being descendants of the local princes’ families.
This fact is extremely important because only the nobles had the privilege to raise high gates in front of their homesteads, while the simple people had the right only to a simple gate.
For a period, Maramures had been a unique imperial enclave populated by pea¬sants of noble origin. The shingle covered gates with carved posts are relics of a social organization that had functioned up to the 20th century due to the persistence of local traditions and the people’s inborn conservative tendencies.
Nowhere in Europe did anything similar happen.
“The attachment of the local people to these valuable constructions, deeply rooted in the cultural and artistic traditions as well as in the social and political history of Maramures, is illustrated by the fact that the ranking of the homesteads after their gates has been preserved until our days. Even now, when asking them about a man living in their village, the old peasants will point to the gate of the house where the person lives, the gesture signifying the way they rank him” (Francisc Nistor, 1977).
The construction, the carving of the decorative elements, and the passage through the gate had to respect particular rituals based upon a deep faith (with mythical rather than religious connotations).
Thus, the cutting of the oak tree had to be in a night with full moon – in order to keep away any misfortune and all the “evil hours” from around the homestead. Then, the transportation of the timber from the forest had to be done on one of the weekdays when people did not fast (on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday), according to the belief that thus the wood would bring them luck.
They used to put under the threshold beam “money, holy water, and incense, so that the black plague should not come close”. And for the protection of their fortune and house anthropomorphic figures were carved on the posts.
The carved motifs had (some of them) magical substrata, but the decoding of the elements folk craftsmen most frequently used: the rope, the knot, the solar rosette, the tree of life (“the symbol of life without death”), the snake (guardian of the house), the human figure, birds, the wolf tooth, the fir tree a. s. o., permits access to a mythological, pre-Christian universe.
For the Maramures peasant, the passage through the house gate used to be like a ceremonial act, a mental purification from the evils of the profane world so that to step cleansed into the domestic universe of the household and family. In all traditional cul¬tures the passages through a gate, more or less imposing, has symbolized a change (either surface or structural, physical or virtual).

The Wayside Cross

For many foreign visitors the civilization of wood in Maramures is represented mainly by three elements: the church, the gate, and the wayside cross.
Fully aware of its representative character (as a brand) and in answer to the growing demand for such “products”, folk craftsmen and some specialized firms have lately oriented their main activity to manufacturing and assembling such objects re¬quested by the market. Though only some of these bear the mark of authenticity, most being produced serially, they all contain the specific elements of traditional folk art.
As concerns their cultural value, the most important wayside crosses were those marking a border. “There are testimonies showing that at the beginning of the 17th cen¬tury, many communities in Maramures had such carved wooden wayside crosses, ac¬tually complex monuments, marking borders. Only one of them, the wayside cross of the Rednic family has been preserved on the edge of Berbeşti village. Dated 18th, century, its composing elements and the carving define it as “gothic” (M. Dăncuş, 1968).
The wayside border crosses, besides their Christian, religious significance, could be related to ancient beliefs (superstitions), deeply rooted in the Romanians’ subconscious. They were usually placed at road forks or crossroads, where people be¬lieved that evil spirits had much more strength and could get hold on travellers. Thus, the wayside crosses were integrated into a system of prevention with magic connotations (white magic).
According to some researchers, the wayside crosses from Maramures are the last extant Dacian crosses (the three upper arms passing over the circle), pagan symbols of the Geto-Dacian population’s ancient solar worship (V. R. Vulcănescu, 1987, p. 206, 207, 367, 472).
From the second half of the 20th century, the initial significance of the wayside crosses faded away and they have become especially funerary crosses, probably under the influence and fame of the “Merry Graveyard” from Săpânţa. Thus, an ample process of imposing a brand from Maramures has passed over the borders of the county.
Some more recent instances come to show the importance attached to wayside crosses.
Princess Ileana of Romania, King Ferdinand and Queen Marie’s sixth offspring, former archduchess of Austria, while in exile in the United States, took the veil and became Lady Superior in “Transfiguration” convent from Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Before her death (on January 21, 1991), she had asked that a carved wayside cross, “like those in Maramures” be set on her grave.
The Great Romanian poet Nichita Stănescu (1933-1983), with four awards from the Romanian Writers Union, Herder prize laureate (1975), and posthumously member of the Romanian Academy, rests in Bellu cemetery in Bucharest and a wayside cross embellishes his grave.
After the 1989 Revolution, a great number of such wayside crosses made in Maramures have been set up in different parts of the country in order to commemorate the “December heroes”. At the beginning of 1990, the first such monument made by Alexandru Perţa Cuza, an artist from the Land of Lăpuş, was set up in front of the Orthodox Cathedral in the centre of Timişoara. Other wayside crosses dedicated to heroes were set up in Baia Mare and in Bucharest – one in front of the Romanian Television and the other at the University.
Any other example would only certify the brand quality of this component of the folk culture “made in Maramures”.

The Rattle Spindle

A chronological and in depth approach to the historical stages favouring the invention of this object – by now a symbol and an acknowledged brand for Maramures – takes one back to an ancient occupational context: sheep breeding practised by a se¬dentary population who developed a parallel household industry: the processing of wool and manufacturing of clothing for family members.
The story begins in spring, on St. George’s Day, when they measure the milk and take the flocks of sheep, after being shorn, up the mountain. The sheep has become the object of various myth in Maramures (the Mioritic myth), especially due to its economic importance, as it can be learned from a local legend: “The sheep is sacred as long as it has wool” (T. Papahagi, 1925).
The wool shorn in spring is washed in the water of wells or brooks and it is spread out on the homestead in order to dry. The wool is carded with a wooden carder, tied on a distaff, spun, and the yarn is wrapped around the spindle, then yarn balls are made and the yarn is woven on the loom. The spinning and weaving begin during the autumn and continue all along the winter (see Dăncuş, 1986).
This technological process still continues, though on a reduced scale, in the traditional communities of Maramures.
Relic of the domestic textile industry, the spindle had a secondary function, for a long time quite insignificant, being used to hold the yarn only for a short span of time. From a social point of view, the distaff on which they put the wool to be spun used to have a higher value, as the distaffs were made with minute care and intricately carved by young lads for mothers, wives or sweethearts to pride with at women’s traditional evening meetings.
The spindle came out of anonymity the moment when the whorl on the low spin¬dle changed its form due to the technique of jointing pieces of wood, initially used as a solution for jointing wooden structures (beams) without the use of other accessories (nails) either made of wood or metal. Such architectural elements are found also in the wooden churches built in Maramures.
Due to the mobility of the elements of the weight (whorl), the spindle produces a specific sound. Some spindles have a slot filled with pebbles in the middle of the whorl made of jointed pieces of wood, producing a rattling sound like bells ringing. They say this innovation had a practical purpose: it helped women to say awake when they in¬tended to spin a certain amount of wool, during the long winter nights.
Artist Mihai Olos from Baia Mare had an important role in promoting this household object as a brand, and more precisely this technique of jointing. He has widely used this ingenious jointing of elements in making his wooden sculptures well-known and appreciated in the European cultural space. Starting from modules inspired by the folk art from Maramures, at a certain moment of his career, the artist made the project of a genuine world city significantly named by him “olospolis”, in which the architecture of joints has acquired philosophical connotations.
Folk craftsmen followed this trend and tried to value the emblematic potential of this object by producing it serially and selling spindles to tourists at festivals and at specific fairs.
It is to be mentioned that due to the fame enjoyed by this spindle, the architects who made the project for the “Mara” hotel compound (during the ‘80s) have used it as a decorative element, placing a huge “rattle spindle” on the upper part of the building façade, like a church steeple – this becoming an emblem of the municipal centre of the county.

The Seal Engraver

Apparently an insignificant object, usually made of wood (or marble), but kept with piety by maidens in their dowry chest “among the stacked pieces of flowery cloths perfumed with basil and lavender” kept in “little white linen bags”. It used only by women for marking the ritual bread (wafers and Easter pound cake), on holidays, but it may become, in our view, one of the brands of cultural resistance of which the in¬ha¬bitants of Maramures could be proud.
Bearing different names (pecetar, prescornicer or prostornic), this cultic object used to be found in each household in the villages of the Iza, Mara, and Cosău valleys. Though it has been forgotten or got degraded, luckily three important collections have been preserved: those of the brothers Victor and Iuliu Pop, and that of the priest from Breb, Mircea Antal, whose collection has been included recently in the heritage of the Baia Mare Ethnographic and Folk Art Museum.
The seal engravers are usually between 10-20 cm. in height and are composed of two parts: the inferior part resembles a pedestal in the form of a parallelepiped or a pyramid trunk with an incised religious text – IC-XC-NI-KA or IS-NS-NI-KA – meaning “Jesus Christ’s victory over death”. The wafers bear the seal of the sacred letters, in a ritual gesture “between prayer and the work sanctified by the sealing of the bread” (Ion Iuga, 1993). The upper part can be grouped in two distinct categories: “those with the decorative motifs and forms connected to the Christian rites – roadside crosses or a stylized crucifix – and those with a definitely secular character”.
These cultic objects have a strong tendency towards abstraction. Almost each piece is unique. Some have the form of columns, resembling Brậncuşi’s endless column or Henry Moore’s sculptures.
Despite their miniature sizes, the collections of seal engravers are genuine works of art due to their superior forms: solar rosettes (Cuhea), wheat ears, “1877” obelisk, sandglass (Rona de Jos), Aztec staircase pyramid (Săcel), Thai tower, Brậncuşi’s “Mă¬iastra Bird” (an astounding likeness), the Endless Column, the King of Kings (18th century), “the Chair of the Venerable Mariş from Ieud” ( identical with the chairs around the Table of Silence), or church steeples (see Romulus Pop, Galsul pecetarelor, 1993).
A seal engraver from Moisei was carved to look like a helmet with four little towers, very much alike the gothic steeples from the historical Land of Maramures. There are seal engravers with their three arms joined by a semicircle and the three arms trans¬ferred inside it, while others resemble the border stones from Maramures.
Sometimes the seal engravers show a naively carved human figure with evident disproportions, but the most frequent theme is that of the crucifixion, treated in an unconventional manner.
The seal engravers are distinguished by their creator’s capacity to synthesize and join the symbolism of agrarian rites (wheat ear, flour), and the art of gastronomy (wafers), religious beliefs (the theme of crucifixion and the inscriptions on the basis) and the art of woodwork. But all these would remain unobserved if the final product had not been enriched with small art works, which would flatter the pride of any consecrated artist. Constantin Brậncuşi considered it a title of glory to promote worldwide with his work motifs and forms originating from the Romanian folk art, forms known and used by the peasants from Maramures when making their seal engravers to be kept in the maidens’ dowry chests, among the basil and lavender scented cloths…

The Traditional Peasant Costume

While visiting the villages of Maramures (especially those situated on the Mara and Iza valleys) on a holiday, you will have the privilege of attending a genuinely poetic fashion show full of colour offered freely by the local people. But this “parade” has nothing ostentatious in it and for the villagers it does not represent an opportunity to attract the tourists with commercial intentions. The costumes have the mark of authenticity and are worn as a reminiscence of the traditional society’s life style.
There are only few other regions where the peasants have preserved this tradition, most having abandoned a long time ago the habit of wearing their folk costume even occasionally (on Sundays, holidays, weddings etc.). The folk costumes are becoming just items in the wardrobe of folk assemblies or museum exhibits.
In Maramures, tradition – a sign of antiquity – and the pride of one’s origin resulting in ethnic dignity that does not allow any compromise have become provisions of an ancient testament that each generation feels obliged to respect almost with piety.
It is remarkable that all the elements of the folk costume are exclusively products of the domestic textile industry having at its origin the cultivation of textile plants (hemp and flax) and sheep breeding (for the production of wool), the processing of fibres and the weaving of cloth in household micro-workshops, tailoring and embroidering. Worth mentioning are also the craftsmen specialized in the manufacturing of sheepskin or fulled wool coats, peasant sandals and hats.
Nowadays, globalization has set its imprint also on fashion design and the famous fashion houses impose their seasonal designs on all continents in a stunning rhythm.
In the past, the cut and colours used to be preserved by each community and im¬posed a local dress code through which messages were transmitted with the help of certain symbols: “the trained eyes of the local people perceived the motifs, colours, orna¬mental patterns, specific to a certain village and in many instances not only could they read the message, but they could also recognize the redundant elements in the way they had been formulated” (Corneliu Mirescu, 2006).
The main chromatic element used to play a decisive role in the identification of the ethnographic zone, especially in the case of the aprons on which the black stripes alternated with light yellow or green in the Mara valley, orange in the Vişeu valley, red for the Iza valley.
Women’s costumes consist of a flowery head kerchief (black for older women), a blouse with a square neck opening and three-quarter length sleeves, a skirt over which two aprons (front and back) are worn, a vest made of grey fulled wool cloth or a jacket, a coat made of white fleecy woollen cloth, and as an accessory, an “expensive collar” (made of corral beads) or collarettes (made of small woven beads).
Men’s costumes have as principal piece the white, short, large sleeved shirt, white drawers to the middle of the calf, in summer, and long trousers made of white woollen cloth in winter, a wide leather belt, and a coat made of fulled wool fabric. Among the accessories we mention the hat and the vividly coloured woven peasant bag (T. Bănăţeanu, 1965).
An examination of the metope on the Adamclisi monument as well as Trajan’s Column (in Rome) can prove the antiquity of at least two of the component parts of the costume the peasants of Marmures wear with such pride: the fulled wool coat and the hood.

Săcel Pottery

As archaeological discoveries have shown, pottery used to be one of the ancient occupations of human beings. It appeared at the same time with the development of an economy based on cattle breeding and with the improvement of farming techniques (the beginning of the Neolithic, c. 9000 BC). Two millennia later, pottery was generalized, but the invention of the wheel is dated only c. 3700 BC. As a consequence of this revolutionary discovery a real industry of pottery sprang up, and the production of earthen pots became serialised due to the first “machine” invented by man – the potter’s wheel.
There is no doubt that the native Dacian population had developed their own un¬mistakable style, the ceramic vessels being easily recognized due to their form, deco¬ration, and colour. Perhaps the Roman technology was needed to bring this art of pottery to perfection.
Two millennia later: Romania, Maramures. At Săcel, a settlement on the Iza Valley, red, unglazed ceramic objects are made in a rudimentary workshop set up in a peasant homestead. The earthen pots made by the craftsman preserve the Dacian tech¬nical and aesthetic characteristics and are burnt in a probably 300 year old Roman kiln, the last of its kind in the historical Land of Maramures.
According to specialists, the pottery from Săcel “holds a unique place among the ceramics produced in different centres in our country” not only because the ceramics of red clay are burnt unglazed, but especially due to the techniques of decoration – polishing and painting. “What catches the eye is especially the technique that had been used in ancient times of history – the Dacian La Tčne” (Florea Bobu Florescu, 1963).
The painted ornaments consist of horizontal (rows) or wavy (serrated) lines, which sometimes form an acute angle. The ornaments are on the upper part of the pots, close to the meeting point with the handle (see Janeta Ciocan, 1980).
After the pot is cut down from the wheel, the exterior surface is rubbed with a white river stone in order to reduce the porosity and make it glossy. It is only after some days that the pots are burnt in the kiln for a day and a night (I. Vlăduţiu, 1973).
One must not forget that the pots are made to serve functional purposes (for cooking food, storing water or milk, carrying food to people working in the field etc.); only tourists buy painted pottery for decorative purposes, without having any idea of their therapeutic gains or their use in the art of cooking.
Discussion forum: “The pottery made in Săcel gives you the same feeling of age and purity as the old wooden houses and churches from Maramures. It is a real favour to possess such a pitcher or pot that have passed, from the moment they were just a piece of clay up to becoming a perfect object, through the hands of a craftsman endowed with the pious and good soul of the people who have lived in these places for ever. And it would be of great use to you if only each mouthful of water (or wine) you drink from the mug inspired you with the dignity and kindness of those who toiled to make it” (Călin, 2004-08-12).
The magic of the objects made of clay is only natural, since all the five funda¬mental elements have entered into their making: the earth from which the clay comes, the water with the help of which the potter moulds the clay, the wind (air) that caresses the pots, drying them before they are put into the kiln, and the fire that burns them. The fifth element, love, is the spirit that the potter puts in each and every pot, in order to “animate the red clay”.
Remember. This alchemical combination is based upon a Dacian decorative style and a Roman technology. And this has been happening for 2000 years in a simple peasant homestead from the Iza Valley.

traducerea textului (versiunea in limba engleza) apartine prof. Ana Olos.

Dorin Stef    10/5/2008


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