The princess from the latrine

Printesa Franziska și muzeograful Dragoș Trif

Princess Franziska and curator Dragoș Trif

Turda History Museum is reliving  its “youth” once it was reopened to the public in 2011, after 14 (!) years of renovation. Set in the most important civil building of mediaeval Turda, the Princely Palace, the small museum certainly deserves a detour into, from or to , Salina Turda (Turda Salt Mine), the main tourist attraction of the city.

The star of the museum is “Princess Franziska”,  a Gepid aristocrat , whose tomb was discovered in the baths of the Roman camp Potaissa. The name was meant as a joke and it was given by Mihai Bărbulescu, an archaeologist from Cluj, the one who discovered it in 1996, as a hint for her Germanic origins.

The Princess’s skeleton is now covered by a transparent window that gleams in the spots light, once the museum was modernized. The bones are surrounded by jewelry and other valuables that accompanied the German aristocrat to the grave. “Gepids occupied the area of the camp, even if it was already ruined. They were attracted by the impressive Roman buildings, as the baths from Potaissa whose function they lack to understand tough “, says the curator Dragoş Trif. This explains the establishment of aristocratic residences in the former Roman baths and, moreover, the burial of “Princess Franziska”  precisely in … one of the latrines of the thermal baths

“They found this already drilled into the floor place, and because the faeces disappeared long time before, it was impossible for them to know the initial functions of the  fossa, and so , they must have thought to use this space and bury here the defunct body “, the curator adds . Long story short, this is a lesson about what irony of fate really is: Franziska’s relatives wanted her to have all the honors of an aristocratic funeral, but withouth knowing it, they buried her in a latrine!

Muzeul de Istorie Turda, găzduit de Palatul Voievodal

Turda Historu Museum, housed by the Princely Palace

The story about Franziska’s discovery , told in detail on beautifully illustrated panels can be found on the walls surrounding the window containing the remains of the Princess. In 1996, when it was discovered, it was the richest Gepid woman tomb found in Romania.

The tomb dates back to the second half of 6th century, when a Gepid  kingdom established its power center in the today Cluj. The aristocrat, of short stature, of about 1.5 meters, died at the age of about 35 years,  she had many births and was not used to physical labor.

The inventory of the tomb contains gold earrings adorned with almandine, large silver brooches and many small beads of glass and coral paste,  from the garment embroidery, a large silver buckle, gold and almandine , and amber beads, two silver buckles for shoes, a metal mirror and a comb made of bone.

However, Franziska is just one of the attractions of the museum of Turda. A visit here actually starts with the temporary exhibition halls, where it is now hosted a private collection of ancient objects and tools that help in the reconstruction of the traditional occupations of the Arieş Valley. The visit continues with the lapidary of the museum, located in the basement, which houses a valuable collection of Roman tombstones from the city and from the Roman camp Potaissa. Among other things, there is a grave stele on which there is represented a funeral banquet scene, having in foreground  the busts of four men dressed in tunics.

Tabloul „Dieta de la Turda”

“The Diet of Turda”

Then, the visit can continue with the climbing of a staircase covered with glass to the 1st floor of the Princely Palace, and then with the room that houses the impressive (3 × 4 metres) painting “The Diet of Turda,” a masterpiece from 1896 signed by Korosfoi-Kriesch Aladar that presents the reformer Francis David during the famous Diet of 1568 that adopted for the first time in Europe, an edict of religious tolerance.

Next, while visiting the museum, one can see a lobby with neo-rococo furniture and a venerable piano, made by a supplier of the imperial court in Vienna. Then , it comes the room where Franziska is , followed by a room dedicated to the history of medieval Turda. Among its “pieces of resistance” there is a ceramic pot from 1722 –a journeyman’s work .

Last, there is a space dedicated to the leaders of the Memorandum and Union generation from the city, with an emphasis on the famous Raţiu family. In the center of the latter room, one can find the office of dr. Ioan Raţiu. More than just  being appreciated for its artistic value, the office stands out first of all by means of its historical value. This piece is in the collection since the opening of the museum in 1951.

The process of highlighting the museum once its restoration was completed, also involved the setting up of a small park in front of the entrance, where many Roman sarcophagi were exposed.  In the absence of  permanent supervision, parts of them are being used as obstacles by passionate young acrobats on bicycles from Turda. “We do not always have the opportunity to watch the building and the park nearby. It is a pitty that this is happening. It is a matter of education. We hope to have more money in the budget in the future, so that we can also monitor the park “, said Carmen Dragomir, who is representing the museum.

Tinerii bicicliști folosesc bucăți de sarcofage ca obstacole

Youngsters using the sarcofagos for bike-tricks

According to its management, the museum was visited last year by 4.235 people, of whom 1 080 benefited of free admission. Admission costs 6 lei , at full price, and  3 lei – with discount. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 16.00 (15.30, last admission).

The Roman camp Potaissa, from Turda, is also in the administration of Turda History Museum. However, it is not introduced in the tourist circuit. “A new session of European funding will begin in 2014. There is already a written project, which we will complete and resubmit by then. We hope to introduce the ruins of the Roman camp in the tourist circuit”, said Carmen Dragomir. Until then, only groups who make previous appointment can benefit of tour guide when visiting the camp ruins.