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The old villages of Hollókő and Rimetea and their surroundings

Date of Submission: 14/02/2012
Criteria: (v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Alba county
Ref.: 5683

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The serial phase transboundary nomination contains two sites the Old Village and its surroundings in Hollókő, already part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987, and the village Rimetea. Both Hollókő and Rimetea are an exceptional example of a deliberately preserved traditional human settlement representative of a culture that has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. These villages, which developed mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries, are a living example of rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century.

The white buildings, the well-ordered streets, the layout of the plots, the quite similar barns and other smaller buildings, the presence of a medieval castle ruins, and many aspects of the history of the two settlements connect them with invisible bounds. However, beyond the many similar characteristics one can observe a series of variations of certain aspects that highlight the great aptitude of vernacular architecture to adapt to circumstances and local needs.

The conversion of the site to a transnational serial phase nomination would underline the general value of the site by adding a second village in a neighboring country - Rimetea - that is described below. It is worth to mention that next to the similarities there are a series of characteristics that in Rimetea are complementary to the ones in Hollokő. Having the two villages under the same nomination will give a chance to demonstrate the complexity of the development village communities in Easter Europe, giving examples of different solutions in slightly different circumstances.Description of Hollókő

Located about 100km north-east of Budapest, Hollókő is a small rural community whose 126 houses and farm buildings, strip-field farming, orchards, vineyards, meadows and woods. The village and the surrounding area are given the same protection as a historic monument such as the castle. Mentioned as early as 1310, this castle, whose ruins lie to the north-west of the village today, played a decisive part in the feudal wars of the Palocz and the Hussite wars. It served as protection for the village whose ruins have been found a little way from its walls.

At the end of the Ottoman occupation (1683) the castle and the village were finally abandoned and the present village grew up below. It developed gradually throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. As was customary in the region, the first generation of inhabitants settled on either side of the main street. In this one-street village, subsequent generations built their houses at the back of the narrow family plots, thus progressively enlarging the built-up area. The barns were built apart from the village, on the edges of the fields, according to Palocz custom.

The development of the village and the soil can be traced from various documents. In 1782 it was still a typical one-street village. Later, a second street developed to the east of the main street. A plan of 1885 shows the topography was already like that of the present-day plan: the amount of cultivated land had reached its maximum by the mid-19th century and the village could therefore grow no further. Some limited growth started again in 1960 and is now strictly controlled.

The inhabitants of Hollókő never heeded a 1783 decree prohibiting the use of wood for building, which considered it to be too inflammable. Consequently the village was periodically devastated by fire. The last of these fires dates back to 1909 but the houses were again built according to the traditional techniques of Palocz rural architecture: half-timbered houses on a stone base with roughcast white-washed walls, enhanced by high wooden pillared galleries and balconies on the street side protected by overhanging porch roofs. The church with its shingled tower is simply a transposition of this domestic architectural style.

Hollókő is a living community whose conservation not only includes farming activity but also ensures its success. It provides a certainly exceptional and maybe unique example of voluntary conservation of a traditional village with its soil. Hollókő not only represents the Palocz subgroup within the Magyar entity, but also bears witness, for the whole of Central Europe, to the traditional forms of rural life, which were generally abolished by the agricultural revolution in the 20th century.

Description of Rimetea
The architectural heritage of Rimetea constitutes the largest vernacular architectural heritage of the region formed of about 201 traditional buildings (out of the existing 315 properties), 170 of which are historic buildings with individual architectural and ethnographical value.

The buildings placed on a historically valuable street pattern - divided to social neighborhoods - are grouped around squares and in rows of houses forming homogeneous ensembles surrounded by a natural landscape of an exceptional beauty.

The vernacular buildings represent five different traditional building types.
The oldest buildings - Type A -are examples of 17-18th century architecture characterized by archaic construction methods and forms unique to the place. In this category there are some architectural rarities, such as a construction from 1668 known as the oldest rural building of the region, as well as a creak mill from 1752, the oldest one of its type in the Carpathian Basin.

The most valuable part of the architectural heritage are the group of classicist mannered - type B-and eclectic style -type C- bourgeois buildings from the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century They are unique due to their homogenous geometry and structure, various and rich decoration, wrought-iron elements as products of the local iron manufacture. These features describe eloquently the material and spiritual prosperity of the period.
The early and late peasant houses -type D and E - were built by the poorer inhabitants of Rimetea. These structures are valuable pieces of high quality vernacular architecture.

Their value is multiplied by the ethnographical value of the traditional furniture, embroidery and traditional costumes, as well as the wrought-iron elements representing relics of the local iron mining and manufacturing tradition that has determined and shaped the development of the settlement.

The cemetery of the village exhibits a unique burial method as well as a large number of historic gravestones of different artistic styles.

Values in Rimetea
Architectural heritage of Rimetea is exceptional and of universal importance due to the following values:
1. Value that derives from the uniquely preserved strongly homogeneous architectural ensemble built up of more than 200 traditional rural properties of existing 315 that contain more than 171 buildings with special architectural, historical and ethnographical value. The traditional buildings surround almost homogeneously the large main square of the settlement, plus there are a series of traditional rows of houses. The buildings forming ensembles are bounded due to their architecture and homogeneity, being of universal value because of the historic, social, ethnographic and scientific development that gave birth to them.

2. Value that derives from the individual architectural, historical, ethnographical character of Rimetea's historic buildings that represent five different types of dwellings built by owners and local masters coming from different social groups in different historical times. These buildings exhibit unique vernacular architectural features, characteristic only to the ethnographical region of Rimetea and Coltesti, as local developments of general use of materials, structures and ornaments. The architectural value of the individual buildings is multiplied by the very rich ornamentation of elevations, carved stone elements, carved timber elements, elements with unique forms that are also exhibiting a specific development over a span of 400 years.

3. Value that derives from the industrial and technological heritage of iron mining and manufacture testified by locally produced wrought-iron elements, as fixed or movable features of historic buildings, exhibiting a special and unique technological development of universal value. Rimetea's iron mining and manufacture is the longest surviving archaic medieval iron mining method in Europe. The process of iron mining determined the social stratification of the settlement (miners, forger-workers, blacksmiths, furnace owners, tradesmen and farmers from Rimetea, woodsmen and charcoal suppliers from the surrounding Romanian villages), and it formed a basis for its mostly diverse and unique cultural heritage.

4. Architectural and urban value of the settlement structure organized according to a medieval pattern, conserved almost unchanged during more than 600 years that derives from the traditional plot arrangement and land use. The street structure, the arrangement of the main and ancillary buildings as well as the use of courtyards are a unique synthesis of multiple cultural, social and historical effects. A medieval serf community that built its local economy on iron mining an manufacture of national importance created a settlement pattern comparable to those of medieval towns that is developing having a double character of a bourgeois-industrial town with its characteristic functions and of a village defined by its agricultural character and rich ethnographical heritage.

5. Ethnographical value deriving from the movable heritage that belongs to historic buildings, such as painted local furniture (unique and characteristic to the place), local embroidery, very special and ornate traditional costumes.

6. Artistic, historic and ethnographic value of the cemetery, that is an example for a unique burial method connected to the mining past of the village, containing a large number of gravestones that are the fine examples of local art and ethnography over a span of 300 years. The graves exhibit different expression ways and styles that document the very rich history of the local community.

7. Value deriving from the rich political and cultural history of the settlement that witnesses a unique development;
7.1. A century-long social and economic conflict between the community and the ancient landlord family, the Thoroczkays, that owned the settlement and the surroundings since the late 12th century until 1920;
7.2. An exemplary interethnic harmony between Hungarians, Germans, Romanians and Roma (Gypsies) of Rimetea and the surrounding mountain villages based on the economic relationship and division of work needed for the whole technological process of iron mining and manufacture, that created a favorizing atmosphere for compromising even during the ethnically most tensioned 1848 revolution and War of Independence.
7.3. A fruitful cultural prosperity deriving from the Unitarian Protestant religion materialized in a school of regional importance established in 1560, hosting talented young students from other geographical regions and a girl's boarding school established in 1770. The institutions were famous for being pioneers in applying modern educational principles, and for educating scientist of great fame, such as Samuel Brassai, ethnographer and Unitarian bishop Janos Kriza and the Romanian politician George Baritiu.

The value of the architectural and cultural heritage is accentuated by the:
8. Exceptional beauty of the surrounding natural landscape marked by high rocky mountains forming a spectacular scenery for the settlements' immediate vicinity that is partly protected as a Natural Reservation area

9. Historic, industrial and cultural value of the cultural landscape of the former iron mines and forgeries, an industrial archaeological site gradually invaded by nature that still displays a large number of mine entrances, paved roads and stone walls.

10. Cultural historical and archaeological value of the two medieval castle ruins and their sites. The archaeological site of one is placed on the 1131m high rock near Rimetea witnessing the Mongol attack from 1268. The second one, preserved more picturesquely in the vicinity of Coltesti village, relates to important events, such as the peasant revolt from 1514 and the anti-Habsburg Independence War from 1703-1708 when it was destroyed, as well as the architectural, historical and cultural values of the sites and remains of the former mansion houses, Franciscan monastery, and burial hill of the landlord family located in Coltesti.

The area proposed for inclusion covers the historic part of Rimetea containing 315 properties of which 171 are of historical value. Its buffer zone is determined to cover the area which is in optical contact with the historic core of the settlement containing the spectacular rocky scenery from East and West and cover the industrial archaeological site of the ancient mines.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Both Rimetea and Hollókőare an outstanding example of a deliberately preserved traditional settlement. These villages, which developed mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries, are living examples of rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century, that have become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

Due to a series of similarities and some complementary characteristics the architectural heritage of Rimetea is proposed to be included on the WHL as a serial phase transboundary nomination next to the Architectural heritage of the village Hollókő Hungary (on the Unesco World heritage list since 1987) under the new title: "The old villages of Hollókő and Rimetea and their surroundings".

The architectural heritage of Rimetea is proposed for inscription as:
‘a group of buildings connected because of their architecture, their homogeneity and their place in the landscape, that are of universal value from the point of view of history, art and science'.

The architectural heritage of Rimetea is proposed to be inscribed on the World Heritage List as it meets the following criteria:
v. is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-using form, which is representative for a culture, especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible changes;


1.passes the test of authenticity in design, material, workmanship and setting;
2.has an adequate legal protection on national level and a well-established contractual and traditional protection and management mechanism to assure its conservation.

Related to Hollókő, Rimetea presents a series of similarities, the evolution of the plot structuresand land use, some similar events that marked the development of the architectural heritage, the presence of the medieval castles, the general layout of the houses and others. It is very important to mention, that the nomination of Rimetea next to Hollókő would offer a great possibility to present and to understand the evolution of rural architecture in a much larger sense, due some complementary characteristics (slightly different proportions and ornamentation, the impact of iron mining and manufacture etc.).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

By the analysis of authenticity and integrity of the cultural heritage of Rimetea there were considered the principles of the Nara Document on Authenticity (1995), the Charter of the Built Vernacular Heritage (1999).

Authenticity of form and design, materials and substance, use and functions, traditions and techniques, locations and settings is an intrinsic value of the architectural heritage of Rimetea. Authenticity and integrity of different levels can be analyzed for the different constitutive aspects and factors of the heritage.

The architectural heritage of Rimetea can be defined as a vernacular heritage. Therefore certain changes over time were appreciated and understood as important aspects of vernacular architecture. However certain parts of the heritage, the bourgeois type buildings (type B and C) represent a very special expression form of the vernacular culture, where authenticity of forms, materials, techniques and functions define values.
The followings have been analyzed:
- authenticity of form and design;
- authenticity of materials and substance;
- authenticity of use and functions;
- authenticity of traditions and techniques;
- Authenticity and integrity of location and settings.

Settlement Structure
- authenticity of form and design, authenticity of use and functions, authenticity in traditions, integrity of location and settings

Fountains and Wells
- Authenticity: location and setting, form and design, use and functions

- Authenticity of form and design, authenticity of materials and substance, authenticity of use and functions, authenticity in traditions and techniques, integrity of location and settings
Main Buildings, Dwellings, Construction Systems
- authenticity of form and design, authenticity of materials and substance, authenticity of use and functions, authenticity in traditions and techniques, integrity of location and settings:
60% of all main buildings are traditional buildings that have considerable degree of authentic values.
Ancillary Buildings
- authenticity of form and design, authenticity of materials and substance, authenticity of use and functions, authenticity in traditions and techniques, integrity of location and settings

Restoration Principles
During maintenance, conservation, rehabilitation and restoration coordinated within the framework of the Rimetea Heritage Conservation Project, the principles of the Venice Charter, the Charter of the Built Vernacular Architecture, The Nara Document, the document on Principles for the preservation of historic timber structures of the ICOMOS International Wood Committee and other ICOMOS documents and charters were considered.
All interventions, including maintenance were completed following a detailed inventory and research of the built heritage of Rimetea.
Maintenance was carried out with the use of local traditional techniques and qualitatively identical materials.
Repair, conservation and restoration were performed considering the minimum needed intervention and the principle of reversibility in the use of traditional techniques and compatible materials. Newly introduced materials were distinguished from originals and interventions were all recorded. Structural repairs that did not follow the traditional structural pattern were permitted only in cases of urgent interventions at buildings at risk, but the principle of reversibility was respected.
Restoration of lost architectural features (ornaments, colors, and roof shapes) was carried out following a detailed research on the building and the archive materials.

Functional changes and adaptation were treated, if needed, according to the principles of integral protection of historic building, in a manner that respects the integrity of the structure, its character and form being compatible with acceptable living standards. Bathrooms were introduced in a number of buildings in a way to be compatible with the original layout and to produce the minimal change in the traditional use, materials and structures.
New functions needed for tourism were introduced as well with the principle of minimum intervention in traditional structures and use.
Requirements by the additions of new addition were of harmony in proportions, textures and detailing with the traditional parts.

The vernacular architectural heritage of Rimetea proposed for inclusion on the World Heritage List due to its universal importance deriving from its multiple historical cultural and natural values of the settlements and its surroundings.

Comparison with other similar properties

The values of the Rimetea's settlement of are compared to:

A. Other settlements about the same size from Transylvania with similar social and historical background;
B. Prejmer, Saschiz, Viscri, Darjiu, Biertan and ValeaViilor, - Romanian settlements already designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that are the most comparable to Rimetea considering their development;
C. Hollókő and Vlkolinec, settlements of similar size, social and historical background designated UNESCO World Heritage sites from Hungary and Slovakia.

Conclusions of the comparative study

1. The outstanding value of the architectural heritage of Rimetea derives from the simultaneous presence of a series of diverse and unique cultural values that is a multitude and richness of different architectural, archaeological, ethnographical, industrial and natural values, which were not experienced in any of the studied areas.

2. The architectural ensemble of Rimetea s historic buildings is an authentically preserved, large and diverse heritage exhibiting several different building types belonging to different historic times and social classes that describe a unique development with characteristics not found in the studied settlements. Rimetea has preserved some of its 17-18th century buildings that were uniquely characteristic to this area. In addition to this, as a result of a radical change in a period of prosperity following a major natural disaster (the 1870 fire), a homogenous architectural heritage of buildings of outstanding technical quality has been created. As a result of a general economic decay that followed the period of prosperity, most of the buildings were not altered and their characteristic features were conserved. For majority of studied settlements a more organic development has been creating a more diverse architecture composed of comparably cheaper, technically and functionally less durable buildings. As a result of a permanent and stable development, constructions are randomly demolished and replaced by new structures reducing the possibility of conserving large ensembles.

3. The regular settlement structure defines Rimetea as a colonized settlement rarely compared to the vast majority of the settlements from the region that has developed organically. This type of structure that is contemporary and comparably only to some of the medieval towns defines the special social and historical status gained by the serf community of Rimetea due to iron mining and manufacture.

4. Compared to the Saxon World Heritage settlements of Romania, Rimetea has a different character. In case of Saxon settlements the most dominant architectural element is the fortified church whilst in Rimetea the large homogenous ensemble of vernacular heritage is dominant. It is of major difference that the heritage in Rimetea is still owned and used by the authentic community that makes it less vulnerable compared to the Saxon heritage that has been abandoned by the German population of Transylvania.

5. Compared to Vlkolinec the architectural heritage from Rimetea is larger, more diverse, has a different character and it is still used by the population. The area proposed for inclusion on the World Heritage List contains about 2/3 historic buildings and 1/3 non-historic buildings, therefore the tourism and heritage functions will not be separated by the other functions of the settlement.

6. Compared to Hollókő, Rimetea presents a series of similarities, the evolution of the plot structures and land use, some similar events that marked the development of the architectural heritage, the presence of the medieval castles, the general layout of the houses and others, but there are also complementary characteristics (slightly different proportions and ornamentation, the impact of iron mining and manufacture etc.). Therefore the joint presence of the two settlements in the Unesco WHL would be certainly a good solution and the two settlements would exemplify the development of rural architecture in a much larger sense.

7. The social and historical elements deriving from iron mining and manufacture and their effect on the architectural development of Rimetea are an exceptional example of universal value from historical, artistic and scientific point of view that are not found in any of the studied settlements.

8. Rimetea is surrounded by a natural environment of an outstanding beauty that cannot be found in any of studied neighboring settlements.

9. The state of conservation of the architectural and cultural heritage is much higher than in the studied Romanian settlements due to the existence of the Rimetea Heritage Conservation Program. Similar heritage preservation activities were not experienced in any of the studied settlements, the works carried out in Biertan and Viscri are not as integrated and their effect is inferior. Efficient restoration programs are carried out only in Hollókő and Vlkolinec where the state of conservation is good.

10. It is important to mention that in the conclusions of the Comparative study on traditional villages in the Carpathian Basin and its immediate surroundings produced by the ICOMOS CIVVIH in 1993 for the proposal of Vlkolinec to be included on the World Heritage List, Rimetea was proposed to be considered by the government of Romania to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.