The townlet of Rasinari, one of the eighteen rural settlements that make up the area known as “Marginimea Sibiului”, gave the world such great men as essayist and philosopher Emil Cioran, poet and prominent politician Octavian Goga, and pioneering naturalist Ilarie Mitrea. The old village school they all attended, now bearing the name of Octavian Goga, is one of the tourist attractions of this region, an area of 200 square kilometers located south-west of Sibiu that enjoys a unique ethnological, cultural, and historical heritage.
A heritage that is carefully preserved by the people inhabiting this “Margin of Sibiu”, many of whom still wear the traditional black and white costumes of the region or employ themselves with such traditional crafts as weaving, blacksmithing, wheelwright’s craft, tanning, and the making of sheepskin coats.
The cultural aspect is superbly illustrated by a diversity of landmarks such as the “Saint Paraskeva” church of Rasinari, the ruins of a medieval fortress on the Cetatuia hill, the museum of reverse painted glass icons in Sibiel, the Short Citadel of Orlat, the Paper Mill of Orlat, the archeological site of Tilisca, as well as various other museums and memorial houses. And while all these are solid, touchable monuments of historical significance, the other side of the story is told by the less solid, but equally significant legends and tales of the place, inherent to all human settlements that go back in time hundreds of years, as is the case with the villages and townlets in Marginimea Sibiului – the earliest records of human administrative organization dating back to the early XIII century. Some of these legends explain the poetic names of such landforms as the Crone Mountain (“Muntele Batrana”) – which ties in with one of the most important myths of Romanian folklore, the tale of “Baba Dochia” – or the Belle Peak (“Varful Frumoasa”), whereas others speak of hidden treasures and supernatural beings such as fairies, ogres, dragons, ghouls, giants, and devils.
These pagan tales, however, fade in the face of the people’s strong religious beliefs, as evidenced by the important role played by churches and religious symbols in the life of these communities. A relevant example is the Greek-Catholic church of Rasinari, erected in the XVIII century under the spiritual patronage of Saint Paraskeva, a rectangular building with the bell tower on its west side, exquisitely decorated both outside and inside with paintings authored by Ion Grigorovici. One particularity of this church is that, within its stone walls, it incorporates the remains of a much older wooden church, thought to have been built some four centuries earlier.
A far larger collection of religious paintings can be visited at the museum of reverse painted glass icons in Sibiel, the largest such museum in the world, exhibiting over 600 masterpieces of folk art created between the XVIII and XX centuries. Painted by peasants for peasants, these icons reflect the close ties between spirituality and the practical concerns of day to day life, a special emphasis being placed on those saints who, for instance, could intercede for them when they were praying for rain, such as Saint Elijah, or those who offered protection for poor women and widows, such as Saint Nicholas.