ORADEA

Oradea - General Information
Location: Western Romania (County: Bihor)
Size: 13.5 sq. miles (35 sq. kilometers)
Elevation: 492 ft. (150 meters)
Population: 206,000
Inhabited since: 300 BC
First documented: 1113 AD

City Highlights

Located just 8 miles from the Hungarian border and spanning both shores of the Crisu Repede River, the elegant city of Oradea is a great starting point for exploring Romania.

First documented in 1113, under the Latin name Varadinum, the city was administered at various times by the Principality of Transylvania, the Ottoman Empire, and the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1598, the Oradea fortress was besieged and, on August 27, 1660, it fell to the Ottoman raids, only to be seized in 1692 by the Austrians.

Until the construction of flood-banks along the length of the Crisu Repede River, Oradea was facing constant flooding threats. In 1836 a large part of the town was destroyed by fire. The picturesque town of present-day Oradea was rebuilt in the 18th century to the plans of Viennese engineer Franz Anton Hillebrandt following the then-trendy Austrian architectural style called Secession with its richly decorated facades of pale pink, blue, green and white. In addition to the many Baroque buildings, Oradea is remarkable for its particularly rich collection of Art Nouveau architecture.

Oradea University, one of the largest in Eastern Europe, is an excellent educational center in literature, as well as in medicine and sciences.

Baile Felix, a spa resort located only 5 miles south of the city, is home to several thermal springs and medical centers offering treatments that alleviate rheumatism, arthritis, and neurological problems.

 Interesting facts:

  • There are over 100 religious sites of different denomination in Oradea,
    including three synagogues, the biggest Baptist Church in Eastern Europe
    and the Church of the Moon (Biserica cu Luna) – featuring an astronomical
    clock depicting the phases of the moon.
  • Austrian mathematician Georg von Peuerbach (1423 – 1461) worked at
    the Observatory of Varadinum (present-day Oradea), using it as the
    reference or prime meridian of Earth in his Tabula Varadiensis,
    published posthumously in 1464.

Landmarks

The town is crossed by the main road linking the Hungarian border with Cluj Napoca and Deva. On opposite sides of the Crisu Repede River are the Union Square (Piata Unirii) and King Fedinand Square (Piata Regele Ferdinand), off which runs strada Republicii, a central pedestrian-only shopping street in Oradea, displaying an incredible number of Secession buildings. In the summertime, the café terraces lining the banks of the Crisu Repede afford some great views of the town's lavish landmarks.

The Bishop's Palace (Palatul Episcopal), one of Oradea's most splendid edifices, was modeled on drawings by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Ricca and completed in 1770 by Austrian architect Franz Anton Hillerbrandt.  Today the three-story, U-shaped mansion featuring 100 fresco-adorned rooms, 365 windows, and a facade punctuated with ionic capitals is home to the Museum of the Crisana Region (Muzeul Tarii Crisurilor).

The Roman Catholic Cathedral (Catedrala Romano-Catolica) in Oradea, built between 1752 and 1780, is Romania's largest Baroque religious edifice. Drawing on plans for the Church of the Gesu in Roma, the cathedral forms part of the architectural ensemble that Hillerbrandt designed, which includes the Bishop's Palace.

The Black Eagle Palace (Palatul Vulturul Negru), located in Piata Unirii, was built between 1907 and 1909 by Hungarian architects Marcell Komor and DezsoJakab. A glass-roofed art nouveau shopping arcade (Pasajul Vulturul Negru) runs through the two main buildings of the palace. Inside you will find shops, a four-star hotel, cafes and a cinema.

The late Baroque Church of the Moon (Biserica cu Luna), was completed in 1790. The clock mechanism, installed in 1793, features a half-gold, half-black sphere, maintained in perpetual motion, reproducing the phases of the moon and lending the church its name.

The City Library, located opposite the Church of the Moon, was designed by the local architect Kalman Rimanoczy Jr for the Greek Catholic Bishop. During the Communist era, a library replaced the episcopacy.

The robust asymmetrical 1903 Town Hall building (Primaria), located on the right of the city library, was designed by local architect Kalman Rimanoczy Jr as well. The building features a 160 feet-tall clock tower.

The neoclassical State Theater (Teatrul de Stat), located across the bridge from Union Square (Piata Unirii) and dominating the King Ferdinanrd Square (Piata Regele Fedinand) was designed in 1900 by Austrian architects Fellner and Hellmer, who also designed the Vienna Opera House.

Along one side of the King Ferdinand Square you can admire the undulating festoons and floral decorations of the Adorjan row of houses (Casele Adorjan), builtbetween 1907 and 1908 by Jakab and Komor, architects of the Black Eagle Palace.

Another exuberant art nouveau structure is the Moskovits building (Cladirea Moskovits), located at the corner of str. Independentei and str. Vasile Alecsandri. Designed by Kalman Rimanoczy Jr, the architect of the City Library and the Town Hall, it was completed in 1905.

Oradea's most imposing sight is the spectacular Oradea Fortress (Cetatea Oradea).The present shape of the five-point-star fortress was given in 1569, when Italian military architect Domenico da Bologna was commission with rebuilding it after repeated invader attacks. One of its interesting elements is a network of underground channels that were supplied by ducts of warm water during the winter. Throughout the year the citadel is host to several art exhibitions and craft fairs.

Jewish Heritage in Oradea

The first Jews settled in Oradea as early as the 15th century, making Oradea the site of one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities. Jewish people helped establish the city's chemical and milling industries as well as its transportation, communications and banking infrastructure. They also played important roles in the medical, academic and artistic institutions. By the 1940s, Oradea had 27 synagogues and a population of around 30,000 Jews. Annexed by Hungary during World War II, Oradea became the site of two ghettos, with the majority of the members deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Oradea has two large Neolog and Orthodox Jewish cemeteries.

Zion Synagogue
Address: Str. Independentei 22, Oradea
A grandiose Neolog temple, it was designed by David Busch, the town's chief municipal architect at the time, and constructed in 1878.

Great Temple
Address: Str. Mihai Viteazu 4, Oradea
The Moorish-style red brick and stucco design of the synagogue, built in 1890, is similar to that of the synagogue in Satu Mare.

Chevra Sas Synagogue
Address: Str. Crinului 2, Oradea
The smaller, built in 1882, still serves the local Jewish community, which currently numbers around 500 members and is one of the most active in the country. Nearby is the 1920s Teleki Synagogue, the last to be built in Oradea (Address: Str. Tudor Vladimirescu 18, Oradea).

Photographs
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