The Church Door, a Short Story for Thursday Doors

I hope you will enjoy reading The Church Door, a short story matching the Thursday Doors weekly feature.

This is my first attempt at doing a post for Thursday Doors, but since I am fascinated with doors and I just happened to find my way through a scene involving a door in my WIP, I thought, why not?

The doors are from Brașov, a city in the Transylvania region of Romania over 800 years old. We went there on holiday in 2019. Enjoy!

The Church Door, a (very) short story

Their plan was to arrive at the church before closing time, when the sanctuary was still open to visitors, but voided of worshipers, and the church custodian would be too tired of curious tourists and too exasperated by chatty old crones, so he would wave them in and then rush to finish his last chores.

They reached the holy ground well after nigh fall. It’s been the old town that threw them off, one that none was familiar with, full of labyrinthine nooks where Google Maps had never set foot. They lost their way a few times. As if the town had a mind of its own. As if its troubled spirits, the ones denied for eternity the sanctity of a peaceful sleep, were trying to stop them.

The church rose behind a curtain of trees. Or at least they hoped it was there, cradled in the sombre, hollow space at the back. The street lamps were off and it was too early for the moon to rise.

So why they pushed on? Because they came thus far. And she needed to get an answer.

The church door should face the front, the street, Kate knew that much. The altar would face east and that was to the right.

They would have knocked they heads in the sanctuary’s door, should she not have extended her arms. It was that dark underneath the old trees. She had removed her gloves earlier one, heated from the march, so the door felt warm and cold under her hands, smooth and rough.

Drachen thumbed on a flashlight.  

The door, ten feet tall, had been forged five centuries ago during the times of its founder, Vlad the Monk. Kate’s hands rose and sank with the wood rods that seemed to have been twisted by time, reinforced in battle. Old oak, like the one that it was still alive around them, standing guard. The breams were reinforced with iron plates fixed in place with iron studs, hammered while the metal was still red. The wood and iron were spotted with years of water damage, be it from heavy summer rains or hibernal blizzards. Kate wondered how many battles it witnessed, how many Ottomans and Tatars it fought in silence. For how many weddings it pulled aside quietly, shrinking in the shadows, keeping its smoked-patina away from the pristine ivory of the bride’s gown. Or how many secrets it bear witness to, unwillingly. Unknowingly.

Kate always found churches approachable, a spiritual consecutiveness  between man and god, people and families, intended for peace making. But this door looked as if it’s been forged to keep the intruders, and the worst of the weather, out.

‘As old as the church,’ said Drachen and his words came out in whisper. As if he didn’t want anyone else to hear them. Although there was no one else around.

Except for them, the spirits, a thought crossed Kate’s mind and she shook it off right away, surprised by her naïve predisposition to superstition.

‘Its locking mechanism is incredible, I saw a design once, for another door. It is a complex system made up of no less than 19 locks created in 1515 by local craftsmen, intended to shield the Episcopal treasure kept inside. Only one key can open it,’ he said.

‘A Bramah key?’

‘No, no Kate. You mean the cylindrical keys with different slots of varying depths? You’re nearly three centuries off. The Bramah lock was invented towards the end of the 18th century.’ He leaned towards the door, almost smelling it. ‘ Would you hold the flashlight, please,’ and Drachen leaned on his hands, both palms spread over the door’s relief, the only two areas that reflected the beam coming from the torch.

‘Now this, this is something much better.’

Behind the door with its 19 locks was the old church, full of secrets. One of them, hers.

© Patricia Furstenberg

A gate door along the narrow cobblestone streets winding through Schei, Brasov’s traditional Romanian quarter:

The Beth Israel Synagogue in Brasov (Hebrew: בית ישראל):

The lovely lady in the rope-ed statue below points towards Strada Sforii (Rope Street), a medieval lane and one of the most narrow streets in the world:

Doors are like people.
Some stand proud, some pull in the shadows, some look inviting and throw open both arms, some keep to themselves. Some are round, some tall and dark, some fancy, some barely keeping up. But all, all doors have a story to tell.
At least one.
What is your story, I ask each one as I walk past. I’m listening.

See you all next Thursday! 🙂 Thank you for visiting.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature that brings door lovers from around the world together, while sharing their joy towards door photography. Feel free to join by creating your own weekly Thursday Doors post and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

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Travel to Romania via 25 Amazing Photos

travel Romania via photos

I invite you to travel to Romania via a few amazing photos because Romania is a country that deserves to be seen. Not many know, but its brave people have watched over the central and western Europe for centuries, acting like a breathing barrier against the Ottoman and Russian powers.

Alone and awake, Romania is a guardian of the world, coming from the eternity and sure to remain in the pages of history. Romania has views that last, a heart that beats proudly to the rush of its streams; and slowly, to the rhythm of its sunsets; a mysterious spirit in tune to the song of its forests.

Travel to Romania via a few amazing photos that will show you the peaceful shades of its landscape, the endless poetry of its shadows, the smile of its innocence, or the islands of silence that punctuate the song of its birds.

See the kneeling of the twilight,
Hear the hesitation of a footstep at dawn,
Admire old landscapes,
Growing young with the joy they give.
A light that calls
Through history,
Stories that perpetuate,
For each one of us
Is a facet of their reflection.

© Patricia Furstenberg

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos of…

Breathtaking Landscapes

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bucegi mountains
Bucegi Mountains
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - sunrise at the Black sea
Sunrise at the Black Sea

Where do our thoughts escape to?
The wondrous one that sneaks out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Join me in Looking at the Sea.

Romania’s majestic forests
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - evergreen, coniferous forests
Evergreen, coniferous forests

A World Class Capital City, Bucharest

In the period between the two World Wars, Bucharest’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned the capital city of Romania the nickname of ‘Paris of the East’ or ‘Little Paris’.

 Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf). Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf), built to celebrate Romania’s Independence, 1878.

This past holiday I chose to look up, towards the sun, the sky and the buildings’ roofs. I discovered some surprising sights that put a smile on my face. Lamp posts can have intricate designs while bordering past and present – which side would you choose? Let’s look up together, in Bucharest.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Bucharest, the CEC Palace, 1900, and behind the 21st century glass tower of Bucharest Financial Plaza
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Palace of National Military Circle, French neoclassic architecture, Bucharest
The Palace of National Military Circle, a 1911 building in French neoclassic style.

Have you listen to Angela Gheorghiu performing Peter Noster in a deserted Bucharest?

Bucharest, the InterContinental Hotel
The InterContinental Hotel, Bucharest, opened in 1971

Historical Towns

Sighisoara - Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Sighisoara, Romania’s inhabited medieval town

Searching for the history of Vlad III, Vlad the Impaler or Dracula, we journeyed through the magical, medieval city of Sighisoara in the midst of winter.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Rope Street, Strada Sforii
Brasov, Rope Street, Strada Sforii

Brasov is a town that’s sure to enchant you, whether you visit during summer or winter. Brasov, Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German, is a historical and cultural city found in the heart of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania, and not far from Sighisoara. It was first mentioned in 1235 and, not many know, it was the birth place of Katharina Siegel, the only woman Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is said to have ever loved.

Brasov
Brasov view from Casa Cristina, our B&B of choice. Far on the hill you can see Rupea Fortress.
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies - it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies – it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!

Let’s move on. Let’s travel to Romania via some more amazing photos of…

Breathtaking Castles

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bran Castle
Bran Castle, since 1212
Brasov Fortress
Brasov Fortress, since 13th century
Rasnov Fortress, since 1211. Traces of a fortress from prehistoric Dacian times were discovered here.
Peles Castle, Romania
Peles Castle

Exploring Romania’s Top Movie Locations: Peles Castle – Peles Castle belongs to Hohenzollern Family, a German ruling dynasty. The castle was built between 1873 – 1914 in Neo-Renaissance style, at the order of King Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. King Carol I was the monarch of Romania between 1866 – 1914.

Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle

Corvin Castle is a fairy-tale castle of Gothic-renaissance architecture, built on an old Roman fortification and a stunning sight – read more about it here.

Fascinating Churches

Saint John Church, Brasov
A medieval wooden Christian Orthodox Church in Village Museum, Bucharest
The church of Putna Monastery

Everlasting Art

The Gate of the Kiss by Constantin Brancusi

The Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu is an homage to the Romanian heroes of the First World War. The ensemble comprises three sculptures: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column. The ensemble is considered to be one of the great works of 20th-century outdoor sculpture.

Nicolae Grigorescu, Profile of a Young Peasant

A contemporary of Auguste Renoir, next to whom he trained as a painter, Grigorescu took part as war painter in the Romanian War of Independence of 1877 against the Ottoman Empire. Grigorescu is considered one of the painters who established the Romanian modern art.

As always, you can find my books on Amazon worldwide, as eBooks and paperbacks and you can also read them for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime: Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo.
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5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime – by Mani, #Free #eBook

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime

I read 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime once, twice, rubbed my eyes and read it again as lovely Mani has listed my novel Silent Heroes alongside titles by Jodi Picoult and Ken Follett! So I am sharing my joy with you!

There is no greater joy for a writer but when one of his books is remembered, months after publication, and mentioned as having made an impact on the reader. A lasting impact.

I write wishing to wake up feelings, to lift a veil, to inform without being tiresome. I write with joy for what I want to impart, for what I discovered, or for what it should be revived. My books always hold a grain of truth. And they always include (at least) a dog.

If you follow my blog you do know that I don’t brag about my writing achievements. But this list of Top 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime just blew my mind…

So…

Last week Mani compiled her 5 Books (to date) Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime:

5 books everyone should readin their lifetime
5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime – by Mani

Jodi Picoult’s Handle With Care is a contemporary emotional drama.

Shantaram by Gregory Roberts is a contemporary thriller drawing from the author’s own experiences.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett’s Pbook is a historical fiction set during the 12th century.

Hugo’s Les Miserables is nearly 1 300 pages of French history recounted through the personal stories of its main characters.

And my Silent Heroes?

Silent Heroes looks at war, the war in Afghanistan, from different perspectives: of the US Marines and their military dogs, of the UK Medics, of the Afghan people as well of that of the Taliban.

The Silent Heroes eBook is FREE for today only. Just click one of the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
other Amazon websites in Europe
Amazon Mexico
Amazon India
Amazon Japan

Or use this Amazon international link:

Patrici Furstenberg on Amazon

If you don’t have an e-reader you can still read eBooks on your PC with Kindle App, just follow these quick steps:

  • Step 1: Install Kindle for PC App on PC. …
  • Step 2: Open the Application. …
  • Step 3: Sign in the Kindle App with your Amazon Account. …
  • Step 4: Download a Book from Your Cloud. …
  • Step 5: Open the Kindle Books to be Read on PC.

Mani read Silent Heroes last year and shared her impressions on her website concluding with “this review doesn’t do this book any justice, BUT it’s such a great read that I really can’t express how much I enjoyed it. If your looking for a fast paced read I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a definite must read.” (gosh).

Silent Heroes was also featured on Mani’s Best Books of 2019 alongside books by C.J. Tudor, Alex Michaelides, and Cara Hunter. Yay!

On January the opening lines of Silent Heroes were included in her First lines Friday blog post 🙂 YAY! I love that opening paragraph! 🙂 I think is the one I spent the most time revising 🙂 Mani also said on another occasion that it “nearly brought tears” to her eyes when she read Silent Heroes… (Goodness!)

If you are curious to see what the fuss is all abut, I made Silent Heroes FREE, today ONLY. So grab it now from Amazon. Click here. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts 🙂

Thank you for sharing in my joy!

5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime - by Mani @Manisbookcorner
5 Book Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime
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A Boy and his Dog

a boy and his dog poem

The boy broke his run at the entrance to the park and, panting heavily he leaned forward, hands on nobly knees. A trickle of sweat ran down his ripe cheeks; another drop just missed its show, landing in the dirt. The boy watched as his breath stirred the sand at his feet; for an instant, it rolled into tiny balls.

A dog radiating as much heat as the boy, tongue hanging loose, was already there, panting underneath the thick shade on the first tree. The boy’s cheeks were a match for the dog’s exhaustion, hot and red. If one’s shirt was darkened along the middle, at the back, and had dark patches underarms, the other one’s body felt like a well stocked furnace.

“You win again, boy!” the child half croaked, half laughed, stretching to caress his best friend’s head. The fur behind the ears was still soft, like a pups’.

At the water fountain nearby the boy pressed the chrome lever then stepped sideways, allowing his dog to drink first. A red tongue lapped greedily until the dog’s entire head looked like a Christmas tree, a perfect tiny water bauble balancing at the end of each hair. The boy laughed, his lips almost pasted together by the thickness of his saliva. So thirsty! Only when the dog stopped did the boy bent over the cooling spring, yet his eyes remained on the giant fur-ball.

Sparkling and sweet, the water felt like a balm sliding down his burning throat. New life pumped through his body and the boy half closed his eyes, sighing with satisfaction.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his dog using a front paw, then the other, wiping the water droplets off his fur. In his eagerness he seemed to be dancing. The boy burst in laughter and water splashed all over face and his hair. He laughed further as he drank. And the dog sneezed then surrendered to the shade.

a happy dog - poetry by Patricia Furstenberg

A playful breeze was fanning the leaves overhead. Their rustle had accompanied the two since they woke up that morning. Life was a holiday song. The summer seemed to be stretching endlessly, filled with possibilities. They could do anything they wanted, go any place they wished, and at any time – as long as Mother knew and they returned by supper. After all, it was the first day of summer holiday.

In the shade of the big tree there was a boy, a ball, and, of course, a dog.  Quite enough to fill an entire summer with excitement.

The dog’s tail wagged and the boy laughed. Or the boy laughed first, the two were interconnected.

The dog’s eyes followed the boy’s, reading his mind. This was a two way street.

The dog shot up as the boy stepped sideways; the dog’s tail wagged like a helicopter’s blade. The dog’s eyes were focused low, intent on the boy’s foot. The boy’s leg went swinging backwards, then forward, towards the ball. The ball flew off this earth and, at exactly the same time, the dog left the earth too, his body a spring stretching towards the sky. 

Ball and dog chased the sun’s rays further and further away. Only one could win this race and both boy and dog knew which one will that be. The boy squinted as a ray of sun forced its way between the thick foliage above.

The tires screeched like a teacher’s chalk on the blackboard, leaving a question in the air – one you did not study for. The noise was out of place in this holiday with a ball, a boy, and a dog. The boy opened his mouth to call, yet he could not remember what words to use so he chocked on air. His legs were moving like they had a mind on their own, sprinting towards the road. All the boy wished for was to have wings to reach it faster.

There was no movement, just a light shadow against the black tar. And the contrast didn’t made sense, light on dark.

The scorching tar smelled of petroleum with a hinge of burned tires.

The dog, his dog, his best friend, lay under the scorching heat. There is shade under the tree, went through the boy’s mind as he circled the area.

First thing he notices were his friend’s eyes, closed. But the chest was moving! Lifting and dropping in sudden jerks. Yet the tail didn’t move when the boy collapsed nearby, senseless to the rough road scraping his bare knees.

No bleeding because his heart is so strong, thought the boy, his hands hovering over the fur, not daring to touch.

It was the first time ever, in eight months since the two were together, that the dog’s tail didn’t wag at the sound of his master’s footsteps. Only a triangle-shaped nose stretched towards the boy’s hand. It was dry and hot against the boy’s wet fingers. The dog licked them, his tongue raspy.

A trickle of sound reached as far as the boy’s ears.

a dog's paw-print on our hearts

The vet was whispering and his mother was sighing, her eyes red, yet the boy felt no fear of the big words being used: paralytic, quality of life, euthanasia. He knew what he had to do next. He had damaged his dog and somehow he was going to fix him.

All that mattered right now was that his dog was alive. The rest, he’ll figure out, make a plan, like his dad always did. The man with a plan. as his friends called him and always relied on him.

Yes, he’ll make a plan. His dog relied on him.

It’s been an accident, his mother had said. Yet she wouldn’t stop crying, trying to explain to him why his dog, his best friend, had to be put to sleep. Whatever being put to sleep meant.

And why was it that grownups only could decide on behalf of a dog?

Just because his dog couldn’t use his hind legs anymore? Put to sleep? You don’t do that to humans, do you?! You buy them wheels. The mailman had one set with a seat on them and, boy was he fast, delivering newspapers quicker than before his crash. Also a car, an “accident”.

And his grandma had a set of wheels too, with a seat and a frame, for when she went shopping.

People always got things when they got injured.

So he carried his dog home that night, the boy did. He laid him gently on his bed, arranged pillows around so that he won’t roll over and fall, not that his dog could move at all, then he fell asleep in the armchair, next to the bed.

And the next day, while his parents were at work, he carried his dog into the garage, carefully laying him down on a blanket taken from his bed.

He’d broken his dog and now he was going to fix him.

He always thought of his dad’s garage as of Aladdin’s treasure cave. You were sure to find just what you were looking for – if you only dug deep enough.

So he dug and he thought, all the time talking to his dog, like he always used to. Asking him questions, waiting for a bark in reply, acknowledging his dog’s point of view.

At one stage he stopped and listened. He thought he’d heard his dog’s tail thumping, like it always did when… before… So he popped his head from behind a pile of boxes, the shape of a smile on his face.

Nothing. The tail was as still as it’s been since the dire incident.

Yet the dog’s head cocked to one side, question in his eyes. The boy blinked away a tear.

a dog's eyes speak volumes. books by Patricia Furstenberg

“So much dust here, boy, it gets in your eyes, you know.”

He knew his first bicycle was still there, somewhere. Found it underneath a pile of old bags. He carried it slowly to where his dog was laying, for a good sniff all over, especially the training wheels.

“We want these, boy! Good boy!” he exclaimed. The tail didn’t wag, but he knew his dog was excited; he could see it in the bright eyes and the tip of those fury ears pointed at the bicycle.

The training wheels, a couple of old copper pipes, some scraps of cloth to cover them with and a wide piece of leather for a comfy seat lay beside the dog. The boy’s heart thumped, pumped up with hope. He’d planned this all last night.

He’ll build his dog a set of wheels. For his hind body and legs, to support them when they will go for walks and, maybe, even runs again.

The summer was not even half way through, it’s end still far out of sight. The days were long and full of exciting, endless possibilities for a dog on wheels and his boy.

boy dog

~ Somehow, all my books include a dog – or are about dogs! ~
Find them all on Amazon UK, Amazon US, or use this universal Amazon link.

You might also enjoy reading:

Read the opening pages of Silent Heroes

Dogs, Man’s Best Friend, as Illustrated by Art, From Once Upon a Time to the 20th Century

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A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

History Furstenberg

Tracing the history of name Furstenberg I discovered some coins, perhaps part of a treasure found in a castle, as well as porcelain fit for a King residing on a Parisian Street.

First there was the Fürstenberg castle

Fürstenberg Castle was a medieval fortress located on Fürstenberg hill, in Baden-Württemberg region of south-west Germany, near the source of the Danube river.

Fürstenberg Castle -A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
Fürstenberg Castle – A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

The name actually means Prince Mountain, or Prince of the Mountain.

The castle was first mentioned in a deed of 1175. Around 1250 Count Henry of Urach (a land nearby) made it his residence and was the first to call himself a Count of Fürstenberg.

Fürstenberg Castle
Fürstenberg Castle

Sadly, the original castle was devastated during the Thirty Years’ War (at the beginning of the 17th century) and never rebuilt. But the Fürstenberg county and the Fürstenberg clan survived history.

Fürstenberg  county - A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
Fürstenberg county

Over the years, as it often happened with any big family, holdings were partitioned between different branches of the clan, then unified again as family lines went extinct.
One such memorable member was Count Henry VII von Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg mentioned in 1408.

One of the oldest Fürstenberg coins

A Theodore von Furstenberg silver coin from 1614

A Theodore von Furstenberg silver coin from 1614 -A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
A Theodore von Furstenberg silver coin from 1614 – A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

In 1664, Hermann Egon of Fürstenberg-Heiligenberg and his brothers, the bishops Franz Egon of Strasbourg and Cardinal William Egon of Fürstenberg, became Princes of the Holy Roman Empire and the first to be raised to imperial princely status by emperor Leopold I. Therefor Hermann Egon is seen as the founder of the Principality of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg.

Furstenberg coins from 16th and 17th centuries

Minted under Dietrich von Fürstenberg, Bishop of Paderborn, 1585-1618 (left) and under Ferdinand von Fürstenberg, Bishop of Paderborn and Münster, 1661-1683 (right):

A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

In 1716, Count Joseph Wilhelm Ernst becomes (again) Prince of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg (due to various partitions followed by unification of the small counties). It was he who changed his residency to Donaueschingen, a small settlement near the confluence of the Brigach and Breg rivers, the source of the Danube river. There he built a residence fit for a prince, he organized the administration of the county and is seen as the founder of the Principality of Fürstenberg-Fürstenberg.

A Furstenberg-Stuhlingen Taler from 1729

A coin that should not exist in such a fine state.
The obverse: we see the bust of Josef Wilhelm Ernst Furstenberg-Stuhlingen in armored suit. Do notice the fine details: the edge of each curl fully defined, and his facial features easily pronounced. Also, notice the flan (or planchet, the round metal disk that is ready to be struck as a coin): in russets and golden hues just like a painter’s brush strokes.
The reverse: figures at work, with a view of the mines and valley in the background. Do notice the excellent proportions of the details and the 3D perspective created with the use of repoussoir (an object along the right or left foreground that directs the viewer’s eye into the composition by framing the edge).

A Furstenberg-Stuhlingen Taler from 1729
A Furstenberg-Stuhlingen Taler from 1729

The Fürstenberg porcelain

Duke Charles I of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, who reigned as Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel from 1735 until his death, requested that a porcelain factory be built in 1747 in Fürstenberg.

Below is one of the oldest drawing used by Fürstenberg porcelain factory dating from 1760: the castle and the factory, and painted by Pascha Johann Weitsch. The plate is from the Duke Carl I of Brunswick-Wolfenbuettel set.

Furstenberg porcelain factory and a plate from 1741
One of the oldest drawing used by Fürstenberg porcelain factory dating from 1760: the castle and the factory. Source.

It is interesting to know that the Fürstenberg porcelain trademark, the blue “F”, dates since 1740 and the ALT FÜRSTENBERG range is still produced today in its original Rococo style.

The blue 'F' Furstenberg trade mark and Alt Furstenberg porcelain collection, Rococo since 1740
The blue “F” Fürstenberg trademark and the ALT FÜRSTENBERG range, since 1740. Source

Moving on with the history of the Fürstenberg family…

At the end of the 18th century, Prince Joseph Maria Benedikt, the third Prince of the House of Fürstenberg-Stühlingen, is known to have studied at the University of Salzburg and was a passionate musician and a patron of the arts. For this, the Prince upgraded the riding school in Donaueschingen into a 500 seat theater to play the works of great composers of the day. He is also remembered to have regulated the lives of his subjects with moral severity…

In 1766 and age 10, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited the Fürstenberg home in Donaueschingen for twelve days and performed for the Prince, his family, and guests. Both Mozart and his sister received diamond rings as a sign of gratitude for their performance.

Later, Mozart proposed that the Prince of Fürstenberg pay him a regular annual salary in return for new compositions for exclusive use at the court in Donaueschingen. The Prince purchased three symphonies and three piano concertos but, sadly, decided not to pay Mozart the salary the musician hoped for. If only he would have.

Fürstenberg castle - A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
The Fürstenberg castle – A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

The Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin of 1767 worth nearly 40 000 USD

A Josef Wenzel Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin, struck as part of the Mining Taler series featuring St. Wenceslas standing in front of the Wenceslas Mine:

The nearly 40 000 USD worth Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin from 1767
The nearly 40 000 USD worth Furstenberg-Stuhlingen coin from 1767

In November 15, 1772 the Prince of Fürstenberg was contracted to marry Princess Maria Theresa of Thurn and Taxis but it didn’t work out as the princess changed her mind. He married instead Maria Antonia of Hohenzollern-Hechingen in 1778. An alliance that did not work out wither, although they shared a passion for music and she was an “excellent soprano”, courageous, determined and ingenious although unusually small.

Over the centuries members of Fürstenberg family have risen to prominence as soldiers, churchmen, diplomats, and academics. Sometimes the name was gallicized as de Furstenberg or anglicized as Furstenberg. 🙂

The Principality of Fürstenberg was one of 16 principalities dissolved by the treaty of the Rhine In 1806. Most part was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Baden, smaller parts were given to the Kingdom of Württemberg, the principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and the Kingdom of Bavaria.

The Fürstenberg noble title was retired.

The Fürstenberg family no longer rules as princes, yet it still resides at Donaueschingen (with its gardens, grounds and an extensive library), at Heiligenberg and Weitra.

And a Furstenberg street in chic Paris

Rue de Furstemberg is located in one of the most charming squares in Paris.

Rue de Furstemberg is one of the most charming squares in Paris. A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
Rue de Furstemberg named after Cardinal Guillaume-Egon de Fürstenberg – A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

The street was named after Cardinal Guillaume-Egon de Fürstenberg (1629-1704), ordained Abbot of Saint-Germain-des -Prés in 1697. He was the same Guillaume-Egon which, in 1664 and together with his brothers Hermann Egon of Fürstenberg-Heiligenberg and bishop Franz Egon of Strasbourg, were raised to the status of Princes of the Holy Roman Empire by emperor Leopold I.

Rue de Furstemberg, Paris - view of the Abbatial Palace. A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street
Rue de Furstemberg – Place de Furstemberg. The circular island in the middle of the square is framed by four Paulownia trees. A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

Place de Furstenberg or Rue de Furstemberg is in the heart of the wealthy 6th arrondissement, tucked between the web of streets found between the left bank of the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain.

The square is the foreground to the entrance of the Abbatial Palace constructed in 1586 by Cardinal Charles I de Bourbon and named after the Cardinal Guillaume-Egon de Furstenberg.

Notice below Rue de Cardinal perpendicularly to Rue de Furstenberg?

Rue de Furstemberg, 75006 Paris, France

The surrounding buildings here are placed around a central island and form a charming courtyard. Noticeable here is the Haussmannian architecture that defines Paris, a subtle hint of the romantic and traditional Parisian charm.

A hotspot for intellectuals and artists, Rue de Furstenberg is also famous for having been home to Eugène Delacroix who moved there to be nearer to the Eglise Saint-Sulpice which he had been commissioned to decorate.

Furstenberg, the History of a Name: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street

Not any know, but an unfinished Medieval statue of the Virgin with Child was reassembled from three pieces of rock discovered in an archeological dig on the Rue de Furstenberg in 1999. The Statue can be admired in the Church of Saint-Germain des Prés nearby, the oldest church in Paris.

An unfinished statue of the Virgin with Child discovered on Rue de Furstenberg, Paris
An unfinished 13th century statue of the Virgin with Child discovered on Rue de Furstenberg, Paris

Discovering the history behind a family name is a fascinating journey, one I hope you enjoyed taking with me. Thank you for reading ‘A History of Furstenberg: Coins, a Castle, Porcelain, and a Street.’ Until next time.

As always, you can discover my book on Amazon or Loot (if you reside in South Africa).

Patrici Furstenberg on Amazon
Loot
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To Marvel at the Medieval Towers of Sighisoara Fortress

marvel medieval towers Sighisoara

Let’s further our historical journey and marvel at the medieval towers and walls of Upper City Sighisoara, the fortress, Vlad the Impaler‘s birth place. If we walk clockwise around the citadel’s defense wall or rampant, still 14 meters in height in some places, we’ll admire, in this order:

Sighisoara fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress. Tanners Tower

The Tanners’ Tower is one of the oldest, original towers dating back to the 13th – 14th centuries as it suggest its position too, retracted behind the wall. Its roof, slanted towards the inside of the fortress, suggests the same. It was built to guard and protect the courtyard of the Clock Tower nearby.

 Tanners' Tower Sighisoara, 13th - 14th century. marvel medieval towers fortress
Tanners Tower, Turnul Tabacarilor

The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion. At 25 m of height it has a specific shape: square at the base (the original foundation), then becomes pentagonal (probably late 15th century), and it ends octagonal at the top, while the roof has a hexagonal plan. It had one of the strongest defense systems of the Sighisoara fortress. One can still see the traces that Hungarian bullets left during the last siege, that of 1704.

The Tinsmiths' Tower & bastion, Sighisoara. Turnul Cositorilor. marvel medieval towers fortress
The Tinsmiths’ Tower & bastion with Riflemen’s Gallery – Turnul Cositorilor

Do you see the Rifle-men’s Gallery, adjacent to the Tinsmiths’ Tower – left side? It has a unique architecture in the Sighisoara fortress.

The Rope-makers Tower is high up on the hill and today houses the cemetery guard. But 200 years ago, the first family allowed to make a home here had to sound the church bells three times a day, at 7 am, at noon and 7 pm, and look after the cemetery.

Rope-makers Tower - Turnul Franghierilor
Rope-makers Tower – Turnul Franghierilor

The original fortress’ wall between the Rope-makers Tower and the Butchers’ Tower still stands. The Butchers’ Tower has a bastion as well and it dates from the 15th century. Initially, it was an octagonal prism, but during the 16th century, it was rebuilt on a hexagonal floor plan and raised to make it easier to defend the west side of the Citadel. For this reason alone, the Butcher’s Tower was armed with five arquebuses (a lighter type of musket and one of the first hand-guns with a trigger), and at least one cannon (as the cannonballs and gunpowder discovered here attest).

The Butchers' Tower. Medieval Sighsoara - Turnul Macelarilor
Butcher’s Tower – Turnul Macelarilor

Did you know that it was the Romans who discovered that towers made it easier to defend a walled fortress? Towers made it easy to give covering fire for the walls during an attack.

The Butchers’ Tower and the Furriers’ Tower saw many sheep a-counting while guarding the Törle gate in between. It was through here that each evening the shepherds returned with their flock from the pastures and proceed to count and separate the sheep. Of course, they would have had at least one dog to help them round the flock, to head them off or hold them up just by standing in the road, blocking the sheep’s way, and barking, to remind the woolly beasts who’s the boss.

The plain, square floor plan of the Furriers’ Tower dates its construction back to the 14th century, although it was rebuilt various times, latest at the end of the 17th century. Worth noticing are the narrow window-slits on the top, fourth level for dousing invaders with hot liquids. Over the centuries, fighters armed with spears, halebards, arquebuses, and even a small cannon manned this tower.

the Furriers' Tower, medieval Sighisoara, 14th century - Turnul Cojocarilor
The Furrier’s Tower, Sighisoara – walking into the fortress – Turnul Cojocarilor

The Weavers’ Tower was located between the Furriers’ Tower and the Tailors’ Tower. The Weavers’ Tower was demolished in the mid-19th century together with the fortress wall stretching between the Furriers’ Tower all the way to the Shoemakers’ Tower.

The Tailors’ Tower is a massive baroque-style construction, first mentioned in 1521. Located opposite the Clock Tower it marks the second entrance in Sighisoara fortress. Nowadays is the only access way for cars. It was rebuilt after the big fire of 1676 and today it looks like this:

Journey in medieval city sighisoara. Tailors' Tower, medieval Sighisoara - Turnul Croitorilor
Tailors’ Tower – Turnul Croitorilor – source

Look at the two passageways. They do suggest a 12th – 14th century construction and so are the two ancient porticullis, the metal latticed gates, that lock by sliding vertically to fortify the access way into the fortress.

As mentioned, this tower went up in flames taking with it the adjacent corridor where there was a storage area for projectiles and gunpowder apart from grains and halbards.

The Shoemakers’ Tower, standing since 1522, is quite a spectacular view, proving once again that the strength of a guild lies in its demand. Reconstructed after the fire of 1676 (when it exploded due to the large amount of gunpowder stored inside), it picked up the baroque architectonic influences of the late 17th century.

Shoemakers' Tower Sighisoara plaque - Turnul Cizmarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
“Shoemakers’ Tower – although it dates from older times, it gained the shape you see today in 1681.” – Turnul Cizmarilor

This was my favorite tower! Do notice the small observation tower (lookout turret if you wish) on the roof visible in the picture below (there are two such towers), and the large windows, so not in the style of the Middle Ages.

Shoemaker's Tower - street entrance - marvel medieval towers fortress
Shoemaker’s Tower – the back entrance

These windows are post World War Two when, for a spell, the tower was turned into a depository of archival documents. The outside wooden staircase is very recent, since 2001.
Today it houses a local radio station.

Shoemakers Tower - roof. Medieval Sighisoara
Note the slanted roof to fend off piling of snow during heavy snowfalls
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara - new, wooden staircase
Shoemakers Tower, Sighisoara – the new addition, a wooden staircase

And if you climb the stairs you’re treated to a colorful view:

Shoemaker's Tower view on Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
A charming view from the balcony

One last look up the Shoemakers’ Tower before we move on, certainly a sight to marvel at as not every day we get to see such medieval towers and Sighisoara fortress is a place far away for many tourists.

Shoemaker's Tower - looking up. marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Shoemaker’s Tower, Sighisoara Fortress

The Locksmiths’ Tower and bastion nearby were part of the main defensive system. This area has seen an explosive history: blown up during a siege in 1706, hit by lightning and burned down in 1809, demolished at the end of the 19th century, making way for the construction of the present Church.

The Ironsmiths’ Tower is a massive tower built in 1631 to protect the fortress and the nearby Monastery Church.

Monastery Church, Sighisoara Fortress - marvel medieval towers fortress
As we spied on the Monastery Church, nestled in the medieval Sighisoara fortress

The tower we see today dates from 1631, raised on top of the Barber’s Tower and rebuilt after the big fire of 1676. At the end of the 19th century it was repurposed as a fire-station. Medieval elements worth noticing are the consoles at the top, protecting the windows, and the machicolations (the floor openings between the corbels, the stones jutting from the wall at the top), and the slits and holes.

marveling medieval towers sighisoara / Ironsmiths' Tower, Turnul Fierarilor
Ironsmiths’ Tower as we saw it, Turnul Fierarilor

And looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress:

Ironsmiths Tower medieval Sighisoara  - Turnul Fierarilor - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking up at Ironsmiths’ Tower from the pathway surrounding the fortress

Looking back – and suddenly it doesn’t look that massive, does it? Perhaps that’s why many attackers thought that they might take it on.

A snow covered path outside the walls of Medieval Sighisoara - marvel medieval towers fortress
Looking at the past…

And with one last look over our shoulder, thinking of its medieval atmosphere, with medieval horns, dark staircases and eerie views, we marvel one last time and bid farewell to the medieval towers of Sighisoara fortress and a snowy winter.

Remember to visit more medieval castles of Romania: Corvin Castle or discover if, without Mircea the Elder, we would have even had a Vlad the Impaler.

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Medieval Sighisoara and the House where Vlad the Impaler was Born

medieval Sighisoara, House where Vlas the Impaler was born

What turns a house into a home? Is it the light that peeks inside through its windows? The scents rising from the kitchen? Or is it the people, the mingle of generations, of shared laughter and tears?
While we visited the house where Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Tepes, was born, I asked myself: what was the light like inside? What street noises reached every morning to little Vlad’s room and woke him up? What childhood memories he kept locked in his heart that reminded him of his mother and home – while imprisoned by the Turks? Or when he was fighting them, surrounded by the sights and the stench of war?

Imagining the medieval Sighisoara fortress at the time Vlad Tepes was born

Imagine 164 houses and thirteen public buildings up on a hill, within the protective walls of a fortress. Tall or short, stone or wood, depending on the wealth of their owners, the houses have one floor, some two. But not more.

Sighisoara - narrow streets stone paved.
Sighisoara – narrow streets stone paved.

Well worth looking up, their roofs have sharp slopes to reduce the weight of the snow in winter, as well as a small window acting as a watchtower, for protection. One can see far away from the tiny, dark attic as well as keep an eye on whoever approaches the house. Friend or foe?

Sighisoara - slanted roof and a peep-window
Sighisoara – slanted roof and a peep-window

The doors are narrow and so are the windows – functionality and safety are paramount. If the house has an extra floor, then the inner stairway is narrow and most probably dark.
The homes are built close together, often sharing a wall, making for narrow, dark streets and passageways. Comfort, as we know it and understand it today, meant a shelter overhead and safe, strong walls during the Middle Ages.
Yet shiny stones pave the streets and there are gutters too, aiding to the drainage of rain-water, melted snow, and – how else – the household’s gray water.

Sighisoara - typical house

The city has only eight wells for drinking water, not enough for the increasing number of inhabitants or siege or fire hazard situations. But it is fresh, clean water, and it is almost enough for their families’ usage during peaceful days, when they can also up the supply from the river.

Let’s meet little Vlad, his family and the house where Vlad the Impaler was born.

The house where Vlad Tepes was born

As you leave the Clock Tower behind, just ahead and on your left, on the corner of Cositorilor Street (Tin-makers Street) stands a tall terracotta house with clean lines. Today it rises with two levels above the ground floor plus a dark attic. You will want to have a good look at it as, although not supported by plenty of historical documents but letters signed by Vlad II and written from Sighisoara , so not impossible, it is the house where Vlad Tepes was born, also known as House Paulinus after its 18th-century owner.

The house where Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler was born - A house like any other.
A house like any other.

But when it was just built in the vicinity of the Clock Tower, out of river stones and with only one level, this house belonged to the guards protecting the main entrance into the fortress.

Vlad’s family was well-off, his father, Vlad II, a first-class member of the Order of the Dragon and lawful prince of Wallachia but without a kingdom at this stage. They settled in Sighisoara and rented guestrooms in a house of stone, awaiting the right moment to raise an army of trusted boyars and reclaim his land.

This is the house, the oldest one in the fortress and still standing because it was built of stones thus withstanding the big fire of 1676. The round vault on the ground floor is the original one, constructed with the stones picked from the nearby rivers, Tarnava Mare especially. Its second floor rose much later, during the 18th century.

The round vault on the ground floor in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born
The round vault on the ground floor in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born

It appears that in the basement of this house there was a coin mint at that time – when the coinage was only the monopoly of the Hungarian Kings ruling the Kingdom of Hungary. This is another proof of Sigismund’s trust and respect towards Vlad Dracul II as Vlad II minted his own silver ducats, the “new ducat”. He did this in preparation for his expected ruling. These coins were first used in Transylvania, then in Wallachia too (yay!). They had the eagle on the head side and a winged dragon on the coin’s tail.

Vlad II Dracul ('the Dragon') coin, struck circa 1445-1446. Eagle standing, head right; cross above / Dragon advancing to the left, its wings spread
Vlad II Dracul (‘the Dragon’) coin, struck circa 1445-1446. Eagle standing left, head towards the right; cross above / Dragon advancing to the left, its wings are spread. Source

It was now, during the time Vlad Dracul II spent in exile in Sighisoara preparing for his rule over Wallachia, that the Romanian name of the fortress appears in writing for the first time. Double yay!

Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 (or some sources state 1429), the middle son of Vlad Dracul II, Prince of Wallachia and son of Mircea cel Batran (Mircea the Eldest) from the Basarab Dynasty. King Sigismund of Luxembourg held Vlad Dracul II in high regard, awarding him, as mentioned before, the Order of the Dragon on the 8th of February 1431 in Nuremberg, for ultimate services in the gruesome fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Dragon order insignia
Dragon order insignia

The Order of the Dragon (Societas Draconistarum, Society of the Dragonists) was a monarchical chivalry order awarded only to selected members of the nobility. Founded in 1408 by the Hungarian King Sigismund von Luxembourg (later Holy Roman Emperor), it was similar to the military orders of the Crusades. Its members were expected to defend Christianity against all enemies, especially the Ottoman Empire.

The Order of the Dragon on a medieval sleigh
The Order of the Dragon on a sleigh

I liked the dragon featured on the sign above the door, I thought it is a great reference to the Order of the Dragon.

a dragon on the house where Vlad Tepes, Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler was born

The symbol of the Order was a dragon with the tip of its tail coiled around his neck and a red cross on his back, the Red Cross of Saint George.

Calling him Vlad Dracul, correct or not?

Before 1475 Vlad III signed his name simply Vlad. But from 1475, before his third ruling as Prince of Wallachia, he signs as Ladislaus Dragwlya (or Dragkwlya, Drakulya) which appears on his seal too.

Hence Vlad the Impaler’s nickname Dracul (and identical with the Romanian word for devil) or Draculea, his ancestors named Draculesti, from dragon, or Drachen in German.

Vlad’s mother was also of Romanian royal blood, Chiajna Musatin, a Moldavian Princess and the eldest daughter of Alexandru cel Bun as well as aunt of Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great), of the Musatin Dynasty.

So, Vlad Tepes and his parents hopefully lived in Sighisoara until 1436. Just imagine, young Vlad might have used one of these cups to drink fresh milk.

medieval ceramics found in the house of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul
Medieval ceramics found in the house of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul

Vlad would have been five or seven years old when his parents moved to Targoviste when his father took over Wallachia (the principality located south of Transylvania) and was – finally – crowned the rightful Prince of Wallachia.

In the middle of the 20th century, a hidden mural was discovered in the house where Vlad the Impaler was born, that of a man resembling his father, Vlad II.

Comparing Vlad II with Vlad III, Tepes, the Impaler. Notice similarities.

A Sad Reality

Without saying too much, here are some pictures from the upper level of Vlad’s house as it looked when we visited. No skulls here, just misunderstood advertisement.

inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside house Vlad Impaler born
inside the house where Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul, Dracula was born

A Secret Entrance into Vlad the Impaler’s House

Most tourists are familiar with the front entrance of the house where Vlad the Impaler was born.

house Vlad Impaler born

Yet if you play “what if” and follow the narrow street on the left, walking underneath the arch connecting the two buildings and feeling tiny compared to their height…

house Vlad Impaler born

You will soon discover the back entrance, through a small, walled yard:

house Vlad Impaler born

We took this way in.

The back entrance in the house where Vlad the Impaler Vlad Dracul, was born
The back entrance in the house where Vlad the Impaler Vlad Dracul, was born

Sighisoara City: Coat of Arms and blazon symbology

Sighisoara’s coat of arms is so fitting for its rich medieval ancestry. It depicts a rampant golden lion and a silver fortress with three towers on a red shield topped with a silver crown with five crenelated towers.
The lion, facing right, dexter (with respect to the person carrying the shield), wears a gold crown, his tongue sticks out and holds a gold sword.

Sighisoara's coat of arms today
Sighisoara’s coat of arms today

The fortress on the shield symbolizes the medieval Sighisoara and its crucial economical and military strengths as well as the cultural and religious roles it played. The lion, through the way it is depicted on the shield, symbolizes the judicial autonomy Sighisoara held, having the right to decree the death penalty, the right of the sword, jus gladii. The lion also symbolizes strength, generosity, and beauty.
The crown shows that today, Sighisoara is a municipality.
It is worth noticing that the lion’s hind legs are apart, symbolizing stability.

Medieval Sighisoara has much more to reveal besides the house where Vlad the Impaler was born, with its history and secrets.

Moving on from it, our eyes fell upon a beautiful building with clean lines and… a pair of horns.

We’ll open the door to this story next time.

Sighisoara, a medieval door

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