|CSÍKSOMLYÓ, which is in the outskirts of
Csíkszereda, is first mentioned in a document of the pope dated 1332, when he
acknowledges revenues collected from here. According to historian Losteiner, the village
had its own church and monastery as early as 1208.
The Franciscan monastery of Csíksomlyó was founded in 1442 by János Hunyadi, governor of Hungary (1446-1452), mighty defender of Hungary against the Ottoman invasion, father of the finest Hungarian king: Matthias (1458-1490), to commemorate his victory over the Turkish troops at Marosszentimre.
The church and the monastery did not avoid the devastations of history. In 1553, Wallachian (i.e., Rumanian) voivodine Peter and his son Elijah of Moldova cracked down on the village spreading havoc; in 1600, Habsburg general Basta raided Csík-szék; but the deadliest attack came in 1661, when the Tartars set the church, monastery and the school on fire destroying them. Luckily (and heroically !) the next Tartar raid of 1694 was beaten back by well-prepared troops, even counting women within its lines.
The Salvator chapel
|Following the authorization by the pope in 1667, the secondary grammar school
Csíksomlyó opened its gates in 1668. Among the founders of the grammar school was
Hungarian (1629-1687), who was a truly talented man having many skills. Ha was an
architect, composer, organ builder and player, historian, and printer. He established the
printery of Csíksomlyó (the first printery in the Székely-land) and printed the first
book in 1675 titled Cantionale Catholicum, which was a psalm-book.
The grammar school was run by the monks of the Franciscan begging order, but because of the very important cultural, ethnographical, architectural, and artistic, etc., achievements they have made, the monastery school received donations from political leader and high-nobles, as their sigh of appreciation. Even Basta, the cruel Habsburg general donated wealth, and during his raids, he managed to avoid causing damage to the monks here. The largest donations were from Hungarian Gábor Bethlen in 1616, György Rákóczi I, in 1649, Ákos Barcsay in 1659, and Mihály Apaffi in 1662.
As a results, the Franciscan monks were able to establish such a high-level educational, cultural, and artistic center in the Grammar School of Csíksomlyó, that is became completely comparable to the levels of other reputable schools of the same kind in Western Europe.
The present church's construction started in 1802 in late baroque style and the construction procedure with the interiors lasted 72 years. The foundation of the old monastery founded by János Hunyadi was used to erect the new building. The two-tower church has a 12-meter-high aisle which hosts magnificent paintings by Italian and Hungarian painters; the organ, re-built by János Kájoni, and the wooden-sculpture figure of the Virgin Mary, known as the Weeping Mary, in the main altar both count for a masterpiece. One of the church's bells is 1,133 kg.
Székely girls in national costumes
|Csíksomlyó became a pilgrimage place in 1567, when Hungarian king Sigismund János
(1559-1571) wanted to convert the Székely population to Protestant. The Székelys refused
to abandon the Catholic faith and resisted. A battle took place on a nearby field, on the
day of Pentecost Saturday 1567, from which the Székelys came out victorious. The monks
saw this as a sign of the care of Virgin Mary, and since then, this event has been
commemorated by a pilgrimage when the believers gather on Pentecost every year.
The church and the Franciscan monastery of Csíksomlyó stand as a landmark in the Székely-land. This complex, and the pilgrimage here each year, have become a symbol of the brotherhood of the Székelys, their cultural and ethnic awareness of survival at any rate and, therefore, its importance for the Székely and Hungarian people in Transylvania would be difficult to over-estimate.
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Images and text supplied by András Szeitz, unless otherwise indicated.
Hungarian Images and Historical Background
© 1994 András Szeitz
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with the indication of the source, are welcome without permission.