Unfortunately there was no time to go inside the church here, as we had spent so long in the museum and we had to head back to Sibiu at this point. But we were able to admire the exterior and get a few photos at least.
The church was built in the mid 18th century and decorated with frescoes in 1774-1775 by two popular painters, the brothers Stan and Iacob di Rãsinari. These were hidden for some years but brought to light during a restoration in 1964-65 (commissioned by the same priest, Father Zosim Oancea, who created the icon museum), having been hidden under five layers of whitewash on a wall completely blackened by the smoke of votive candles. They depict bible scenes and also some representations of popes, and I would have loved to have seen them.
The main attraction in Sibiel is for sure its museum. It was created in the 1960s, the brainchild of the then parish priest, Father Zosim Oancea. He wanted to make Sibiel a cultural destination of note, following the discovery in the church (during restoration) of some significant 18th century frescoes. He had seen how the villagers occupied the winter months in painting icons on glass, a traditional devotional craft in this region, only to hide them away in the attic or basement when the spring came and work in the fields called them outside. Starting with this local collection, the museum grew and today houses icons from all over the country, including many from as far back as the early 19th century. They are displayed in a series of rooms with whitewashed walls that show off the rich colours beautifully, and with various other artefacts such as traditional wooden furniture, household items and some richly decorated religious books.
But it is the icons that make the museum. At first I wandered around, looking and admiring but without really taking it all in. Then our guide Adela started to explain something about the traditional designs and I realised that many of the icons are of almost identical images although clearly painted by artists with a range of abilities. One such design depicts Christ with grape vines sprouting directly from his sides, in a symbolic reference to his flowing blood (see photo two). Another often repeated design shows the Madonna suckling Christ as a baby (photo three), reminding me of a painting I had seen some years ago on Lviv.
When we had finished looking at the paintings Adela showed us the technique. The painting is carried out on the back of the glass, as it appears in the finished icon, so everything is done as a mirror image of the desired final effect. You can read more about the technique, and the tradition of glass icon painting, here.
Admission to the museum costs 5 Lei, and concessions 3 Lei. Permission to take photos should cost extra, though Adela allowed us to do so anyway (I don’t know if she’d asked!)
Saturday, June 22, 2013
The tiny town of Sibiel, is the location of the MUSEUM OF THE ICONS ON GLASS or Muzeul Zosim Oancea. It was one of the stops on our Saturday VT Bus Tour.
The Fr Zosim Oancea Museum at Sibiel holds the largest existing exposition of icons on glass in Transylvania, a miracle of artistic creativity and religious inspiration born of the riches of the Orthodox Christian tradition and the imagination of Romanian peasant painters.
A unique fusion of Eastern tradition and Western technique, icons on glass emerged and spread throughout this extensive region of Romania in the first decades of the eighteenth century, reaching their peak between 1750 and the end of the nineteenth century and almost vanishing in the period between the two world wars.
Begun in 1969 under the guidance of Fr Zosim Oancea, the people of Sibiel and with the help of institutions and private donors, the collection in this museum with its almost 600 masterpieces, represents all the main types of icons on glass along with works by some of the most famous icon-painters.
The villages of Sălişte, Vale and Poiana – villages around Sibiu, or more precisely, the so-called Mărginimea Sibiului – contained many icon-painters who, despite influences from other districts, developed a style of their own. One example is the painter Ion Morar (1815-1890): his Last Supper in the Sibiel Museum MUZEUL FR ZOSIM OANCEA displays a marked baroque influence. Morar’s daughters, Emilia (1861-1931) and Elisabeta (1866-1939) continued his work but without matching his quality. Also widespread in this region is the so-called “Icon of The Feasts” (prăznicar), based on a central panel of one of the fundamental events of the life of Christ (mostly the Resurrection).
For dinner the night we stayed in Sibiu, our guide took us about 15 mintues away from Sibiu by car to a farm house in Sibiel. You can also arrange to stay at one of these farmhouses, the nightly room rate will include both dinner and a hearty breakfast.
Our hostess didn't speak much English but our guide was able to communicate with her.
If you have a chance to stop at one of these places, I would highly recommend it, much more interesting than eating in a restaurant.
Favorite Dish: Everything we were served was produced right there on the farm. We started off with a pre dinner shot of homemade brandy, a huge bowl of soup with dumplings that tasted just like cream of wheat, followed by an heaping appetizer tray with tomatoes, cucumbers, hard boiled eggs and sausages and a very interesting eggplant spread to accompany the bread.
The entree was a heaping plate of sarmale, a Romanian dish consisting of spiced meat wrapped in cabbage which I'm afraid I didn't much care for here or the other place I tried it.
As if we hadn't already eaten enough, dessert was then brought out, a couple of different pastries, one with apple. Throughout the meal, we were served a delicious homemade wine.
There was a little building that most of us went into to check it out. It was an ARTISAN selling all sorts of local handicrafts, souvenirs, t-shirts, jewellery, hand-bags and hats. Very colorful merchandise, esp the hand-made bags.