UPPER JIU COUNTRY
In Gorj county, the history sources mention the first evidence of life and living as soon as Paleolitical and Neolitical Era, as proven by the discoveries from Danciulesti, Baia de Fier, Curteana, Sacelu, Targu Carbunesti, Urdari, Schela, Balesti, Crasna, Vladimir, Runcu, Telesti.
The fortresses or settlements from Polovragi, Ticleni, Stoina, Capreni or Vart are proof of powerful Dacian military, political, economical and cultural centers.
The military resistance bases from Bumbesti Jiu, Catunele, Sacelu, as well as the civil settlements from Targu Jiu and Vart test both the presence of Romans s well as the merge between them and the local Dacian population and the continuity of living on these grounds over time.
One of the first Romanian feudal formations – Litua Country, ruled by Lord Litovoi and whose authonomy and independence is recognised on June 2nd 1247 in the Ioanit Knights Diploma – was formed of most part of today`s Gorj. It is also here that the first Romanian lords, the Basarabs, have started building a string of monasteries – Tismana, Visina, Polovragi, Crasna – as bastions of orthodox faith, but also as cultural centers of that time.
The first major territorial – administrative formation atested in official papers on the actual territory was Jales County (October 3rd 1385), at the same date being recorded the settlements Tismana and Dabacesti (possible Runcu commune today). After Jales, Motru (1415), Jiu (1428) and Gilort (1502) counties followed.
Under the name of Gorjiu (from the Slavone words Gora – mountain or up and Jil, Jiu meaning Upper/Mounain Jiu) is mentioned for the first time on July 29th 1497 in a paper of Lord Radu the Great.
The written documents certify the existence of most Gorj settlements as late as the XIVth century, but their presence in the same place is much older.
The various types of lanscape, the rich hydrography, the plant and animal kingdoms, the relatively mellow climate have all allowed the development of stable communities with an easy access to resources.
An unmistakable trait of the area was the mutual need bete=ween the Gorj people and their settlement, the village, derived from its earthling quality (free peasant, owner without appeal of a piece of land inherited from the ancesters). Official statistics certify that in Gorj, three quarters of the villages have had this characteristic from ancient times until mid XXth century.
Often used as a conflict area by the Ottoman, Tar and Austrian Empires, Grj has known the hardships of time. Because of this, the mountains, the meadows and the forest have all been to its inhabitants both shelter and shield. It is for the same reason maybe that the main feeling of Gorj people was that of defending, many times even with the price of their lives, of the land that fed them in times of peace and sheltered them during hardships. This, we think, is the foundation of Litovoi`s supreme sacrifice, those of Tudor Vladimirescu, Ecaterina Teodoroiu, of thousands of young men fallen in the wars of the last centuries – Gorj actually has the largest number of heroes in relation to its population, as well as the largest number of generals and officers that have dedicated their lives to freedom and independence for their country.
In their memory, hundreds of Heroes Monuments stand tall in the villages of Gorj like eternal sentinels of this land.
To the same heroes, in a singular spiritual gesture, Cosntantin Brancusi from Hbita dedicated a grand artistic homage: the sculptural ensemble from Targu Jiu. His masterpieces, Table of Silence, Kissing Gate and Infinity Column are located in Targu Jiu, sprea across 800 meters, from West to East, from the Jiu river banks in the Central Park of the city.
THE PEOPLE OF GORJ
Withdrew to the hills, valleys or in the forests, at the foot of the mountain, the people of Gorj have created throughout the centuries a special culture, in which mythology, folclore, customs, tradition and law of the land.
The presence of free people communities in an overwhelmin percentage of over 70% of the total villages of the county, up until the end of the XIXth century has put its print on the values that the inhabitants of Gorj respect to this day.
The patriotic calling and heroes cult are found in the art monuments that stand as symbols of Targu Jiu: statue of Tudor Vladimirescu, Ecaterina Teodoroiu monument, Brancusi`s Ensemble, the later being a refined and phylosophic vision over the popular belief in the immortal destiny of the Hero.
The religious calling which is expressed from earlier eras, at the same time as building the first Romanian monasteries at Tismana and Visina, as places of spiritual refuge, but also development of a scholar tradition is completed by numerous wooden churches, comparable as number to those in Maramures or the Apuseni Mountains, mostly dating from the XVII-XVIII centuries.
The most representative monk settlements are close to Lainici and Visina monasteries, situated in Jiu gorges, Tismana and Polovragi monasteries and Crasna and Camaraseasca monasteries situated in Targu arbunesti town.
The benefactor vocation – which is seen in numerous unwritten documents of the local communities: churches, boundaries stones, wells and trees planted in isolated places, stone crosses, institutions, projects, cultural movements and actions, artistic symbols, etc. There were founded or created institutions, associations and activities that echoed nationally afterwards, being used in other areas also: first county history museum in the country, cultural movements and cooperative movement in the villages, started in Gorj and spread throughout the country. Amicul Tinerimii (October 10th 1895), first school magazine in the Reign, Ram, first village publisher in Romania, Antonie Mogos from Balesti`s house, the carpets workshop of Arethia Tatarescu – the first and most important national initiative to give back the popular art to its rightful owners, etc.
Throughut time, the inhabitant of Gorj has imposed certain models to the colelctive memory, by transforming them into legends, mythology, achetype. The personalities that marked the culture and hiistory of Gorj are grouped in a few type of categories:
• the hero with a tragic destiny, of a martyr, who sacrifices himself for great ideas: Litovoi, Tudor Vladimirescu, Ecaterina Teodoroiu;
• the monk with great influence in the era, but with mystical gifts also: Cuviosul Nicodim from Tismana, the founder of monk life in Romania and Cuviosul Irodion from Lainici – both joined the romanian orthodox saints calendar;
• the knight: Barbat, Litovoi`s brother; Buzeşti brothers; Rudeni; Bengeşti; Brăiloi, Părăieni;
• the scholar, teacher, enlighter: from Gheorghe the Scholar to Iuliu Moisil, Ion Haiducescu, Lazăr Arjoceanu, Ion D. Isac, Alexandru Ştefulescu;
• the phylanthropist and benefactor: noblemen that built, decorated and gave away churches to the villages of Gorj, along with land to serve them;
• the civiliser and visionary: Dincă Schileru; Vasile Lascăr, Dimitrie Brezulescu – builder of modern Novaci; Gh. Dumitrescu-Bumbeşti, Gh. Tătărăscu;
• the promoter and protecter of culture and art: Constantin Stanciovici-Brănişteanu, Francisc Milescu, Constantin Săvoiu, Ştefan Bobancu, Nicolae Hasnaş, Arethia Tătărescu;
• the creator of paradigm in art and culture: Aristizza Romanescu, Elvira Godeanu and Horaţiu Mălăele – in theater, Elena Theodorini – in music, Constantin Brâncuşi – in sculpture, Constantin Brăiloiu – in ethnomusicology, Maria Lătăreţu – in popular music, George Uscătescu – in culture philosophy; Tudor Arghezi – in literature; Pompiliu Marcea – literary history; Gh. Vlăduţescu – in philosophy.
Descendant worthy of ancient Dacs but also of roman legionaries settled here, the Gorj inhabitant preserved a mentality of conqueror and innovator in spirit, giving the country and the entire world, without other that his soul, the cultural heritage given to him by God.
This knowledge of the first values of the world accomplished by the Gorj inhabitant through the su of all his belifs named Brancusi is the very reason that, a local person or one who comes from far away, anyone who travels through Gorj is alwasy in „Brancusi`s Homeland”.
Also, referring to te population between Motru and Oltet Polovragi, the great Romanian poet Tudor Arghezi, born in Gorj Carbunesti, concluded:
„The inhabitant of Gorj, compared to other Romanians by counties, has a bit of aristocracy. He has his own wway of speaking, acting, thinking In his own way, every local from Gorj is an individuality.”