Have you ever heard of Cluj-Napoca? (Me neither until recently.) Well, it’s the unofficial capital of Transylvania, the most famous region of Romania.
I stopped by the other day for a visit, right after Thanksgiving.
Transylvania has historically been the stronghold of Romanian Catholics (and Hungarian Catholics living in Romania), with most of the country being Eastern Orthodox. The Reformation took its toll on the region, with Saxon influences leaving most if not all of the countryside’s beautiful fortified churches Lutheran.
Anway. I popped into the Greek-Catholic cathedral, which happened to be having a service of some kind. It was PACKED – on a Saturday morning… Didn’t look like a funeral or wedding. No photos from inside, and no apologies for it!
But now check out the Latin Catholic church in Cluj’s city center, Sfântul Mihail (St. Michael):
And yes, that’s a Christmas market going up in the corner.
The church – which is actually not a cathedral despite its size and its city’s cultural centrality in the region – has a checkered history. It was originally Catholic when it was built in the mid 1400’s, then became Lutheran during the Reformation. Shortly after that it was taken over by the Unitarians. Finally the Catholics recovered it in the early 18th century with the support of the Habsburgs.
And now, behold, the largest Advent wreath I have ever feasted my eyes upon…
The Gothic influence was as obvious on the inside as on the outside. It was also obvious that I would not be able to spend too long there staying still, since the place was not heated – cold enough to see your breath! And yet there were still people showing up to pray. Maybe there is a lesson here… Spend more resources on putting fire in people’s hearts than on putting fire in a furnace. (Really, every church I visited had people there PRAYING. Saturday morning and afternoon.)
The ambo, on the left side of the nave, was a real treat. I really just couldn’t get enough of it. (It’s even the background on my phone now.) The detail was exquisite!
This little organ was cool too. Not sure if it’s functional, as there was also a set of pipes in the choir loft.
The wall used to be covered with frescoes, but if I remember correctly what I think I overheard someone saying during a private tour, they got messed up during the Reformation. Here’s part of what’s left:
Another look at the sanctuary (and the ambo!) before leaving:
Also there was this thing in the cramped antechamber before the nave:
Off to the Franciscan church I went. The architecture of the city was a bizarre mix of old and new. For example, compare the buildings at this intersection (left) with the library (right):
The Modernism of course comes from the Communism that once infected Eastern Europe. There were some monuments around the city remembering that time and its characters.
No Commies in the Franciscan church. Take a look for yourself!
This was far more baroque or rococo (barocacoco?)… I enjoyed it quite a bit – despite having the same bone chilling temperature as St. Michael’s.
The royal blue, off-white, and gold color scheme definitely worked for me. The use of carpet did not.
Back out into the city. Here are some other churches, probably all Orthodox (except for the clearly iconoclastic Reformed one):
Hey, what’s that thing with a Cross up on the hill?
Over the Someșul Mic River, and up the Cetățuia hill to find out…
The monument was nothing too interesting, just another anti-Commie structure. But the view was fantastic.
With not much left to do, I wandered through the suburbs down the side of the hill.
I wrapped up the day with a nice sit in the city’s central park and buried myself in an oversized helping of kürtőskalács. (Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, it means you’re normal. The lady serving it even gave me a funny look when I tried.)
That just about did it for me. Off to the airport the next day, where I was bombarded by the Duty Free shop with Dracula-you-name-it, including wines of every sort.
While the outer part of the city (where I stayed) was pretty bleak, I found the center part of “Treasure City,” as it’s called, rather energetic and pleasant. And cold. But the religious spirit of the place was edifying. I was even asked for my last name and my “Christian name” when checking in at my hotel! Can you imagine? All in all, a worthwhile excursion.
And with that, I peaced out on Wizz Air. (It’s real, trust me.)
Post by: Eamonn Clark