Sibiu’s Houses Are Watching You

They’re everywhere. And they’re all watching you. However, this is not a horror story but rather the charming story of the Sibiu roofs, known for their “eyes” that watch over the city.

city where houses have eyes
Sibiu, Romania. The city where houses have eyes. Photo: Plakhov / stock.adobe.com

If you enjoy being in the spotlight and have always dreamt of having all eyes on you, then Sibiu is the place for you. Here, you can enjoy the attention from curious eyes not only of passersby but even of inanimate objects, like roofs, too! Why? Because that’s what Sibiu’s houses do… they watch over the city with their “eyes.” But what is the purpose of these cartoonish eyes? Just a bit of whimsy, or are they actually for protection or surveillance?

Sibiu’s windows always on the lookout

They might look curious or even frightening to some. To others, they might look like they’re judging everything and everyone. But in reality, all they do is peacefully exist to entertain the walks of tourists and locals alike. Although, it wasn’t always like that. The reason Sibiu’s houses have been built with these “eyes” had nothing to do with aesthetics or divertissement. Not in the XIX century, at least.

Their role was related to practicality and architecture. Their sole purpose was to provide ventilation to the houses’ attics. No one really knows who was the creator of this now trademark of the city of Sibiu, but he must have been a local, for this particularity can only be found here and nearby.

What started as an architectural innovation soon gained a cultural dimension, and today the houses in Sibiu are famous worldwide for their unique facial features. For Romanian people, however, there is more to this than just looks.

Orwell and windows

Sibiu’s eyes, as they have been colloquially referred to, symbolize not only engineering advancement but social and political righteousness, too. Many tourists have highlighted the relationship between the legends behind the creation of the eyes and the censored world presented in George Orwell’s novels. Still, that world is not far from the reality Romania experienced during its communist times.

While the eyes do not represent an ally to Big Brother, they do represent, as of 2017, a symbol of civic responsibility and involvement. They have been an important part of the anti-corruption fight, as #weseeyoufromSibiu, featuring logos of the “eyes,” began circulating on the internet. Sibiu, or Seebiu, took the cultural and innocent meaning of its most renowned particularity to a new height in their battle against injustice.

Now, when crossing the picturesque streets of Sibiu, look up and admire the beauty and intricacy of the roofs and the solidarity and justice they represent. And always remember, Sibiu is watching you.

Naomi Gherman

Master student in Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations at Babeș-Bolyai University, eager to share more about our world's most fascinating stories and people. Romania-based reader, writer and content creator with a strong interest in journalism, foreign languages and politics.

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