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The watermills of Rudăria

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In Banat, at the bottom of the Almăjului Mountains, hides one of the largest and most spectacular molinological reservations in all of South-East Europe. The 22 dip bucket watermills of Rudăria (Caraș-Severin county) delight through their vernacular architecture and beautify the Rudărica River banks over a distance of 3 km. Although they date since the 20th century, history attests the existence of these watermills long before that.1)Lista monumentelor istorice din judeţul Caraş-Severin

The dip bucket watermills and the “rândași” of Rudăria2)Nicolae Ilieşu – Monografia istorică a Banatului: Judeţul Caraş, Editura Mica Valahie, 2011

The custom of the Rudăria people to grind their grains in wooden constructions with special installations seems to date back before the twentieth century. Therefore, in 1772, in Rudăria, there were 8 recorded mills. In 1874, the number had gone up to 51 recorded mills, but, after the great floods of 1827, 1942 and 1955, only 22 remained standing.

At the end of the 1990s, the mills end up in a deplorable state, at which time the National Museum Complex ASTRA of Sibiu obtains european funds and starts the restoration and conservation process of the molinology site through the Euroart program.

The “rândași” of Rudăria have intuited the energetic potential of the Rudărica river, which would be sufficient for the grinding needs of the few hundreds of families in this village. The surrounding ground has been restored and constantly harnessed through the construction of reservoirs behind dams made out of tree trunks and construction of dams and of penetration tunnels in the rocks.

Out of the total number of 22 mills, 13 are located inside the parish perimeters whilst 9 are on the outside of its borders. They bear the names of their constructors, the name of the location in which they are found or the name of the “family-in-chief”: Tunnel Mill, Viloanea, Trailoanea, Stubborn among Rivers, Ilochii Bridge, Wall Obstinate, Firiz, Popascu, Humbroanea, Maxinoanea, Vamolea, Țarină Mill, and so on.

The dip bucket (horizontal wheel with radial buckets) mills were constructed using an associative system, with joint property/ownership, between several families who, in this manner, obtained their status of “rândași” (after the Romanian word “rând” which means “turn”, because every family got one turn a month at taking care and using the mill). The “rândași” custom is still practised today, the “rând” or turn of each family being able to be sold or inherited.

They said that they saw me on TV in Italy!

If you go today to the molinological site at the bottom of the Almăjului Mountains, you will find at least one fully functioning mill and you may even have the good luck to return home with a bag of flour made just like in the old days.

During our visit to Rudăria, at Firiz Mill, the last one on the left bank of the river, located inside the parish limits, the corn flour was in full process of milling. “Rândașa”, who was accustomed with tourists visiting, gave us a wonderful introduction of the installation, with her gentle Banat accent. “Coș” meaning “basket”, “postăviță” meaning “hopper”, “găletușă” meaning “small bucket”, “piatră rotitoare” meaning “rotating stone”, “piatră stătătoare” meaning “standing stone” – all these are components part of every single dip bucket mill in Rudăriei Valley.

They said they saw me on TV in Italy!, the “rândașa” told us, mentioning all about Romanian and foreign tourists that come to visit this place. A few Italian tourists had seen her in a televised documentary and, after that, they had come all the way down to the beauties of Rudăria in order to see them with their own eyes. We did not leave the Firiz Mill without taking a few photographs, even of the lady’s shoes, which are known in traditional Romanian dialect as “opinci”, and of which she was very proud.

Rudăria, the Gârlișteanu noble family estate3)Registru istoricPrimăria Eftimie Murgu 4)Rudăria – Rezervația MulinologicăBanaterra

Although the official parish name is Eftimie Murgu since 1970, the locals still prefer to use the old name of Rudăria. Still, until 1565, the parish beared the name of Gârliștea (Gârliște), her history being close related to the noble Romanian family of Gârlișteanu, whom are said to have owned a castle nearby.

Local prehistoric remains suggest that the current territory of the parish was inhabited by people thousands and thousands of years ago. However, the first documented proof dates to the 16th of June 1410 when Pipo de Ozora (Filippo Buondelmonti degli Scolari), the general of King Sigismund of Hungary, ruler of Severin and ruler of Timiș county, donates to Ștefan Gârlișteanu the Gerliste parish.

In a 1481 documentary, the parish appears under the name of Gârliștea, when ruler of Severin was Iacob Gârlișteanul. In 1484, King Matei orders that the villages of Gerliste, Jalsanicza (Eșelnița) and Rudaria be placed under his possession, from where it can be concluded that there actually were two different places. In 1500 and 1521 we are reminded of the money of the Iacob de Gârlişte prince, and Nicolae de Gârlişte. In 1569, there are several properties divided, among which there is also the Gerlisthye alias Rwderia estate.

Another event from the village history that is worth remembering is an adventurous process, that took place between the 1566-1576, involving Ana Fiath, Francisc of Marginea and George Ombozi who was married with a girl from the Gârlisteanu family. It seems that the process got even in front of the king, because Ombozi jumped with the sword on the judicial organs. Even the Transylvanian Diet was in charge of this process, in 1570.

Marsigli’s notes from 1690-1700 put the Ruderia commune inside the Halmas district. In 1717, Rudaria belonged to the Orşova district and there were 82 houses here. On Mercy’s map from 1723, the village appears in the Almaj district and on Griselini’s map, in 1776, it appears under the name of Roderia. In 1804, the commune had 192 houses, 2 priests, a stone church, communal house, communal shed, houses for officers and a pub which belonged to the Habsburg Crown.

In 1913, during the Hungarian occupation, the commune name turns into O’Gerlistye. Several important figures of the Banat area come from Rudăria such as the Traian Doda general, dr. Ioan Sârbu or Eftimie Murgu, the revolutionary pasoptist. On May 5 1970, as an homage, the RCP changes the village’s name to Eftimie Murgu.5)Registru istoricPrimăria Eftimie Murgu

Useful Information

You can get to the Rudăria watermills, coming from Oraviţa, through Bozovici (see map), or from Mehadia (see map). The Rudăria mills aren’t the only ones in the area. In the Putna village, for example, there are several wood constructions with similar installations that can be observed. Also, in the same area the village museum from Bozovici, recently inaugurated, and the famous Bigăr Waterfall can both be visited.

Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc 

Translated by Doiniţa Spuză


1 Lista monumentelor istorice din judeţul Caraş-Severin
2 Nicolae Ilieşu – Monografia istorică a Banatului: Judeţul Caraş, Editura Mica Valahie, 2011
3 Registru istoricPrimăria Eftimie Murgu
4 Rudăria – Rezervația MulinologicăBanaterra
5 Registru istoricPrimăria Eftimie Murgu
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