|The Calvinist church of Marosszentimre (Sântimbru) in Transylvania|
I would like to start this post by a poem written by my grandfather, Zoltán Jékely, in 1936. The translation included here is by Bernard S. Adams.1
On its most simple level, this poem expressed what is an ever-growing problem of abandoned churches in Transylavania. In several areas of Transylvania, Hungarian population has drastically decreased in a process which had speeded up since the middle of the 19th century. After the Treaty of Trianon (1920), when Hungary ceded Transylvania to Romania, this process reached a dramatic scale, especially in southern Transylvania (the area around Gyulafehérvár cathedral, on which see my earlier post). In a place like Marosszentimre, where my grandfather could write about a Calvinist congregation of ten people, today there is practically no Hungarian congregation. Unlike Hungarians, the Romanian population is Eastern Orthodox, and they have built their own new churches in Marosszentimre and similar places. As a result, there are a number of virtually abandoned medieval churches throughout Transylvania. Managed by the Hungarian Catholic or Calvinist churches, sometimes there is no money for even the most basic maintenance of these structures, and with no locals to carry out simple repairs, many of these churches are virtually on the brink of collapse. The Romanian government or its monument protection agency similarly pays little attention to these places.
|The church of Borberek (Vurpar), view from the sanctuary.|
Photo by Ákos Horváth, Ágoston Sándor Foundation
I would also like to call attention to the similarly rich architectural heritage of Transylvanian Saxon towns - many of them left in a similar state after the exodus of Transylvanian Saxons to Germany during the 1980s-1990s. You can read this article about these villages in the Guardian (Oct. 2009).
Most of the churches in this condition date from the 13-15th centuries, and many of them preserve important wall paintings. The images below illustrate some of the most important monuments which need to be saved - my photos of them date from the years 2007-2009 (enlarge and click on 'show info' for the names of the locations). Some photos (Kéménd, Marosfelfalu) were taken by Attila Mudrák for our book on Medieval frescoes in Transylvania.
Note 1: Published in The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary Volume 22, Number 3, December 2007.