Thermal springs, hidden in a scenic valley, were used by Roman soldiers to cure their ills. Centuries later, the same healing waters drew the Austro-Hungarians to build one of the most elegant spa resorts ever created in Europe. It was a retreat where the aristocrats and royals came for their cures. With the fall of empires and monarchies, and years of communist rule, the exquisite architecture of Baile Herculane began to show its age. After the revolution in 1989, decades of neglect and mismanagement brought the buildings to the brink of collapse.
Over the past ten years, Bogdan Mihai has chronicled the decline of the historical thermal baths in Herculane, Romania. His pictures were seen by a group of architecture students from a nearby university who were charged to attempt to save this crumbling landmark. They suggested that Bogdan come to Herculane to capture one final view of the structures before the restoration teams began their work.
In September of 2019, Bogdan traveled to Romania, and was granted full access to all the buildings at the site. He took the very last photos of the spa. The teams moved in, carted off the rubble, covered the holes with tarps, and tried to shore up the walls and ceilings where they could. The site is now boarded up, and awaits funding for restoration work to begin.
While this collection of photographs depicts the decline of a historical treasure in Romania, it also remind us of our responsibility to future generations. Little remains of the Roman baths in Herculane, and the 19th century spa is near collapse… yet the hot springs continue to flow.
There are many examples of the price of indifference. Whether personal issues, family or local problems, national or global concerns, all will decay from neglect. Baile Herculane is our inheritance, all of us. And though we did not destroy this gift, it remains our responsibility. The more important question is where have we been neglectful? What has withered under our care and what will be our legacy?
Please contact the artists should you have any questions or want to collect any of these pieces. Some images are available in larger formats.