The following article was published in N-SPHERE April 2010 issue.


Descending on the train platform in the city of Brasov is an experience as normal and usual as it gets. However, once one steps foot outside the station, there is a certain atmosphere that can only be found in Verona. From the sunny air, to the mountains that can be seen somewhere in the close distance, the trip towards the historic center is brief and colorful. Both cities have their own perks when it comes to tourism, both making use of history blended with fantasy, facts and imagination thrown together in a precarious balance that allows one to dream for a brief period of time.

Brasov, sometimes known as the gateway to Transylvania, has a decently preserved historic center, and in the midsts of baroque rows of buildings, there rises dark the Black Church. As the largest Gothic piece of architecture in the middle and eastern Europe, this monument was built during the better part of a hundred years (late 14th – late 15th century). Initially named the Church of Saint Mary, it was restructured with baroque inner arches after a city-wide fire in the 17th century when it received its current name.

The Black Church has an aura of mysticism that should be regarded skeptically by the rational mind. Nevertheless, once one steps foot inside, the world is allowed to transgress, perceptions transform, the walls reshape themselves and all senses mingle together in a wave of sudden exaltation. Known for its 3993 pipes organ, the building has the perfect acoustics. Taking one step on the stone floor reverberates into the stained glass windows all the way along the columns and ribs, dispersing in the air once it reaches the tall ceiling. Built during the 19th century, the mechanical Buchholz organ is the only functional one of its kind in middle and eastern Europe.

Coming to life in the 12th century, the Gothic style’s first representative is the Abbey of Saint Denis. Located in northern Paris, this royal French necropolis was the predecessor of one of the most imposing architectural types along the ages. Considered to be the form that built a path of light to the divine, the Gothic style was primarily used for religious edifices, such as London’s Westminster Abbey, Notre-Dame de Paris, the German K├Âlner Dom in Cologne, Basilica Papale di San Francesco d’Assisi in Italy or the Spanish Cathedral of Seville. Arches that seem to rise towards infinity by an inventive use of a palpable vanishing point blend with deformed demonic statues creating a dichotomy between the heretic and the divine, heaven and hell, among which the human realm is frailly suspended.

Perceiving the interior of the Black Church is not enough, as the full experience of placing the building in a concrete context is required in order to fully grasp its effect on its immediate surroundings. Following the old city wall, one can make way towards the Black and White Towers, two of the still standing vestiges of the medieval fortification system. The path up to the Black Tower is demanding, the inner wooden staircase that lacks railings squeaks and shakes at each step, but once one arrives at the top, the view presented makes it all fade away inside a timeless mental framework. The tower’s glass roof reveals a bird’s eye view of the old city. Underneath, inside the vestiges

of the old wall, red rooftops are crowded together in a peculiarly fresh chaos. The attention is focused down on the city. Mountains and sky and, subsequently, the entire world disappears for a brief moment. As the eyes travel around the medieval urban conglomerate, the 65 meters tall black clock tower of the church rises magnificently, trying to steal away the breathless viewer, connecting throughout dimensions to the mind of the one that was just inside. It’s the point in which space spares a moment to bend in on itself and perceptions once again mix into a web of atemporal displacements of the self.

A dark stone jewel, the Black Church is a monument standing somber in celebration of the divine light. A disunion in itself, this architectural piece is a sanctuary to the duality of the medieval human mind, suspended between the zenith and nadir of theistic beliefs.

photo & text by Vel Thora

Full article here.