The Architectural Heritage

Rimetea’s unified appearance and its celebrated high status 19th century architecture contributes significantly to the area’s character. The 19th buildings frame all four sides of the village square and are decorated in a classicist manner in line with the taste of local bourgeoisie. The large village square is rectangular in plan. The regular arrangement of plots around this space suggests that the settlement’s form was the result of a relatively short colonisation rather than a gradual organic development.

The village square forms the centre of the settlement with the Unitarian church and vicarage, surrounded by a stone wall, at its core. A fire station, founded in 1882, and shops adjoin this wall. A 19th century school building stands in close proximity to the church. A market was formerly held on a large plot of land on the southern side of the square. An Orthodox Church was erected on this site in 1938. As part of a governmental decree an apartment block was constructed adjacent to the church in 1977.

On the northern side, springs supply a well with a large pool. The most expensive dwellings in Rimetea are situated on a hillside to the north of the square, on the so-called Upper Market Row. These houses formerly belonged to the iron traders and foundry owners. Opposite Upper Market Row, on the valley-side of the square, is Lower Market Row. Here, the blacksmiths’ houses can be found. These were constructed in a more humble fashion but in the same spirit as the properties situated higher up. These properties are also rich in wrought-iron features. The former District Council building, now Town Hall and Ethnographic Museum, also forms part of this row.

Lower Market Row continues into Buru (Borévi) Street and its short extension, Gunsmith (Puskás) Street, this name originates from the profession of the former inhabitants. To the south, Upper Market Row continues towards Coltesti the farmers’ Saint George (Szentgyörgy) Street. The high status manor houses of Bosla and Zsakó families are located on this street.

The white buildings are one of the most important parts of Rimetea’s architectural heritage. The first of these Classicist bourgeois houses was constructed in the 1820’s. Most are built from stone. This material became more widespread as a construction material in the settlement after a fire in 1870 razed 40 properties.

The white buildings’ layout preserves the traditional three cell linear form. This arrangement normally comprises a front room, a kitchen and a rear room. Sometimes the position of the kitchen and rear room is switched. Later extensions are also characteristic of this building type.

Stone walls, 60-80cm thick, support timber boarded ceilings that are sometimes covered with plaster. Front rooms with vaulted ceilings are also common in this building type. Rooms also retain timber floorboards. The houses have half hipped roofs with tiled skirt, lime-washed front gables and interlocking or club tiles cover the roofs. An astral (star) decoration on the property’s gable-end signifies that the inhabitant’s are Protestant.

The facades of the properties, particularly the proportions and decoration, provide this building type’s character. The cellar doors that face the street have arched, moulded limestone surrounds. Doors are constructed from timber panelling, hinged boards or wrought-iron sheets. The two vertical, or horizontal, rectangular cellar windows have wrought-iron grilles and exterior shutters. Lime-washed façades have two windows with shutters and decorative framing on two or three sides, sometimes with segmental arches. Elevations are broken up horizontally with simple stringcourses and ornate cornices, occasionally with dentils. Fluted or rusticated pilasters with decorative capitals, arches and rustication, all made from plaster, decorate the spaces between the windows. Plain or geometrical glass is decorated with band courses. Above the windows, there are rich, traditional floral designs within semi-circular surrounds. These features are framed with scribed rectangular plaster motifs or curved mouldings that extend the whole width of the façade. Normally, a window-sized opening can be found in gables built from lime-washed bricks. A variety of ironmongery was produced in the village, for instance wrought-iron latches, handles, doorknobs, door-hinges, bolts, arrow-shaped window grilles and other iron fittings.

The second group of white stone buildings in the settlement are known as the Eclectic Bourgeois houses. These are closely associated with the Classicist-mannered buildings, mentioned above. Although the structure and plan of these two building types are similar their external appearance is not the same as they are decorated differently.  The ornamentation used on the Eclectic buildings is more characteristic of urban architecture. This building type retains wider, plastered door and window reveals; pediments; fluted double colonnades; ornate glass; moulded cornices and quoins. There is a variety of façade ornaments with polygon designs, arches and surrounds. There are also interesting pilasters and capitals. As the iron industry began to regress less wrought-iron features were made and wrought-iron grilles, handles and latches stopped being produced.

A new feature that was introduced with this building type was the L shaped plan. The house’s longest elevation now ran parallel with the street.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Rimetea went through an optimistic socio-economic period. This is reflected in the variety of uses and type of architecture in the Market Square. A number of shops, including a grocers and butchers, pubs and restaurants were established. A two-storied inn, a bank, a post-office, a confectioner’s and a pharmacy were also established.

It is a shame that this high life ended with the closing of the mines. Large-scale development and major alterations ceased at this time. However, this sudden halt and that properties constructed after 1860 have stood the test of time have enabled this unique architectural heritage to survive almost undamaged up to the present day.

The families involved in mining inhabited the highest parts of the settlement. Upper (Felső) Street starts at the north-western corner of the main square and splits into three directions. One of these routes, Miner’s (Bányász) Street, ascends to the mines and has a stepped frontage that continues after winding between cottages and fields. Drawersback (Gatyaület) and New (Új) Street are parallel with the longest side of the square and follow the rear contour lines of the plots along Upper Market Row. The Ramp (Feljáró) rises from New Street and after passing a few plots continues through fields to the Forbidden Forest (Pădurea Oprită, Tilalmas). Turning north at the main road to Vidolm (Vidaly), the street then winds 200m above the village.

A cobbled narrow passage (Sikátor) connects Upper Market Row with New Street. This traditional floor surface, stone walls and timber fences contribute significantly to the settlement’s character. Another quiet part of the settlement is the Upper Gorge (Felső Szurdik), with a well situated within the largest area.

The 18th century Serf houses are relatively unique to Rimetea. This building type is clearly distinguishable by its structure and elevation details. These properties can be seen in the upper part of the settlement. Externally, these log buildings are plastered and lime-washed up to window sill level. Above this height the logs remain exposed. Window frames are carved and together with window surrounds are painted red in memory of a massacre in 1702. House plans are usually formed from three cells, a front room called the front house, a kitchen (‘pitvar’, in Hungarian), where the oven is situated and a pantry. This also serves as living space.

Log walls with intersecting joints support plank ceilings that finish with a principal beam in the front room. Floors are usually formed from beaten earth or timber boards. Original gambrel roofs were later changed to simple half hipped roofs with triangular trusses and collar beams. Timber shingles were replaced with tiles. Windows are always randomly arranged in elevations facing the street.

A break in the middle of Lower Market Row leads towards the Szekler Rock. This route, known as the Little Gorge (Kis Szurdik), ending in the Little Market (Kis Piactér) after passing a bridge. Once there were forges in this irregular space and in the past the mills were operated by a mill race, the creek’s water. Dating from 1752 the mill and miller’s house are architecturally rare and still in use.

Upper Fortress (Felső Kővár) and Lower Fortress (Alsó Kővár) Street both rise from the square, which after a slight bend follows the watercourse. Both the farmers and foundry owners formerly used these streets. The architecture in this part of the settlement is quite mixed. For example, here, we find a large number of early and late peasant houses juxtaposed with Serf and Bourgeois dwellings.

In the 19th century, Rimetea’s lower classes remained separate from the civic process. Their architecture imitated the proportions and some of the features of bourgeois structures. Early peasant houses normally had wooden ceilings that were laid on logs or plank walls. They have simple half hipped roofs with tiled skirt, collar–purlin roof structures covered with clay tiles. Shingles were seldom used to cover the roofs of this building type. Rendered elevations are lime-washed and are almost free of decoration. Occasionally, simple or double plaster mouldings occur. The windows retain jambs but there are no surrounds or wooden shutters. This building type has a two or three cell plan in a linear arrangement. There are also some examples that comprise one room.

This building type cannot be accurately dated. However, the construction dates of a few of these properties are known and most of these were constructed in the last quarter of the 19th century. Some of these buildings have details such as wrought-iron window grilles or log construction that suggests an early 19th century date of origin. Most early vernacular buildings used building technology and styles that are characteristic of a certain period. However, some of these properties were constructed in the early 20th century.

Many of Rimetea’s 20th century properties lacked sufficient economic backing but some continued to display bourgeois pretence. The elevations of a few of these dwellings have geometrical patterns and Art Nouveau designs. Although a large number of late vernacular buildings imitate 19th century bourgeois houses, the designs are more simplified like the traditional forms found in other villages.

These buildings are mainly constructed from brick. Fenestrations are specifically early 20th century in style, for example, 1930’s triple-glazed windows to principal façades. There are normally no wrought-iron details, plaster decoration or carved stone features. Most façades are rendered but there are houses in the village that have left the brick exposed. Normally, these properties do not have any external decoration and in cases where decoration does exist, historic styles are not replicated.

The most prominent rocky ridge of the Szekler Rock, the Rocky Tail (Kőfarka) marks the start of Gypsy Row (Cigánysor). Once there were gypsy cottages located on small, irregular plots in this area. The gypsies undertook the hardest foundry work and many relocated into new houses in the 1950’s.

In Rimetea there is a custom of engraving the house’s construction date on a lintel, principal beam, and later on a memorial plaque. We therefore know the exact construction date, and in some instances the name of the builder, for half of the traditional dwellings and barns in Rimetea. The construction date of 18th century buildings was carved in the door lintels, most without any additional text. However, a few examples with Latin inscriptions have been recorded. From the beginning of 19th century, Rimetea’s inhabitants frequently fixed a memorial plaque, commemorating the builders, above principal courtyard entrances. These were made of stone and eventually of plaster. Plaques were carefully carved and usually decorated with geometrical or floral ornamentation, rarely with Rimetea’s crest