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Origin and history

There has always been a strong connection between the Breite plateau and the town of Sighişoara, as Breite traditionally provided locals a place to graze their herds, the wood necessary for building, as well as a leisure and relaxation space.

Over the past 50 years however, the plateau has been subject to destructive human interference: plans were made to build an airport, oak wood was extracted and shipped to the Soviet Uninon, oak trunks and roots were blown up and steps were taken to turn the plateau into an agricultural area for growing grain.

Nowadays the valuable natural heritage of the Reserve is acknowledged at national and international level. To ensure its protection, the custody of the plateau was entrusted to the Mihai Eminescu Trust and the Local Council of Sighişoara over the period 2006 – 2010. Since 2010 the custody of the Reserve was transferred to Progresul Silvic, which administrates the two Natura 2000 sites that include the Breite plateau: SCI Sighisoara – Tarnava Mare and SPA Podisul Hartibaciului.

The reports about Breite are dated long before the foundation of the town of Sighisoara, as silver coins from the Roman times were discovered close to the the plateau, on the Kulterberg Hill. In 1860 the craftsman J. Roth, a citizen of Sighişoara, found on Breite a roman silver coin. This prompted Karl Fabritus, professor at the School on the Hill, to undertake archaeological research in the area. Excavations in 1862 revealed 114 silver denari dated from the republic period and from the Roman Empire period, indicating a family necropolis or a treasure hidden here in times of trouble. However, the lack of calcined bones questions the assumption of a cemetery.

Nonetheless, in the years 1960-1970 an important cemetery was discovered at Pârâul Hotarului situated downhill from Breite and delineating the town of Sighişoara and Şaeş village. 45 cremation graves dated from the 2nd – 3rd century AD were discovered. We ask ourselves is whether the plateau existed before the arrival of the Saxons and the foundation of Sighişoara in the 13th century. In the absence of reliable data, the German terminology of the word “Breite” may give us an indication. Its meaning is “width”, “breadth”, “wideness”, indicating the presence of a large, open area in those times.

The presence of a grazing area belonging to the Town Hall of Sighişoara is indirectly attested by a document from the State Archives in Braşov, issued by the chancellery of Stephen Bathory, King of Poland and Prince of Transylvania. Upon the request of the Saxons from the Seven Seats (Orăştie, Sebeş, Sibiu, Sighişoara, Rupea, Miercurea and Cincu), Stephen Bathory prohibited the inhabitants of Odorhei and Făgăraş citadels to graze with "magnus ovium et porcum" the lands and forests belonging to the Seven Seats without the consent of the local authorities.

The use in constructions of oak wood from the richly forested areas of the plateau is attested in the modern era, when the newspapers of Sighişoara announced a public sale organized by the town magistrate in 1872 for oak and beech wood from the Kahlen Breite. The history of the plateau makes a turn in the modern era, when impressive festivities start being organized here in late spring or early summer.

The warm season began with a celebration that animated the whole town: Skopationsfest. It was a spring celebration held annually by the schools. “Skopation” is derived from the Latin term “scopa” meaning broom or twig. At its beginnings, Skopationsfest was a medieval tradition according which every spring students brought twigs to school and made brooms for cleaning the town. Although celebrated in May, this festival was in no way linked with the modern celebration of May 1st. It is not known when this festival started being held on the Breite, but the first news in this respect are provided to us by the German press in 1866. That year, the newspaper Kronstadter Zeitung from Braşov reported that the School on the Hill introduced gymnastic courses in its curriculum, under the influence of the sport games organized on the Breite during Skopationsfest. 

Kokler Groβ-Bote, No. 1063, Schäßburg, May 14, 1899, announced: "Skopationsfest. As we learned, the Evangelical School will organize their May festival on the Breite, Tuesday 16th or 17th of this month. This May festival was not specific only to the Evangelical Schools and to the German population. Both the Romanian and Hungarian communities of Sighişoara organized similar events through their confessional schools (Majafest or Maifest).

In 1900 the Romanian old-style celebration of Pentecost was organized on the Breite: “Romanian Majalis. On the 11th of this month, on the second day of old-style Pentecost, the Romanian School and Community held their annual forest celebration on the Breite. The beautiful orderly procession walked from the Greek-Orthodox School over the Markplatz up to the green forest, accompanied by music and VIVAT ovations.” (Groβ-Kokler Bote, No. 1122, Schässburg, June 22, 1900). After 1920, the festival will be linked to the celebration of May 10, considered to be the National Day of the Romanian Kingdom. Mayor Aurel Mosora shows in his activity report from 1937 that “Dumbrava” (the Romanian toponym of Breite) was considered a beautiful promenade place.

In the 20th century, Skopationsfest was organized until 1939, with a four-year pause during World War I (1914-1918). World War II and its aftermath caused the interruption of this tradition, despite an attempt made in 1947 to reinstate the festival.

After 1950, the history of the Breite plateau and of Romania in general takes a darker turn. The Communist government prohibited the organization of this festival and the plateau was proposed, according to contemporary testimonies, as a location for a future airport or for an agricultural exploitation. Some oaks were cut down and shipped to the Soviet Union, while others were blown up to create a grain plantation. In the early 1980's, an ammunition depot of the Romanian army was built on the plateau. In November 2001, the plateau was proposed as a location for the Dracula Park project, but at the intervention of UNESCO the park was relocated. 

Author: Nicolae Teşculă, History Museum of Sighişoara

Custozi                                                                                                              Finanţatori

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