If you want to have a “business card” for the Herculane Baths resort, stop at least 30 minutes at the General Nicolae Cena History Museum, which is still on the first floor of the Casino, but it will be soon moved in the new restored building of Elisabeth’s Villa, as the result of the Romanian TV show-contest on December 1, 2009.
Once in front of the Casino in the historical centre of Herculane Baths, you can read the salute of the resort written on the frontispiece of the famous building, “SALUTI ET LAETITIAE”, taken from the Latin, which in Romanian means “Health and Joy” and shows the purpose of this place to heal by the power of the thermal water. On the roof of the central body of the Casino, there were four statues until recently, each representing a different nationality, a Romanian, a German, a Serb and a Hungarian, the four nationalities inhabiting in the area, living together during the history of these places.
Climbing to the Silver Hall of the Casino, you will relive this history through all the testimonies gathered over time, mainly by the founder of the museum, General Nicolae Cena. After 41 years of service in the Austrian imperial army, as a retired general, Nicolae Cena withdraws to his native lands at Mehadia in 1904. At Mehadia, his home has become a real attraction due to the archaeological objects collected by the general, day by day, for almost 20 years, from the Roman camp in the place called “Zidina”, situated between Mehadia and Plugova. His disposition was to open a museum of the resort at Herculane Baths.
“Unfortunately, General Nicolae Cena did not live long enough to see his dream come true because on 12th of March 1922 he passed away, leaving to eternity his name and his collection, the museum of Herculane Baths, one of the oldest spa resorts in the world” [Bălteanu D., 2011].
The General “Nicolae Cena” History Museum of the Herculane Baths resort was inaugurated on the 1st of May 1924.
In the museum the visitors can see in the Silver Hall the documentary attestation stone of Herculane Baths dating from 153 AD and the votive altar dedicated to the gods Esculap and Hygeia, both votive tabulae being original.
The museum also shelters with great pride and care the Golden Diploma, attesting the historical and scientific value of the museum collections, obtained at the “National balneal-climatic and tourist exhibition” held in Bucharest between 19th of May and 17th of June 1928.
It is “the first museum from a spa resort in the country”, as Iosif Coriolan Buracu, a priest from Almaj, said in his book dedicated to the museum. [Buracu C., 1924].
From the archaeological inheritance dating back to the Roman period, discovered at Herculane Baths, a part was sent to Vienna, another part, as the chroniclers say, lies on the bottom of the Danube, and the remaining part is exhibited in the museum.
A special place is occupied by the copies of the three Roman statues of Hercules realized in marble, discovered at Herculane Baths and transported to Vienna, copies made at the expense of General Nicolae Cena:
1. Hercules holding his son Telephus in his left arm, being watched by a deer, and in his right hand he holds his mace pinned above the bull’s head from Crete, being a characteristic statue for the end of the 2nd century AD;
2. Hercules crowned with olive branches, holding the lion’s skin on his shoulders and the mace in his hand, realized between the end of the 2nd century and the beginning of the third century;
3. Hercules resting after one of the 12 labours, dating from the beginning of the third century.
The Roman pieces in the museum are completed by some Roman coins from the collection of 37 silver coins and 126 brass coins found at Herculane Baths. Try to identify one of the six brass coins with the image of Emperor Traian, considered the founder of the Imperial Baths of Ad Mediam.
The museum has also a great collection of books, litho–graves and lithographs, many of which are unique, such as the painting made by Francisco Grisellini himself, representing the Baths in 1780, when he published his work “The History of Timis Banat ” simultaneously both in Vienna and Venice. The well-known scientist and traveller stayed at Mehadia Baths for 20 days at in 1776.
With the relocation of the museum to the Elisabeth’s Villa, the museum will have new unique collections for visitors: the presentation of the collections of the Romanian-Banat Border regiment donated by Col. Liviu Groza, the displaying of the maquette of the Roman fortress near Mehadia Baths, made by the General Nicolae Cena, and the room dedicated to Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) and to the other imperial personalities who visited the resort, containing with the Empress’s paintings, ring and bedroom.
At the resort museum you can listen to legends and stories about great personalities of the time who visited the Herculane Baths. It is just necssary to know the chronology of the main historical events of the resort [Cristescu I, 2012]:
|THE ROMAN IMPERIAL BATHS|
|106||At the end of the wars for the conquest of Dacia, in the period 106-117 AD, the Hercules thermae were built by the Romans, the founder of the resort being, according to many authors, Emperor Traian, judging by the large number of coins with his face on the front of the coin and that of Hercules on the other side.|
|153||Year of documentary certification of the baths as it appears on the engraved votive inscription.|
|214||Visit of the Roman Emperor Caracalla with his mother Iulia Domna.|
|1600||Lord Michael the Brave passes through Mehadia Baths with his suite on his way to Prague to meet Emperor Rudolf the Second.|
|THE AUSTRIA IMPERIAL BATHS|
|1724||The Emperor of Austria Charles the Sixth, the son of the former king Leopold, and the father of the queen Maria Theresa, gave orders to Count Mercy, the governor of Banat, to rebuild the Mehadia Baths.|
|1736||Under the leadership of Count Mercy’s successor, General Andreas Hamilton, the works at Venera Bath, Apollo Bath and Roman Bath were completed during 1724-1736.|
|1755||The Roman antiquities discovered between 1734-1736 are sent from Mehadia Baths to Vienna, but some of them are lost, sinking with the ship in the Danube next to Pesta.|
|1768||The first Imperial visit takes place in the resort of the Cerna Valley, namely the visit of Joseph the Second, Empress Maria Theresa’s son, watching the preparation of the land for the establishment of the 13th Romanian-Banat Border Regiment in Banat in 1775.|
|1776||Francisco Griselini, a writer, cartographer, geographer and prominent representative of the “Enlightenment Age”, visited the Mehadia Baths and stayed for 20 days, after studying the Timis Banat during 1774-1776.|
|1801||The Mehadia Baths will experience a new flourishing stage of development as they pass under the border’s military administration.|
|1815||Tudor Vladimirescu comes to the baths for treatment and stays for six weeks, and then he will repeat the treatment in 1816 for nine weeks. During the two stays, he will visit daily the chronicler Nicolae Stoica of Haţeg, from whom he borrows books to read and he will prepare the Romanian Revolution of 1821.|
|1817||The resort changes its name from Mehadia Baths into Hercules’s Baths.|
|1817||This year, on October the 2nd, the Emperor Francis the First and his wife, Empress Carolina visits the baths, inaugurating on this date also the Old “Mihai Eminescu” Theatre in Oraviţa.|
|1847||The statue of Hercules is erected in the resort market, cast from cannon iron, donated by Archduke Carol.|
|1848||Nicolae Bălcescu passes through the Baths to hold talks with General Joseph Bem..|
|1849||On August 15th Ludovic Kossuth arrives to Mehadia, accompanied by the Italian Legion. Immediately after their arrival, Szemere and Leopold Fulep arrived too, bringing the crown of Hungary with them, which they had hidden before they fled to Turkey.|
|1852||When he visited the resort, Emperor Franz Joseph said: “Now in the Cerna Valley lies the most beautiful resort on the continent.”|
|1872||On September 16-20, the 16th Congress of Physicians and Naturalists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire will take place, in a hiking reunion at Herculane Baths.|
|1873||Upon the dissolution of the military border, the resort passes to the Hungarian administration.|
|1887||Between the 1st of March and the 13th of April, Empress Elizabeth, nicknamed Sisi, at the recommendation of doctors, takes a six-week cure in this place. Elizabeth visited the Herculane Baths resort in 1884, 1887, 1890, 1892 and 1896.|
|1896||After 44 years, Franz Joseph visits the resort again, together with Empress Elizabeth, and on 15/27 September inaugurated the Iron Gates Waterway with Charles the First, the King of Romania, and Alexander the First, the King of Serbia.|
|1919||On the 1st of June 1919, the resort was taken over by the Romanian administration.|
THE MODERN THERMAL BATHS
|1924||On May the 1st the “General Nicolae Cena” History Museum, the first museum of a resort in Romania, is inaugurated.|
|1928||The resort’s museum is awarded the gold medal at the “National balneal-climatic and tourist exhibition”, held in Bucharest, between 19th of May and 17th of June.|
|1933||On June 2nd, King Charles the Second of Romania together with Prince Michael arrives to Herculane Baths, where he unveiled the bust of King Ferdinand. Prince Michael was 12 years old at that time.|
|1936||The Cerna Hotel is built with a Romanian architecture, being the last building carried out by border guards in Banat.|
|1938||The future king Michael the First of Romania makes a second visit with the class to the Herculane Baths.|
|1939||The road linking the station to the Herculane Baths resort was modernized and paved, and, due to the roses planted along it, it was named “the Rose Street”. It was the year when the “great historian Nicolae Iorga” was treated at the Herculane Baths and visited Banat.|
|1968||The Hercules Hotel was opened on the place of the old theatre of the resort.|
|1973||The Domogled Hotel was opened from the new centre of the resort, which was named the “Vicol Park”, after Vicol, the father of Romanian balneology.|
|1975||The Roman Hotel was opened.|
|1977||The Diana Hotel was put into function.|
|1979||The Aphrodite Hotel was put in function.|
|1982||The Dacia Hotel was put in function.|
|1985||The Minerva Hotel was put in function.|
|1996||The Tierna Hotel was put in function.|
|1999||The Roman Imperial Baths were reopened on the ground floor of the Roman Hotel.|
|2009||The broadcasting contest-show of the Romanian Television, held on the 1st of December, was won for the restoration of the Elizabeth’s Villa.|
|2010||The International Hotel was opened|
|2011||The Diana Hotel was reopened|
|2012||The Hotel Aphrodite was reopened|