Diana Belci

Diana Belci

Berenson Fellow
Between the Gates of Florence and the Sultan’s Palace. The Influence of Italian Renaissance Architects on Local Craftsman in Transylvania and the Romanian Principalities
2023-2024 (January - June)
Diana Belci


Diana Belci is a lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture and City Planning, Politehnica University of Timişoara, Romania, where she teaches history of architecture and heritage conservation. She earned her PhD from the University of Architecture and Urbanism Ion Mincu in Bucharest and was a visiting PhD candidate at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-Belleville. Her work focuses on transregional and cross-cultural artistic exchanges between designed and vernacular architecture in the former Ottoman, Balkan-Eastern European region and beyond. Currently she is the president of the Association for Active Heritage-PACT, an NGO involved with the study, preservation and safeguarding of the historic built heritage.

Project Summary

This research seeks to understand the influence that Italian architects coming to Transylvania had in the spread of the local Renaissance and whether this influence extended beyond the privileged classes, impacting local architects and craftsmen, including those producing vernacular architecture. The study will build from these local collaborations to trace potential influences from Transylvania to the East, perhaps to the gates of Istanbul. Italian architects and intellectual were well represented in Transylvania, but also appear in the other Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldova. Under the wand of Renaissance, Humanism entered Transylvania, shaking the Catholic monopoly of the former Hungarian aristocracy, and paving the way for the spread of the Reformation and Protestantism, with the blessing and support of the Ottoman sultans, especially after Transylvania, became a tributary state to the Ottoman Empire. The trade with the Ottomans, the influx of Renaissance architects from the Italian provinces, and the local craftsmen, some still engaged in finishing the last Gothic cathedrals, met in this territory. The research seeks to comprehend more about Renaissance patronage, schools of architecture and apprenticeship. The purpose is to understand how the high clergy based in Transylvania met the Italian architects and convinced them to travel to a land far away. The aim is to build a new perspective on the patrons and architects of Transylvanian Renaissance, tracing the network of Italian Renaissance architects and intellectuals’ expansion to the other Romanian Principalities and perhaps to Istanbul. The project searches to find how these influences met and how they gave rise to multiple cultural dialogues, in this porous boundary between East and West.