Traditional transylvanian village

The traditional Transylvanian village, a place of ancient and medieval traditions

The Transylvanian village: Unique in Europe

The traditional Transylvanian village is unique in Europe, being the place where ancient and medieval traditions are kept up to this day and where its self-sustainment is possible thanks to the social structures and small households.

The traditional village | Definition

The traditional village in Transylvania, usually located on the Romanian Carpathians’ foothills, represents a unique European element. The preserving of the ancient and medieval traditions and habits, its self-sustainment and its traditional houses which act as real ecosystems are all factors which contribute to the Transylvanian village’s uniqueness. The raw beauty of the Carpathians outlines this magical touristic location.

The products from the traditional villages are natural foods in every sense of the word „bio„ or „eco„, vastly superior to the ones branded as such in Europe. They contribute decisively to the main characteristic of the traditional Transylvanian village – high life expectancy.

The traditional Transylvanian village | Concept

The traditional Transylvanian villages are spread out on both sides of the Carpathian Mountains, on the mountain wolds, on valleys and foothills, in areas with high natural value and full of biodiversity. The villages formed out of few households (5-10) are called ”cătune„ and can be found at altitudes as high as 4600 feet.

The first mentioned village dates back to the medieval period, but the term ”cătun„ has been conserved since the time of the Dacians (nowadays Romanians’ ancestors). Its etymology comes from the Indo-European word ”ka-ton„ which was borrowed by the Dacians and ended up on Romania’s territory. The origin of the word ”sat„ (village) comes from the Latin term ”fossatum„ which means ”ditch„, the term referring to the towns surrounded by defensive ditches.[1] [2]

Villages located on mountains and hills stand out compared to the villages located on plains as they are more isolated and have relatively difficult accessibility. They have been conserved since medieval times, are self-sustained and the villagers adapt using old methods and tools; the Transylvanian village’s conservation is a unique European aspect.[3] [4] [5] [6]

The first influences for the traditional Transylvanian village appeared 5000 years ago, in Transylvania’s current territory, where the oldest confirmed European civilization, the Cucuteni Civilization, once flourished. Among the unique aspects characteristic to the Cucuteni people we have to remark that they were among the first to use the potter’s wheel, leaving behind a unique European ceramic.

At the same time, they were among the first people to have two-storied houses, a unique architectural accomplishment at the time. Following the Cucuteni example, the Romanian peasant created a unique household architecture lasting since medieval times, fitting perfectly with the natural surroundings and serving as an ideal work place.

The traditional Transylvanian village’s uniqueness is due to the fact that it has remained mostly unchanged, like it stood hundreds of years ago. All the surrounding elements – the Carpathian Mountains with their mystic atmosphere, the unpolluted air, the completely natural foods, the village’s social structure, the ancient habits and customs – greatly contributed to the preserving of the traditional Transylvanian village.

The traditional Transylvanian village leaves the impression of a rustic image without big farms and industrial giants. Agriculture, pomology, raising livestock, in short all the activities of the Transylvanian peasant are done generally speaking on a small household level, with limited production and without utilizing dangerous chemicals.

Taking this into account, we can safely say that Transylvania provides the perfect setting for real bio products, much more valuable than the products promoted throughout Europe as bio/natural.

The Romanian peasant’s centuries strong connection with nature materialized in the actual building of the village. Nature offered him all the necessary materials, from wood to stone, and he managed to perfectly integrate the structures in the environment.[7] [8] [9]

The Transylvanian traditional houses are all part of a self-sustained ecosystem, integrated in the village which is itself another ecosystem. The general image offered by the traditional Transylvanian village can be compared to the magical scenery from high-budget Hollywood movies; all the natural landscapes can serve as inspiration for any epic-fantasy production.

The healthy lifestyle found in the traditional village is mainly due to the above-mentioned preservation. The village’s rustic aura is well-kept thanks to some elements which can rarely be found in today’s modern society. On the village streets, one can see horse drawn carriages used as methods of transportation (on short distances though), and one can notice how the pollution is gone, leaving space for natural mountain air. 

The fountains from the villagers’ yards are a perfect source for fresh and natural water, used not only by the people but by the animals that people raise. In Transylvania one can find domestic animals such as cows or sheep feeding freely on the hills surrounding the villages.

This aspect basically represents the cyclicity found in Romanian folklore, but transposed into everyday life. The natural nourishment the animals feed upon makes them offer in return healthy nutriments to the beneficiaries - the villagers. They use their household grown vegetables and the products obtained from the animals they raise. The unique taste of the traditional Transylvanian dishes can be found in a large variety of foods and drinks specific to this fairy-tale like area.[10] [11] [12] [13]

The villages’ self-sustainment is closely related to the villagers’ occupations. The villagers often deal with agriculture, raising livestock or learning the arts and crafts. Their specializations allow them to help each other when needed, service for service, eliminating the third parties this way. Every Transylvanian household specializes in at least one type of product making the self-sustainment feasible.

The well-preserved ancient traditions manifest in the traditional clothing and extremely diverse folklore which stands as the basis for Transylvania World’s concepts. The Dacian mythology elements materialized in the traditional motifs woven on the villagers’ popular costume. All the models on the traditional popular costume have a social and spiritual message, the encountered themes being the same as the ones characteristic to Romania’s rich folklore, varying from existentialism and nature’s primordiality, to atemporality, relativity, cyclicity and universal balance.

Transhumance, an essential aspect for Transylvania’s history and culture, is well preserved up to this day. Although the last 100 years in Europe came with industrial agriculture and transhumance slowly started to disappear, Transylvania is the place where this seasonal movement towards resource filled areas is still being practiced, further proof for the uniqueness of this magical territory.[14] [15] [16] [17]

All the above-mentioned elements are key points for sustaining the uniqueness of the Transylvanian village. The most important aspect of living close to nature, with intense physical activities and completely natural products which are still being produced in Romania, is a high life expectancy, one of the characteristics of the Transylvanian village.

The traditional Transylvanian village offers a unique touristic setting, ideal for moviemakers due to the social aspects and ancient and medieval traditions which still persist nowadays, but also due to the natural setting offered by the Carpathian Mountains.


Note: The Transylvania World concepts are an essential part of the association brand and their usage has to quote the source and reference this website.

Research sources:

1. Dexonline - cătun (source)
2. Wikipedia, The medieval Romanian Village (source)
3. Cosma C., Considerații privind așezările rurale și tipurile de locuințe din Transilvania în secolele VIII-X
4. Conf. univ. dr. Claudia Costin, Curs de etnografie și folclor, Univ. ”Ștefan cel Mare”, Suceava
5. Muzeul Județean de Etnografie și Istorie Locală Caransebeș, Tibiscum, 1988 (source)
6. Ioan Țiplic, Istoria fortificațiilor medievale timpurii din Transilvania între mit, naționalism și arheologie, European Institute, 2007
7. Lucia Apolzan, Carpații, tezaur de istorie. Perenitatea așezărilor risipite pe înălțimi, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1987
8. Prof.dr. Ioan-Aurel Pop, Curs Istoria Transilvaniei Medievale- de la etnogenezaa românilor până la Mihai Viteazul
9. Delia Suiogan, Arta populară- formă de comunicare, Memoria Ethnologica Nr.26-27,2008
10. Coord. Șt. Dr. Pompei Cocean, Doctorand Lăcrămioara Florinela Popa, Migrațiile Transilvănene în Subcarpații Getici. Studiu de Geografie Istorică, Univ. Babeș-Boyai, Cluj-Napoca, 2012
11. Monumente de arhitectură tradițională în Muzeul Astra, Complexul Național Muzeal Astra, Muzeul Civilizației Populare Tradiționale Astra, Editura ”Astra Museum”, Sibiu, 2010 (source)
12. Patrimoniul Cultural Imaterial din România.Repertoriu I , CIMEC- Institutul de Memorie Culturală, Bucharest, 2009
13. Etnolog Emilia Ometiță, Meșteșugurile tradiționale în Județul Bistrița – Năsăud, Centrul județean pentru Cultură Bistrița – Năsăud
14. ETNOMON – Virtual museum of open-air ethnographic monuments in Romania (source)
15. Romulus Antonescu, Dicționar de simboluri și credințe tradiționale românești (source)
16. Coord. științific Prof. univ. dr. Paul Niedermaier, Doctorand Andreea Buzaș Neagoe, Satul tradițional reprezentat în muzeele etnografice în aer liber din România – rezumat, Univ. Lucian Blaga, Sibiu, 2014 (source)
17. Vulcănescu R., Mitologie Română, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1987

Other concepts


  • Overview of the definitions and concepts developed by Transylvania World Association and the key points of our research.
  • Official concepts

  • Transylvania (Definition, etymology, geography, history and its present state)
  • Transylvania classification into three geographical areas: Central, Political and Transylvania World with its influences
  • Carpathian Mountains (Definition, setting, the connections between legends and reality)
  • Cucuteni Civilization (Definition, geography, facts about the oldest civilization of Europe)
  • Ancient Dacians (About the ancient Dacian people, predecessors of the Romanians)
  • Vlad the Impaler (Also known as "Vlad Draculea" or "Vlad Dracula", one of the most important European leaders who stopped the islamic takeover of Europe in the Middle Ages)
  • Household in Transylvania (About the traditional transylvanian households)
  • Mithological concepts

  • Dacian mythology (Mythology spawned on today's territory of Transylvania, where the Dacians lived, the ancestors of today's Romanians)
  • Werewolf (Incorrectly promoted as a negative character, the concept has generated from the Dacian mithology)
  • Vampire (Definition and concept; global promotion because of the Transylvanian traditions)
  • Dracula (The fantastic character also known as "Count Dracula" or "The vampire Dracula", inspired by the transylvanian traditions and the real historical character Vlad the Impaler)

Learn more

© Transylvania World Association | 2024