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Union Square: Timisoara's Treasure

Sunset light on the cascade of a baroque-era church
St. George's Cathedral, Union Square, Timisoara, Romania

Ornate interior of a Baroque-era church
St. George's Cathedral, Timisoara, Romania

There are many places I can return to again and again and enjoy each time. Here in Timișoara, that place is Union Square, a visual feast of showy buildings, relaxed sidewalk cafes, and children playing.

When Corie and I first arrived in Timișoara after a long day of travel from Tbilisi with our two cats and ten suitcases, we were sleep deprived and exhausted. But that didn’t stop us from exploring our new city. We walked through Victory and Freedom squares, which I introduced you to in previous newsletters. It seemed too much to take in, and I snapped photos as if I wouldn’t have another chance.

Then we arrived at Union Square. I was speechless.

Nowhere, in my opinion, does the city’s history come together so elegantly than the square’s tapestry of classical, baroque, and art nouveau architectural styles.

The first building likely to catch any visitor’s eye is the square’s St. George Cathedral, a structure whose grace and harmony are like a Vivaldi concerto. Built between 1736 and 1773, the church today holds services in Romanian, Hungarian and German in its airy nave surrounded by magnificent bronze and stone sculptures, paintings and crystal chandeliers.

While the cathedral reflects a resurgence of the Roman Catholic church in the region following the Austro-Turkish war in the early 1700s, the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral and Episcopate on the opposite side of the square reflects a different chapter in the city’s history in the late 1800s, when the Romanian Orthodox Church was ruled by Serbian bishops headquartered in Timișoara before the 1865 independence of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Carved wood doorway surrounded by ornate plasterwork
Doorway, Serbian Orthodox Episcopal Palace, Timisoara, Romania

Like St. George, the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral’s elegant interior is a rich display of exceptional craftsmanship. On our first-day stroll through the square, Corie and I visited the church during vespers, a sunset observance marking the beginning of a new liturgical day. The priest’s baritone voice soared through the nave, echoing throughout the hand-painted ceiling and walls. Next to the church, the Serbian Episcopate, a building decorated with symbolic plasterwork, serves as the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Episcopate in Timișoara.

On a sunny afternoon three weeks ago, Corie and I took some time to visit the Timișoara National Museum of Art on Union Square housed in a stately 1754 building that served as a governor’s palace. Representing a range of artworks from throughout the area’s history, the museum had one more surprise for Corie and me. We opened the door to a dim ballroom, lit only by rays of daylight through the shutters. One of the docents happily turned on the chandeliers for us, revealing a refined room, painted in dark maroon, gold and forest green baroque patterns.

While I will happily visit Union Square any time of the day, my favorite time is in the evening when one can find a seat under the giant shade umbrellas of the sidewalk cafes and restaurants circling the square. It’s the perfect time to sip a glass of wine, ignore time, and people watch. The square transforms at sunset, bathed in golden light, highlighting the grandness of the architecture.  

a blurred couple walking in front of 18th-century facades
Union Square, Timisoara, Romania


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