The Hecht House was the home of a great medieval merchant. It is neither the most beautiful, nor the largest and oldest one in Sibiu. But its metamorphoses and the line of former owners shape the story of the rise of the Transylvanian Saxons.
A walk through Hermannstadt (Sibiu) is a trip through both space – the charming labyrinth of narrow streets, communicating courtyards, stone pavements with drains – and time – in a medieval workshop-town, shackled by hundreds of internal regulations. As a foreigner lost in this colorful stone honeycomb crisscrossed by little cobbled streets, I’m looking for the house at no. 8, Piata Mare – the Great Square.
Hecht House used to be the home of a great medieval trader. It may not be the most beautiful, the biggest or the oldest in Sibiu. But its metamorphoses and the line of former owners tell the tale of the Saxon ascension.
From Elisabethgasse I turn into Brutarilor Street – the Bakers’ street, where women used to carry the baskets of leavened dough to the baker’s. I pass the Potters’ street and get to the Leather Dressers’ street. The craftsmen who had workshops here would sell their goods on Tuesdays and Fridays in the Small Square. On the Dyers’ street (a continuation of the Leather Dressers’ street) there used to be a small stream feeding the craftsmen’s workshops. Near the Dyeing workshop, the Leather Dressers’ Tower was once painted red.
The corner of Wine Street and Tower Street was the place of the Wine Fair, where Sibiu townsmen would bring their cattle to graze during sieges. In the Huet Square, I circle around the Evangelical church, then enter the upper part of town through an alleyway which used to belong to the shoemakers’ guild. The Great Square was where fairs, festivities, trials and executions used to be held – and also where the town’s rich men lived.
Among them, three foreigners – Oswald Wenzel, Nikolaus de Wagio and Christophorus Italicus of Florence – were commissioned to manage the Hermannstadt Mint in 1456. Their company also obtained rights on the gold and silver mined in Transylvania. No. 9 was the house of Oswald Wenzel, mayor in the 1450s, originally from Bohemia. Next door – Nikolaus de Wagio, a second-generation Sibiu townsman. His father, Italian banker Matthäus Baldi, came to live in Sibiu in the last quarter of the 15th century, managing salt mining in Ocna Sibiului, and administrating the Mint in Sibiu. He had houses in the towns of Abrud and Aiud and, since 1408, this residence in the Great Square.
His closest neighbor was Mint chief Markus, whose house at no. 8 was probably purchased around 1443 by the other member of the trio, Christophorus Italicus of Florence. In the following years, the tide of business took Christophorus to Cluj and then Baia Mare. His son, Paulus Italicus, now owner of the house at no. 8, sold it for 1,000 guilders, on the 1st of June 1472, to Georg Hecht, licensee of the mining exploitation in Baia de Aries and of the Sibiu Mint, owner of all customs points in Transylvania for the trade with Moldova and Walachia.
How had Sibiu come to be such a cosmopolitan place, attracting entrepreneurs from everywhere to make excellent business in Transylvania?
This was an excerpt from The Rise and fall of Saxon Transylvania. You can download the book from the link below: