Saxons

Saxons have populated the regions close to the Carpathians for centuries. They have contributed in an essential way to the maturation of a rich culture in these areas, their number, which corresponded to about 10% of the population after the First World War, when Romania acquired the areas they inhabited, has been decreasing over the following decades and the reduction was drastic after World War II. The communist regime promoted the transfer of numerous Saxon families to West Germany in exchange for money. The Saxons were in fact accused of having collaborated with the Nazi-fascists and were marginalized and often left of their own free will. The German government welcomed them, in need of manpower, and the Romanian regime demanded that these arrivals be offset by cash payments. The severe reduction of the Saxon presence in Transylvania and Banat greatly impoverished cultural diversity and made secular craft traditions disappear or become residual.

The project aims to recover the cultural heritage of a community in danger of disappearing in the Romanian context, being reduced to 36,000 inhabitants (source of 2014) compared to over 500,000 in 1930. The Saxon community in Transylvania and Banat has a long tradition and has left important artistic testimonies giving a notable imprint to urban architecture and artistic heritage, characterizing their landscape and identity and giving them a specific profile in Romania.

The Saxons have a longstanding history in Transylvania and left a substantial imprint on the region. Settled in Transylvania in the 12th century from areas that are known today as Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg, the Saxons gained a reputation for being skilled craftsmen and farmers. The Saxons preserved their own traditions, as well as the Saxon language, with variations from one village to another.

A common idea reunited all the stories of the people we have talked to, Saxons and non-Saxons, younger and older: Saxons had a very strong sense of community and were rigorously organized in self-sustainable groups called “neighborhoods”. The neighborhoods had firm rules which applied to all members of the community. For example, if someone in a neighborhood needed the roof fixed, all the men of that neighborhood, without exception, gathered in order to fix the roof, without asking anything in return, but knowing that when another one of them should need help, the others would be there. Over the past century, the majority of the Saxon population left Transylvania.