L'ensemble monumental de Tirgu Jiu
L'ensemble monumental de Tirgu Jiu is part of the Tentative list of Romania in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The monumental ensemble of Tirgu Jiu is a work of sculptor Constantin Brancusi. It was created in 1937 in memory of the heroes who fell during the First World War. The ensemble comprises three sculptures: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column.
Map of L'ensemble monumental de Tirgu JiuLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I visited this tWHS during my roadtrip around Romania. It can easily be combined with a visit to one of the nearby cula (although they might not be the most representative location) and also with Horezu Monastery WHS on a long day if you leave early. I'm not a fan of modern architecture, and to me this is more of a national heritage than a site with outstanding universal value. We already have a far better representative on the list with this year's inscription of World War I memorial sites in Belgium and France.
The Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brancusi at Targu Jiu pays tribute to the Romanian heroes of World War I. The ensemble is made up of 3 main sculptures: the Table of Silence, the Gate of the Kiss, and the Endless Column on an axis 1.3 kilometres long, oriented west to east. The ensemble is considered to be one of the great works of 20th century outdoor sculpture. The ensemble was commissioned by the National League of Gorj Women to honor those soldiers who had defended Targu Jiu in 1916 from the forces of the Central Powers. Constantin Brancuși (1876-1957) was at the time living in Paris, but welcomed the opportunity to create a large commemorative sculpture in his homeland. He accepted the commission in 1935, but refused to receive payment for it. As a trivia, he lived in Cula Gheorghe Tatarescu for two years after accepting the commission.
The ensemble is also known as the Endless Column Park and in fact the most iconic sculpture of it is indeed the Endless Column. It consists of a suite of cast iron modules: 15 modules and 2 semi-modules with a total height of 29.33 metres. The linden wood prototype for the column modules (today lost) was made by Brancusi in Petrosani in August 1937. The technical conception of the monument belongs to the engineer Stefan Georgescu-Gorjan, who in 1937 coordinated the operations of casting the modules and manufacturing the column, as well as the installation of the column at Targu Jiu. The modules have been strung on a solid steel pillar, embedded in a massive concrete foundation. The coating with brass was made in 1938, under the supervision of the artist, and the column was inaugurated on 27 October 1938 along with the other stone works. The monument seems to bear far more intangible significance than unique tangible craftsmanship, and although volumes of different interpretations have been written to date, Brancusi's quotation seems rather apt: "the Endless Column is like a timeless song that lifts us into infinity, beyond all suffering and artificial joy".
The Table of Silence is located in the central park, near the Jiu river dam. It is made of limestone and is surrounded by 12 round-face stools made of stone in the shape of hourglasses. The monument consists of two discs, the large one superimposed on the small one. Supposedly, one should start their visit at the Table of Silence and end at the Endless Column. The Alley of Chairs connects the Table of Silence and the Gate of the Kiss. It is 121 metres long and on its edges there are 30 stone chairs in 10 niches made up of groups of three chairs. The Gate of the Kiss is made out of Banpotoc travertine/marble and features two kiss motifs on its pillars. The gate is 6.45 metres wide and 5.13 metres tall and supposedly symbolically represents the transition to another life when one passes through the gate.
I enjoyed some peace and quite in the park, even though it is very popular among locals, as a green refuge in a very urban and industrial city. Starting in the 1960s, coal surface mining contributed to a rapid population growth at Targu Jiu. Other local industries include wood, machine building, textiles, glassware and construction materials such as cement, bricks and tiles.
In World War 1, the major powers were striving to convince the few neutral powers to join the war on their side. Both Italy and Romania were targets of these efforts by both the Entente and the Central Powers. I guess the reasoning was that in a war of attrition, throwing more men into machine gun fire will help win the war faster. And opening more fronts for the other side to fight on certainly helps. Both Italy (1915) and Romania (1916) eventually declared for the Entente (i.e. declared war on the Central Powers). The reasoning must have been similar for both Italy and Romania:
- The Entente seemed to be winning and the war should have been over any minute now.
- The Austrian Hungarian empire held disputed territory (Südtirol for Italy, Siebenbürgen/Transylvania for Romania) where many Italians resp. Romanians lived, so this followed a policy goal: national unity. Side note: German unification was also brought about through three wars in the 19th century.
- The Austrians looked weak.
In addition, Romania had fared quite well in the Balkan Wars and they had the support from God-almighty Russia.
However, they picked the wrong fight. World War 1 was not over. Transylvania with its natural defenses (mountains) to this day forms as strong a defensive position as it did for the Dacians against the Romans. The Russians couldn't even feed their population and were on the brink of a revolution, so the help they could offer was limited. And the other allies couldn't send much help as the Romanians were encircled by the Central Powers.
Last but not least, Austria may have looked weak, but they were fighting with the Germans. The battle hardened German Army of 1915/1916 was without doubt the best land army of World War 1. You can find military history buffs like Dan Carlin (who did a great podcast series on World War1 that also covers the Romanian theatre briefly) arguing that this is the best army Germany ever fielded and one of the best land armies in history.
With this in mind, the result in the Romanian theatre is a foregone conclusion. After initial successes by the Romanians, the central powers took over control. The main fighting took place along the Jiu river valley that connected the uplands of Transylvania to the plains of Wallachia. The campaign is tellingly known as the Romanian Debacle. The last battle took place in Targu Jiu after which the Central Powers had free access to the plains of Wallachia and the war waslost for Romania.
In total, more than 300.000 Romanians died in World War 1 on the Romanian side. In vain, when you consider that Romania could have sat this out. Nobody had declared war on Romania, it was the Romanians who declared war on the Central Power to achieve a policy goal. Tragically, it ended up with Romanians killing Romanians as the Austrian-Hungarian army also fielded significant numbers of Romanians.
In the 30s a local commission commissioned a memorial by Romania's most prominent sculptor and one of the leading sculptor's of the 20th century, Constantin Brâncuși. He created the Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu. It consists of three parts spread out along an axis: the Infinity Column, the Kiss Gate, and the Table of Slice. It's interesting, but I couldn't quite make sense of it; modern art. Indeed, I didn't notice the Table of Silence on my first passing.
It seems Unesco has decided in general, that War Memorials don't belong on the list. There is / should be a separate category for dark history: Memories of the World? Even if you ignore this, I am hard pressed to see OUV. The site is tiny and more of an artwork / installation than a tangible world heritage. It's also spaced fairly far apart, so it doesn't feel like one consistent set. The afore mentioned new category will work better.
There are plenty of buses and some trains. Key connections for me are the buses to Horezu / Bucharest and the trains to Simeria. When connecting from Bucharest North to Transylvania, Targu Jiu is a good stop over point.
I came from Simeria after having visited Sarmizegetusa Regia, the former Dacian capital. On the train ride to Petrosani you pass another Dacian Fortress, Banita. Please do not try to visit Banita. From Petrosani you pass through Romania's industrial heartland. The trainline through Defileul Jiului National Park is gorgeous. Note: Targu Jiu has more than one train stop. Make sure which one to get off at.
I left by bus to Horezu. Key challenge with buses in Romania is finding the right stop. Different bus companies have different stops. In addition, some of the micro buses seem to require a reservation at least 24h in advance. My bus ran from East of the city. I paid the driver directly.
While You Are There
The trainline to Petrosani is scenic and the industrial landscape could be a candidate for industrial heritage.
The Dacian Fortress Barita, meanwhile, is just plain stupid and downright dangerous to visit, so don't: 2km of hike on the rail roads tracks, unmarked trail, unstable hill top ... It's also the worst component in the serial as preservation is bad. Thanks to our resident Romanian WHS Traveller Carmen for making me aware.
On thing i am not sure, is why the site is called Tirgu Jiu... I am thinking this could be a spelling error.
The food Tsunami mentions is not typical of the city. The church also is not part of the proposed site.
Targu Jiu in Romania, where I stayed overnight in January, has its "Monumental Ensemble" nominated.
All the monuments, from west to east, "Table of the Silence," "Gate of the Kiss, "Church of the Saints-Apotres-Pierre-et-Paul," and "Infinity Column" are on one street "Calea Eroilor," in the center of Targu Jiu. So the nominated property centers on this street, and they have been trying to put this street in shape for the future inscription consideration.
The Infinity Column was visible from far away.
It just so happened that I had dinner (photo) on that night at the hotel "Europa" right on Calea Eroilor.
Although this dish itself has nothing to do with the nomination, and the making of it is not on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO, it does come from the nominated property and is one of the Romanian staples called "Tochitură," pan-fried pork in a spicy tomato sauce, served around polenta and cheese with a raw egg yoke hidden in between. It was a surprise when I found the yoke.
To wait for the evaluation of “sites associated with recent conflicts”, at the WHC 44th session (2020)
2015 Requested by State Party to not be examined
Withdrawn by Romania, after "Rejection" advice by ICOMOS
1991 Added to Tentative List
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