Targu Jiu and the Legacy of Constantin Brancusi

A small town in southwestern Romania, Targu Jiu holds one of the greatest cultural treasures of Romania. Of undisputed universal value, the Heroes Path Monumental Complex, created by Constantin Brancusi, is considered among the grand creations of mankind. The father of modern sculpture, Brancusi was born a short distance from Targu Jiu, in a peasant family of Hobita Village. Apart from the cultural heritage left by the master, Targu Jiu has a few other interesting attractions, making it the perfect day trip experience.

Targu Jiu (the fair on Jiu River) is the capital of Gorj County and has a population of about 70,000 people. It can easily be explored in just one day, with the architectural complex of Constantin Brancusi making for the highlight of an otherwise pleasant visit. Considered among the great masters of modern art, with works displayed in the world’s greatest museums and valued at millions, Constantin Brancusi has created some of the most famous sculptures in the world. Nevertheless, he left his most precious achievement in the city of Targu Jiu. The Heroes Path Complex consists of a series of grand scale sculptures disposed on an east-west axis that cuts through the center of the city.

 

TARGU JIU – LOCATION & ACCESS

Latitude: 45° 02′ N / Longitude: 23° 16′ E / Altitude: 205 m

The city of Targu Jiu is the capital of Gorj County, in southwestern Romania. Travelers can reach Targu Jiu easily from Bucharest and other major Romanian cities via cars or trains. It is located at the intersection of two important roads, the E79 European Road that crosses Transylvania and goes down towards Bulgaria and the 67 National Road that connects the cities south of the Carpathians. The distance to Bucharest is 300 km and it is connected be multiple daily trains and coach buses. The city center is small enough to be explored on foot and other destinations have regular trolleybus or minibus connections.

 

HEROES PATH MONUMENTAL COMPLEX

The best place to start your visit is from the city park. A small green oasis with secular trees and shaded alleys, it also contains the first part of the Heroes Path complex. Right on the bank of Jiu River, the Table of Silence marks the beginning of a symbolic journey imagined by the genius of Brancusi. Walking east towards the park’s entry, the Chairs’ Alley connects the Table to the second grand monument, the Gate of the Kiss. Crossing the city center along the Heroes Path Street, you can easily reach the final monument, visible from afar. The impressive Endless Column is among the most famous monumental works of art in the world. These fascinating landmark, although easily exceptional on their own, have to be considered and admired as a whole, a homogenous artistic complex filled with deep meanings.

 

THE TABLE OF SILENCE

The minimalist style of this masterpiece has been praised for decades. The perfect symmetry and circularity of the table and the surrounding twelve chairs creates a space of deep contemplation. Symbolizing the silence of deep thought and meditation, the table is created by two perfect stone cylinders. Around the table, at equal distance from it and from one another, there are twelve clepsydrae chairs. For some, the monument also symbolizes the Last Supper with Jesus at the center surrounded by the twelve apostles.

Targu Jiu - Table of Silence 1

Table of Silence – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

Targu Jiu - Table of Silence 2

Table of Silence – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

THE GATE OF THE KISS

Following a charming alley through the park flanked by two rows of square clepsydrae chairs, the second monument is visible at a short walk away. The monumental gate at the entrance of the city is a symbol of love. The stylization of the kiss symbol has been a lifelong purpose for Brancusi. The stone gate is a sort of triumphal arch like many other around the world, but unlike others, it takes a humanly scale. Couples that pass through the gate have the custom of kissing under the arch.

Targu Jiu - Gate of the Kiss 1

Gate of the Kiss – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

Targu Jiu - Gate of the Kiss 2

Gate of the Kiss – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

 

THE ENDLESS COLUMN

On the same axis as the first two monuments but about 1 kilometer away on the other side of the city, the Endless Column is among the most famous and important monuments of modern art. The column was the only monument commissioned by the city to honor the heroes of World War I, but Brancusi created a whole complex that takes universal proportions. The absolute simplicity and perfect proportions of this masterpiece makes it to continue upwards for infinity, connecting the earth and the sky, the living and the departed. Made of cast iron, the column consists of 15 full square clepsydra elements and two halves at both ends. It rises almost 30 meters high and weights almost 30 tons. Inspired by traditional motifs sculpted by peasants into their wooden house porches, the Endless Column has to be admired from all angles and distances, taking new forms and meanings.

Targu Jiu - Endless Column 2

Endless Column – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

Targu Jiu - Endless Column 1

Endless Column – © Silviu-Florin Salomia

 

OTHER ATTRACTIONS OF TARGU JIU

A beautiful and airy provincial town of Romania, Targu Jiu prides itself as being the city of Constantin Brancusi, keeper of the most impressive grand monuments created by the sculptor. Nevertheless, there are also several other interesting things to see in Targu Jiu. Lacking old monuments, most of the of the city center are modern. The most beautiful architecture dates from late 18th, 19th and early 20th century. The center of Targu Jiu is free of traffic and forms a charming area, with fountains and floral arcades.

The Revolution Square is surrounded by the most important highlights, with the beautiful Saints Voivode Church, also known as the Cathedral Church. Built in late 18th century on the place of an older church, it has impressive interior and exterior paintings. An intriguing feature comes from the figures of antiquity philosophers painted outside next to the usual saints, a rare characteristic for an orthodox church. In front of the church sits the Administration Palace of Targu Jiu, a beautiful building dating from around 1900. A short distance from the square, right in from of the modern stadium of Targu Jiu stands the charming Town Hall, dating from 1932.

The most appealing street of Targu Jiu starts behind the Cathedral Church. The fascinating Tudor Vladimirescu Street is pedestrian and although short, it still holds its turn of the century look. It has the highest number of historical buildings, most of them dating from the beginning of 20th century. Similar houses and buildings can be found all around the center of Targu Jiu, the most interesting including the Tudor Vladimirescu College, Christian Tell Library, Barbu Ganescu House, Dimitrie Maldarescu House, Vasile Moanga House and others.

The small charming Holy Apostles Church is on the same Heroes Path axis as the monuments of Brancusi and also part of the whole complex. The sculptor considered the location of this church as part of his project, creating the other monuments on a line that also crosses the church. Very close to the city center, visitors can also discover the past of Targu Jiu and surrounding area inside the History Museum of Gorj County. With beautiful and interactive dioramas and exhibits, this small museum gives a glimpse into the long history of these lands. The equally small and charming Art Museum of Targu Jiu can be found inside the City Park and houses a nice collection of paintings and sculptures, mostly by local and Romanian artists.

Other interesting attractions of Targu Jiu include the refreshing city park, a handful of statues or the buzzing central market. Probably the most distinctive feature of Targu Jiu is the fact that it holds an impressive number of outdoor sculptures. Most of them were created by international artists during annual sculpture camps held in the memory of Constantin Brancusi. Almost all green corners and crossroads throughout the city are adorned with sculptures.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN TARGU JIU

ANNA HOTEL 3*

One of the most prestigious hotels in Targu Jiu. Located 1 km from the city center, it offers quality rooms and an excellent restaurant.

DANIELESCU HOUSE 4*

A marvelous boutique hotel located a few kilometers from Targu Jiu, in a historical building with an outdoor pool.

EUROPA HOTEL 3*

Pleasant hotel located right in the center of Targu Jiu, on the Heroes Path, with easy access to all the major attractions.

RAIS HOTEL 3*

A new and chic hotel in Targu Jiu, with beautiful rooms and design, great restaurant and overall excellent quality.

VERA GUESTHOUSE

Within walking distance to the city center, the guesthouse has one of the best restaurants and excellent reviews.

ANTIQUE GUESTHOUSE

Located right next to the city park, this guesthouse has great rooms, easy access and a great restaurant.

 

WHERE TO EAT IN TARGU JIU

There are several very good restaurants where travelers can eat in Targu Jiu, most of which serve delicious traditional Romanian cuisine. Around the center and in most areas of the city, one can find nice cafes and pubs to spend quality time. For gourmands, we recommend trying the menu of Antique or Casa Vera guesthouses, both with excellent restaurants and pleasant atmosphere. In summer, the Anna Terrace next to its hotel serves quality food. A short walk from the center, the Hanul Domnesc restaurant has only traditional food, while the nearby Ambasador restaurant sometimes offers live music in the evening. The city is also filled with fast-food opportunities for a quick bite.

 

TRIPS FROM TARGU JIU

With the nearby mountains within reach, with monasteries and other marvelous landmarks, Gorj County makes for an excellent destination, with plenty of day trips to keep travelers busy for at least a week. If you have limited time and only wish to explore the outskirts of the city, here are a few options to try out.

Constantin Brancusi Memorial House

The sculptor was born in a small village fairly close to Targu Jiu, in a poor peasant family. The village of Hobita is located about 25 km west of Targu Jiu and the house can be easily found by asking the villagers or following the signs. The charming courtyard and several wooden buildings perfectly reproduce the atmosphere of an authentic village of Gorj County. A true journey back in time, visitors can discover a little glimpse into the humble beginnings of Constantin Brancusi, the father of modern sculpture.

Traditional Architecture Museum

The Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County is located at about 12 km north of Targu Jiu, the capital of Gorj County, in the village of Curtisoara that is part of Bumbesti-Jiu town. The fascinating Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County has been created around an important historical monument, the “Cula” of Curtisoara and its complex. “Cula” is a specific fortified house traditional to the region of northern Oltenia, only several of these buildings still being preserved. The present museum was opened in 1975 and contains unique treasures of traditional architecture of Gorj County, old wooden houses, churches, mills and other constructions that once existed in the countryside.

Sohodol Gorges

Of all the marvelous natural wonders of Gorj County, the gorges of Sohodol have a unique and sublime charm. A heaven for hikers and rock climbers, the Sohodol Gorges are among the most beautiful and enticing destinations in Romania. The distance from Targu Jiu to the entrance into the gorges is about 20 kilometer. Created by the Sohodol River through the weaker limestone mountains, these are some of the most spectacular gorges in Romania, offering an array of different scenery and amazing highlights. A succession of larger valley and narrow canyon areas follows the wild river upper into the Valcan Mountains. Once flowing underground, the river has cut into the rocks for millennia, leaving behind different elements unique beauty, from natural bridges and caves to waterfalls and rapids.

 

CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI

Thousands of pages have been written about the life and work of Constantin Brancusi. There are so many things to say about the “Colossus of Hobita” that a lifetime could not be enough. The artistic roots of Brancusi’s work can definitely be found in his childhood, influenced by the nature of his home village, the spiritual side of Romanian peasants and the traditional archaic art. Until 1894, Brancusi practices various jobs across Oltenia, although he is always drawn towards knowing more about the world. He then follows the classes of Craftsmanship School in Craiova, where he learns sculpture, continuing with the Art School of Bucharest, beginning to create his own style in sculpture. Brancusi prefers raw and pure form in sculpture, away from the exact reproduction of visual forms. Constantin Brancusi understands that Romania cannot cater to his artistic ideals and begins to work towards a plan to reach a bigger European capital.

With not enough money, Brancusi leaves the country in 1903, passing through Vienna, Munich, Zurich and Basel on his way to Paris, the final destination. Much of the road was made on foot, creating a larger than life model of what drives an artist towards his higher creative purpose. He is forced to sells his watch and extra clothes to buy a train ticket and all along the way he takes various jobs but always visits every museums he comes across. Reaching Paris in the spring of 1904, where he works in various places, including the atelier of Auguste Rodin. In the years to come, he created many of his masterpieces in his small atelier, becoming known around the world for pieces like “Miss Pogany”, “Sleeping Muse”, “Bird in Space”, “Child’s Head” and many others. Today, his masterpieces are displayed in the biggest art museums of the world and sold at auctions with millions.

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