ON THE TRACES OF DIONYSIUS EXIGUUS
COSMIC ROMANIA 29
-text and photos by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
design by Florin Alexandru Stancu-
One day I was called by sunrise
And I went to the Black Sea
To feel more about a man so wise
That marked humanity.
Dobrogea or Dobruja is a Romanian historical province
with 3 aquatic edges:
the Danube River (west and north) and the Black Sea (east).
In antiquity it was inhabited by Thraco-Dacians,
who assimilated the Scythian invaders.
In the 8th century BC Greek colonists began to build a few settlements
here, on the shore of the Black Sea,
one of them being Tomis.
In the 1st century BC this space was conquered by Romans,
and a few centuries after that it became part of the Byzantine Empire,
until it began to be dominated by Slavic invaders since the 7th century.
Then, in the 15th century, it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire
for the next almost 5 centuries
(even if a few times Romanian “voievods” and “domnitors”,
as followers of the Daco-Romans, re-conquered this territory).
After the independence war in 1877-1878,
Romania obtained forever Dobrogea and the opening to the sea.
In the meantime Tomis became Tomis Constantiana under Romans,
and then Constanta, a name under which, as part of Romania,
it became the largest port at the Black Sea and the 4th largest port in Europe.
One of the greatest people born in Tomis was Dionysius Exiguus (470-544),
a proto-Romanian monk who went to Rome,
where he calculated the Anno Domini era, dividing the historical chronology into
Before Christ and After Christ
(in his monumental work Liber de Paschate).
That’s why I decided to dedicate a day in my life (6 April 2013)
to my illustrious ancestor,
visiting the historical zone of Constanta, now a multicultural city.
And for this I chose to start from Bucharest in a morning when
I could see
the Moon and the Sun in the sky,
the two celestial symbols which I had to find reproduced
on some of the old buildings of Constanta.
I passed the new Cernavoda Bridge over the Danube River,
placed right near the older (remained as a museum piece),
which was built in the 1890s by the genial engineer Anghel Saligny
(whose statue in Constanta creates a strong impression)
and was the largest in Europe at its time.
Then, advancing in the Dobrogean territory,
I arrived in Constanta,
where firstly I tried a panoramic view.
And I really began my expedition to the historical zone (the “Peninsula”)
visiting the antique archaeological park made by the team of the
great archaeologist Vasile Parvan (1882-1927).
Maybe some of those stones were touched about 1500 years ago
even by Dinonysius Exiguus…
Then I enjoyed the most significant buildings of the Greek community in Constanta,
the Methamorphosis Church (made in the 1860s)
and the Elpis Theatre (made in the 1890s).
I meditated a little in front of the statue
of the famous Latin poet Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-18 AD),
nicknamed “the poet of the tender loves”
and the author of the poetic Metamorphosis,
with so many cosmic elements.
Exiled to Tomis in 8 AC, Ovid wrote here Tristia and Pontica,
and even poems (unfortunately, lost!) in the Geto-Dacian language!
Right behind the statue of Ovid,
I admired the Museum of History and Archaeology,
a building with a clock (oh time astronomy!),
made around 1920 in a Neo-Romanian style.
Then I changed my attention to the main monuments
of the Muslim community.
The first of them is the Hunchiar Mosque (made by Ottomans in the 1860s),
which was built in a Mauric style.
The second is the Grand Mosque,
which was made in the 1910-1913 as a form of respect of King Carol I
to Muslim culture,
and it is considered the centre of Islam in Romania.
The Sun, the (semi)Moon and stars are generously represented in the art
which adorns this mosque,
and its minaret (47m high) gives a beautiful view of the city.
I also looked for other cosmic ornaments,
framing this stage of my expedition between two statues:
the first (sent by the Rome Mayoralty) with the she-wolf that gave suck to
Romulus and Remus before they created “the eternal city”,
and the last made during the communist time
(a regime so hypocritical that it imprisoned the real saver of Constanta
in World War II, Admiral Horia Macelariu,
who had diplomatically convinced in 1944 a German general to not bomb the city)
in honor of the anti-fascist fighters.
And because I previously said Rome,
I obviously visited the Roman-Catholic Church (made in the 1930s),
with a beautiful artistic sun over the entrance…
The Armenian community is also represented in Constanta by
the House of the Lions (made in the 1890s)
and a church (founded in the 1880s in a former school!).
Then I went on the promenade:
the Neo-Romanian building of Ion Jalea (the single-handed sculptor),
the Casino (symbol of the city, made in 1904),
the Genovese Beacon
(made in the 13th century by the Genovese navigator-traders,
remade in the 1850s,
and showing the cardinal points),
and, of course the Black Sea!
In the same zone, the statue of the Romanian national poet
Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889)
near his fancy woman, the poetess Veronica Micle (also 1850-1889)
appearing as a muse,
made me think that Constanta, too, hosts:
-the hotel in which the great poet lived for a few days,
when he saw for the first time the sea and wrote:
I have only one longing
In the silence of the salt
To be left to die
At the edge of the sea.
-and a high school named after him.
And I remembered another “maritime” poem…
WITH HANGED SAILS
-by Mihai Eminescu-
(English translation without rhythm and rhyme by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe)
With the sails hanged
In silence of wind
The ship is passing
Far away of earth
And the flock of the terns
Is passing between sky and sea…
Oh stars, stars
Why do you not go
On their traces?
Why am I so sad
That the waves die
When other ones follow
Rotating after them?
Why do the falls of the flowers
And of the leaves pain us?
Oh clouds, clouds,
Do you know why
So many things forever remain
And only the people die?
Always in circle
We follow our pace
Like the Sun and the Moon
Revolving in the Universe.
A profound creed will penetrate
The people, for eternity,
That somewhere, somewhere
And all of them run after it,
But they find it nowhere.
I found out that the Bulgarian community made a beautiful church in 1898,
who served for a short while as the cathedral of the city.
I liked to see on its walls Saints Andrew and Nicholas among the stars,
and the Star of Magi painted rather as a “stargrazer”…
I think the building of the Museum of Folkloric Art
(former Mayoralty, made in the 1890s)
is not just one of the most beautiful buildings in the Neo-Romanian style,
but one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
Its sculpted suns really delighted me…
Unfortunately, then I saw the Synagogue left in lacks and ruins
because the Jewish community emigrated to Israel.
Only the Star of David and the Decalogue
have remained untouchable…
Finally I visited the Romanian Christian Orthodox Cathedral,
made in the 1880s near a few antique ruins,
after the plans of architect Ion Mincu
(the main founder of the Neo-Romanian style),
where I admired starry paintings and sculpted suns.
And I was quite amazed seeing other paintings
with an expressive sun,
a personified comet
and a fireball burning sinners…
Here, in 2006, in front of a few thousand people,
the Romanian Church made its duty
canonizing Dionysius Exiguus.
My question is:
When will the International Astronomical Union “canonize”
in its way
the same hero,
naming a heavenly body after him?
Returning home, other emotions, this time tragical:
I travelled along the Danube-Black Sea Canal,
the 3rd largest in the world after Suez and Panama.
The works began in the 1950s as an extermination camp
for anti-communist prisoners
(an idea of the new communist regime, imposed by the Soviet Union),
and were finished in the 1970s by normal workers…
After I left Dobrogea,
a big cloud followed me till I arrived in Bucharest,
where I was welcomed by a magnolia tree
and a fine sunset.
Dear Dionysius Exiguus,
It’s all I can say in the end:
For our planet and the going of the sun
You were an invaluable friend.
© 2014 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)