We commemorate this year 70 years since the birth of Radu Popa, the man who was to become in later age one of the outstanding personalities of romanian mediaeval archaeology.
He was born in Cluj, on July 23rd 1933, in a family of Transylvanian intellectuals. He went to high school first to Sighisoara then to Bucharest where he also graduated. In 1951 he became a student of the History Department at the University of Bucharest, where, despite the dire fact that the communist regime had just launched its campaign for annihilating the cultural and human values of our country, he could benefit by learning from the generation of romanian scholars of which we can enumerate such names as Ion Nestor, Dionisie M. Pippidi, Mihai Berza, Andrei Otetea, personalities who saw it as their first duty to perpetuate the pre-war Romanian historiographical tradition. Radu Popa felt the attraction of mediaeval archaeology as early as his university years when he made his apprenticeship at Suceava, on the mediaeval archaeology site that served as an alma mater for many a Romanian student, a site organized and led by Professor Ion Nestor. In 1956, the year of his graduation, Radu Popa became a researcher at the National Art Gallery where he enlarged and consolidated his knowledge of art history and mediaeval architecture, also steadily participating all this while to archeological site work. He was also a student of the Law School at the University of Bucharest between 1957 and 1962.
Further to winning the 1963 competition, he was nominated full-time researcher at the Institute of Archaeology in Bucharest. This moment marked the beginning of his research activity as an archaeologist specializing in the middle Ages, which activity he sustained uninterruptedly over a period of three decades. He directed his attention towards the early Middle Ages from the beginning, focusing on the Transylvania region not only as his birthplace but also as one of the targets of so much acute historical controversy. The 60s marked a period of intense activity for Radu Popa, both owing to the numerous archeological excavations made and owing to the strenuous study of the documentary resources. His remarkable intuition prompted him to concentrate on the history of the so-called Transylvanian 'countries/terra' as the starting-point for a regressive re-construction over the centuries of the romanian socio-political structures preceding the 11th and 12th centuries. The weighty fruit of these efforts was his PhD dissertation titled The Maramures Country in the 14th Century, defended in 1968. Published in volume form in 1970, Radu Popa's contribution immediately won him well-deserved recognition as a methodologically rigorous authority and he awarded the Romanian Academy Nicolae Balcescu Prize. The study of the historical Maramures meant for Radu Popa the beginning of a road whose numerous stages would be represented by as many similar monographic studies dedicated to the Transylvanian so-called countries; these studies became in turn and quite naturally the bricks for an ample synthesis covering the whole of the Transylvanian province at the beginning of the Middle Ages. There followed excavation campaigns/sessions at the Voivozi and Sânnicolaul de Beius sites, in Bihor county, which were further extended to the whole of Transylvania. The same period saw Radu Popa's fruitful cooperation with the former Direction of the History and Art Monuments' Commission, in the guise of archaeological site work at locations such as Strei, Rachitova, Colt, Malaiesti, Râu de Mori, Sântamarie Orlea, and Strei Sângeorgiu. As a participant to the numerous sessions, symposia, congresses and exchanges with foreign archaeologists, especially at the meetings of the Mixed Romanian-Hungarian Historical Commission he represented and defended the point of view held by the Romanian historical researches with dignity, competence and in observance of the ascertained historical facts; thus he justly won the unanimous recognition of the colleagues abroad. In his variegated studies, beside those dedicated to his beloved Transylvania, Radu Popa embraced and brought his contribution to the field of research methodology and that of the publication and valorization of findings and monuments from other parts of Romania. These include the researches at Pacuiul lui Soare or Suceava.
The wide range of his vision, grounded in the solid experience acquired in time, enabled Radu Popa to open again in 1977 the discussion regarding the 'hot' issue of the Romanian people's ethnogenesis. In 1988 was published his study Outlook on the Beginnings of the Romanian Middle Ages. The Hateg Country, an exceptionally worthy contribution to the study of the Middle Ages to the north of the Danube; this was unanimously acknowledged as valuable in Romania and elsewhere. In this work Radu Popa started from his older archaeological excavations and used the findings of the Gurasada, Sarmizegetusa-Britonia and Pesteana sites, he studied a considerable number of documents, invoked the genealogical reconstruction data, made very careful analyses of some very old toponyms and, as a result, he managed to reconstruct a highly plausible image of the Hateg Country as a socio-political entity around the year 1400; this offered his colleagues the solid grounds for further investigations and a brilliant model of methodological research. As a matter of fact, Radu Popa himself anticipated the extension of the research beyond the Hateg Country and the Mid-Carpathian region, into northern Oltenia, and he set out to organize a novel ample-scope research on site in the Tismana, Crasna and Novaci depression, with a view to identifying the archaeological objects pertaining to the Litovoi moment. The subsequent research activities of his collaborators in the northern Gorj region confirmed his forecasts through the findings at Polata and Valea Manastirii. Towards the end of his activity, Radu Popa directed his attention to the northern Banat hilly region by the excavations at Gladna and Faget, then by the Ungra site research and, moreover, by the exceptional excavations at Feldioara/Marienburg, in the Tara Bârsei "Country". Acting almost as a strategist of romanian mediaeval archaeology, Radu Popa was intending to create a whole new basis for the extension of research to the extra-Carpathian vicinities, by investigating the south-eastern Transylvanian corner, after undertaking the preliminary study of the German colonization and the presence of the Teuton Knights here.
It is a fact that throughout his career as an archaeologist and historian, Radu Popa often rose against the abuses of the professional, deontological standards. The last time he did so was not long before his untimely demise on February 12th 1993. His study titled Observations and Reconsiderations of the Romanian Year 1000 History that appeared alongside its German version in 1991 contains a severe but more than welcome critique launched from the standpoint of the ascertained historical truths against the spurious tenets absurdly held for over two decades which regarded the Romanian people ethnogenesis in a most distorted way. Through its entire content, this study should have been a ground-breaking manifesto, but the merciless fate turned it into the ethical-professional testament of an authentic, highly authoritative historian.
It was only after 1990 that Radu Popa came to be granted the right to teach in the History Department at the University of Bucharest. On the regrettably few occasions when he was in a position to address the students as a Professor, Radu Popa knew how to present for them convincingly the controversial beginnings of the Romanian Middle Ages, always turning away firmly from the dangerously deceitful road strewn with mystifications and tokens of pseudo-science; this earned him both the solid trust of the younger generations and the "honor" of being slandered by the national-communist specialists of all hues. As a man of an extraordinarily generous disposition, genial and endowed with a good sense of humor he naturally attracted around him numerous students and other young people that he directed closely and initiated patiently in the secrets of the profession, so that he naturally became a true master of the newer generations, thus proving his capacities as a continuator of the forerunners' tradition. Quite a number of his disciples gradually turned into his collaborators and enjoyed sharing in the magister's experience, proud to have been his disciples and proud to have become his friends.
Devoting part of his attention to the everyday business of Romanian archaeology, Radu Popa got involved in the concerns related to the good management of the Institutute of Archaeology and served as the Deputy Director of the Institute between 1976 and 1981, tactfully helping the General Director, Professor Dionisie M. Pippidi. As a member of the Romanian Archaeological Commission for several years he did his best to improve the discipline in the field of archaeological excavations, and to bring his contribution to saving the national interest sites or the monuments threatened by the pharaonic projects of the day. In times of serious national crisis, he stood up firmly and openly against the demolishing of buildings of great historical and/or architectural worth, although he was well aware of the risks he was incurring. He was an active member of the Central Board for the Preservation of the National Heritage as well as of the Romanian ICOMOS Committee all the time these continued in existence, i.e., until their abusive dissolution by the communist regime. Right after the collapse of the totalitarian state at the end of 1989, Radu Popa had the initiative of reorganizing the CNMASI (The National Board for the Preservation of the National Archives and Heritage) and he became its Vice- President. He also re-established the National ICOMOS Board in 1990 and was designated its president. In 1991 he was nominated chairman of the Mixed Romanian-Hungarian Commission for Historical Monuments. At about the same time he became Vice-President of the National Archaeological Commission of the Romanian Academy and the first Romanian member of the European Council Archaeological Commission. As a fully deserved distinction, he was awarded the ICOMOS Award for Eastern Europe - just a few days before his death.
After his long-term membership in the editorial board of the review "Studii si Cercetari de Istorie Veche si Archeologie", in 1974 he became the deputy editor of the same and made an important contribution to retaining the high standards associated with this publication. After 1990, he was editor in chief of the two reviews edited by the Historical Monuments' Commission: the "Buletinul Comisiei Monumentelor Istoriceon" and the "Revista Monumentelor Istorice".
After the December 1998 watershed, Radu Popa was the only noteworthy romanian archaeologist who undertook to participate in the general effort for the democratization of our country. He was a founding member of the Social Dialogue Group and participated, in this position, to numberless debates organized in Romania and abroad, on a very wide variety of themes related to the lawful state; at the time, he never hesitated to go into the streets whenever the injustices became outrageous. The leaders that he published in the prestigious civic magazine "22" testified to a columnist's talent and, moreover, to the moral altitude of the archaeologist Radu Popa.
Several of the APAR members have had the privilege of knowing Radu Popa and collaborating with him. Many of his ideas and attitudes served as models that preceded the establishment of our association, but the most outstanding among these are his methodological acribiousness, his intransigence towards mystification and, last but not least, his overpowering humor that often served him to outdo his adversaries. APAR considers this a good opportunity to remember Radu Popa's prodigious activity and wishes to do homage to his memory as a way of making a beginning in the reconsideration of the mediaeval archaeological activity to the north of the Danube.
Bibliography Radu Popa:
1 - Șantierul arheologic Cuhea. Un centru voievodal din secolul al XIV-lea, Baia Mare 1966, coauthor.
2 - Cnezatul Marei. Studii documentare de teren în Maramureșul istoric, Baia Mare 1969.
3 - Țara Maramureșului în veacul al XIV-lea, București 1970.
4 - Păcuiul lui Soare. Cetatea bizantină, București 1972, coauthor.
5 - Mărturii de civilizație medievală românească. O casă a domniei și o sobă monumentală de la Suceava din vremea lui Ștefan cel Mare, București 1979, coauthor.
6 - La începuturile evului mediu românesc. Tara Hategului, București 1988.
7 - Păcuiul lui Soare. O asezare dunareana cu trasaturi urbane în veacurile XIII-XIV, Studii 17.1, 1964.
8 - La céramique émaillée des XIIIe et XIVe siècles de Păcuiul lui Soare, Dacia NS 9, 1965.
9 - În legatura cu extragerea metalelor pretioase la Baia Mare în secolul al XVI-lea, SCIV 16.1, 1965.
10 - Biserica de piatra din Cuhea si unele probleme privind istoria Maramuresului, SCIV 17.3, 1966.
11 - Recherches d'archéologie médiévale au Maramures. Résultats et perspectives, RRH 5.5, 1966.
12 - Câteva observatii asupra Manastirii Golia din Iasi, SCIA 13.2, 1966.
13 - La porte nord dela forteresse Byzantine de Păcuiul lui Soare, Dacia NS 11, 1967.
14 - O casa domneasca din secolul al XV-lea lânga Cetatea Sucevei, SCIV 20.1, 1969.
15 - Ctitoria cnezilor giulesteni. Un nou monument de piatra în Maramures, SCIV 20.2, 1969.
16 - Despre începuturile Manastirii Remeti-Maramures, BMI 29.2, 1970.
17 - Noi cercetari de arheologie medievala în Maramures. Șantierul Sarasau, SCIV 22.4, 1971.
18 - Über die Burgen der Terra Hazeg, Dacia NS 16, 1972.
19 - O spada medievala din Valea Streiului si câteva consideratii istorice legate de ea, Sargetia 9, 1972.
20 - Culture urbaine et culture villageoise au Bas-Danube aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles, in Actes du IIe Congrès International des etudes du sud-est européen, II, Histoire, Athènes 1970 (1972).
21 - Cetatile Tarii Hategului, BMI 41.3, 1972.
22 - Sapaturi într-o "villa rustica" de lânga Hateg, AMN 9, 1972.
23 - Les recherches archéologiques dans la problème de la formation des États médiévaux roumains, RRH 12.1, 1973.
24 - O soba cu cahle-oala din secolul XIV la Cuhea-Maramures, SCIV 24.4, 1973.
25 - Pe marginea unor consideratii privind "Zidul medieval" de la Păcuiul lui Soare, BMI 43.2, 1974.
26 - Realizari ale arheologiei românesti în ultimele trei decenii, SCIVA 25.3, 1974, coauthor.
27 - Urmele unui sat parasit din feudalismul timpuriu în hotarul Sighetului Marmatiei, SCIVA 26.2, 1975.
28 - Structures socio-politiques roumaines au sud de Transylvanie au commencement du Moyen Âge, RRH 14.2, 1975.
29 - Zür Kirchlichen Organisation der Rumänen in Nordsiebenbürgen im Lichte des patriarchalischen Privilegium von 1391, Ostkirchliche Studien 24.4, 1975.
30 - Streisângeorgiu. Ein Zeugnis rumänischer Geschichte des 11.-14. Jahrhunderts im Süden Transilvaniens, Dacia NS 20, 1976.
31 - Dezvoltarea stiintei istorice în România în ultimul deceniu. Rezultate si perspective., in "Lucrarile comisiei mixte de istorie româno-maghiare" I, București 1977.
32 - Les etapas históricas de la formación de la lengua y del pueblo rumano a la luz de los recientes resultados de las investigaciones argueológicas, in Semestre Histórico 6, Caracas 1977.
33 - Observatii privind zidurile cu mortar din cetatile dacice hunedorene, Sargetia 13, 1977.
34 - Observatii privind vechimea semnificatia ca izvor istoric a unor toponime maramuresene, Marmatia 3, 1977.
35 - Consideratii istorice pe marginea toponimiei vechi maramuresene, RIR 30.8, 1977.
36 - Marginales historiques á un volume d'ethnographie anhistorique, RRH 16.4, 1977.
37 - Problema mostenirii voievodatului lui Menumorut în lumina ultimelor descoperiri arheologice, in Documente noi descoperite si informatii arheologice, București 1977.
38 - Tours d'habitation au commencement du Moyen Âge roumain, Bulletin IBI 34, 1978.
39 - Streisângeorgiu. Marturii de istorie româneasca din secolele XI-XIV în sudul Transilvaniei, RMM seria MIA 47.1, 1978.
40 - Realism si prejudecati în cercetarea istorica, Viata Româneasca 31.5, 1978.
41 - Probleme de metoda a cercetarii arheologice a satului medieval românesc, SCIVA 30.4, 1979.
42 - Integrarea în patrimonial cultural-istoric a unor noi zone ale arhitecturii medievale de zid din România, ca urmare a cercetarilor arheologice, RMM 8, 1980.
43 - Premisele cristalizarii vietii statatle românesti, in Constituirea statelor feudale românesti, București 1980.
44 - "Descalecari" transilvanene si "întemeieride tara". Între traditie istorica si dovezi materiale, Transilvania 9 (86), 1980.
45 - Documente de cultura materiala oraseneasca în Transilvani din a doua jumatate a secolului al XIII-lea, SCIVA 31.1, 1980, coauthor.
46 - Ein monumentales Keramikmodell der Festung Suceava. Betrachtungen über einen Kachelofen vom Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts, Bulletin IBI 39, 1981.
47 - Contributions archéologiques à l'étude et à la valorization de l'architecture médiévale en maçonnerie à ses débuts en Roumanie, in Il Brunelleschi, Quaderni dell'Instituto di Storia dell'Architettura e di Restauro (Studi e contribute dedicate a Pieri Sanpaolesi), Florence 1982.
48 - Cnezatul Râu Barbat, in vol. Stat, societate, natiune. Interpretari istorice. Omagiu lui David Prodan, Cluj 1982.
49 - Burgen und Festungen in den Pässen de Südkarpaten, Bulletin IBI 41, 1983.
50 - Aux débuts de l'histoire médiévake roumaine.. Problèmes spécifiques et resultants des recherches récentes, Anuario de estudios medievales 13, 1983.
51 - Observatii noi si câteva consideratii istorice privind biserica româneasca din Gurasada, jud. Hunedoara, SCIVA 35.1, 1984, coauthor.
52 - Knaufkrone eines wikingerzeitlichen Prachtschwert von Păcuiul lui Soare, Germania 62.2, 1984.
53 - Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa britonia, Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters 12, 1984.
54 - O resedinta feudala din secolele XI-XII la Sânnicolaul de Beius.. Contributii la istoria Bihorului medieval, RMM seria MIA 15,.2, 1984.
55 - Câteva observatii pe marginea recentelor cercetari arheologice din centrul municipiului Iasi, SCIVA 35.4, 1984.
56 - HochmittelalterlicheWasserburgen an der Unteren Donau, Bulletin IBI 42, 1984.
57 - Forteresse en terre et chateaux à motte sur le territoire de la Roumanie, Bulletin IBI 43, 1985.
58 - Cercetarile de la Voivozi si contributia lor la cunoasterea începuturilor bisericii românilor din Bihor, in Îndrumator bisericesc, misionar si patriotic, Episcopia ortodoxa a Oradei, Oradea 1987.
59 - Pe marginea izvoarelor istoriei rasaritului Transilvaniei la începuturile mileniului nostru, SympThrac 5, 1987.
60 - Cercetarile arheologice de la Voivozi. Contributii la istoria Bihorului în secolele XII-XIV, Crisia 1987, coauthor.
61 - O cetate medievala la izvoarele Begheiului. Cercetarile de la Gladna Româna, jud. Timis, RMM seria MIA 18, 1987.
62 - Viata bisericeasca a românilor din spatiul intracarpatic în secolele XII-XIII. Biserica din Densus, in Episcopia ortodoxa româna de la Alba Iulia, Îndrumator bisericesc, misionar si patriotic 12, 1988.
63 - Siedlungsverhältnisse und Ethnodemographie des Hatzeger Landes 13.-14. Jahrhunderts, Forschungen zur Volke- und Landeskunde 31, 1988.
64 - Marturii arheologice din Maramures apartinând mileniului I î.e.n., SCIVA 40.3, 1989.
65 - Caransebesul si districtul sau românesc în sec. X-XIV, SCIVA 40.4, 1989.
66 - Apport de la Transylvanie, Monuments Historiques 169, 1990.
67 - Formations social-territoriales aux débuts des Etats roumaines, Études roumaines et aroumaines. Sociétés européennes, Paris -Bucarest 8, 1990.
68 - Monuments historiques de la Roumanie. Héritage malheureux et perspectives pour le moment incertaines, Bulletin IBI 47, 1990-1991.
69 - Kreutzritterburgen im Südosten Transilvanien, Bulletin IBI 47, 1990-1991.
70 - Observatii si îndreptari la istoria României din jurul anului O MIE, SCIVA 42.3-4, 1991.
71 - Aoutour des sources de l'architecture ecclésiatique roumaine, in Hommage N. Moutsopoulos, ARMOS 3 1991.
72 - De Vlad l'Empaler à Dracula: éthique professionelle et mise en valeur du patrimoine, Entretiens du Patrimoine 11 (IV), 1991 (1992).
73 - Die Geschichte Rumäniens um das Jahr 1000. Bemerkungen und Berichtigungen, Zeitschrift für siebenbürgische Landeskunde 15 (86), 1991.
74 - Forschungen zum Landesbau im östlichen Karpatenbecken zu Beginn des Mittelalters, in vol. Mensch und Umwelt. Studien zu Siedlungsangriff und Landesausbau in Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin 1992.
75 - Șantierul Suceava, SCIV 4.1-2, 1953, coauthor.
76 - Șantierul arheologic Păcuiul lui Soare, MCA 8, 1962, coauthor.
77 - Șantierul arheologic Sarmizegetusa, jud. Hunedoara (epoca postromana). Raport privind rezultatele cercetarilor campaniei 1978, MCA 13, 1979.
78 - Șantierul arheologic Voivozi, com. Popesti, jud. Bihor. Raport pentru campania de cercetari din anul 1976, CAMNI 3, 1979, coauthor.
79 - Șantierul arheologic Ungra, jud. Brasov, MCA 14, 1980.
80 - O resedinta feudala din secolele XI-XII la Sânnicolaul de Beius pe Crisul Negru, MCA 16, 1986.
81 - Cetatea Fagetului (jud. Timis). Cercetarile arheologice din campanile 1987-1988, RMMN 1, 1991, coauthor.
Translated by Ioana Zirra
In order to properly read our articles, which may
contain special characters, set your browser to CENTRAL EUROPEAN
character set. For Netscape users: in "View" menu choose "Character
set" and then, from the list, "Central European (ISO 8859-2)". For
Internet Explorer users: in "View"menu choose "Encoding" and the,
from the list, "More" and "Central European
The contents of this site - text, images, and data - are
intended for personal information only. Written
permission from APAR is required for the publication of any
material. Any use of this material should credit the Asociația
Profesională a Arheologilor din România.
Copyright © 2000-2001 Asociația Profesională a Arheologilor din
Last modified: January 27, 2003
European Archaeology - online is an on-line magazine for pre- and protohistoric, classic and
medieval archaeology. Inside you will find studies, excavation reports,
bookreviews... (more about)
Romanian Journal of Archaeology (online) is the on-line edition of Romanian Journal of
Archaeology, which is published by Asociatia Profesionala a Arheologilor
din Romania...(more about)
Asociatia Profesionala a Arheologilor din Romania (A.P.A.R.) is a non-governamental, nonpolitical, independent and non-profit organization. Its goals are the support and development of archaeological research... (more about)