Saint Michael's Church,
The city of Cluj-Napoca, in Cluj County, is one with a long and glorious history that still makes its people proud. It was mentioned as a free city as early as 1316, when prince Charles Robert of Anjou granted it a series of rights and privileges, among which the freedom to chose its own priest and vicar. The expression of that privilege was the building of the famous Saint Michael’s Church, one of the most representative monuments of the city.
At 70 m long and 80 m high, the church towers over the entire center of the city. Its construction, which was carried out between 1316 and 1390, with a second stage following between 1410 and 1487, was such an important endeavor that there was even a papal document, dating from 1349, offering the absolution of sins for those who financially supported the building of the cathedral.
A history of princes and faiths
Throughout time, this church hosted several royal events, such as the baptism of Matthias Corvinus and the coronation of four princes of Transylvania: Gabriel Bethlen, Sigismund Rákoczi, Sigismund Báthory, and Gabriel Báthory. During the Protestant Reformation, the church served various religious communities. Thus, between 1545 and 1558 it was a Lutheran church, then, between 1558 and 1566 it became Calvinist, only to be passed into the hands of the Unitarians in 1556, who kept it for 150 years. Finally, following the Counter-Reformation, it was assigned once again to the Roman-Catholics.
Fires and tremors
In 1697 the north-western tower of the church was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in Baroque style in 1744. However, after suffering ample damage in an earthquake, it had to be demolished, in 1763. The current clock tower, built between 1837 and 1860 in Neo-Gothic style remains to this day the highest church tower in Romania.
Saint Michael’s church was erected at the site of a former cemetery, in place of an older chapel that had been dedicated to Saint Jacob. It was designed to have two towers on its main façade, but only the north-western one was actually erected, between 1511 and 1543. Architecturally, it is a Gothic hall church with a vaulted choir and windows made of stained glass. Above the entry gate there is a blazon of Saint Michael, as well as the coats of arms of the Holy Roman Empire, the Hungarian Kingdom and the Bohemian Kingdom. One of the most valuable artistic structures inside is the Schleunig chapel, which contains the best preserved frescoes of the church.
Of all the wonderful constructions and various priceless items reunited inside the church, the most representative with regards to its style and diversity of forms are the portal of the sacristy, the pulpit and the altar. The portal of the sacristy was constructed in 1528 in late Renaissance style, incorporating, among others, the coat of arms of the city of Cluj-Napoca, as well as the symbol of the universal church – the pelican who feeds its offspring with its own flesh. The Baroque pulpit was made between 1740 and 1750 and decorated with Biblical scenes, as well as sculptures of various saints, all underneath the statue of the patron saint. Finally, the altar is a Neo-Gothic work of art decorated with an impressive statue of the Virgin Mary, in the middle, and statues of the two sanctified Hungarian kings, Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus.