Ghelinţa The – St. Emeric Catholic Church

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The Roman Catholic Church of Gelence was the first and oldest church in the Upper Háromszék. In the first part of the 20th century a new church was built in the southern part of the settlement, in the honor of Prince Saint Emeric of Hungary. The new house of God overshadowed the old one; this is why the old church was slowly forgotten and fell in ruins. The protective wall, built out of stone, still shelters the beautiful rustic belfry and the cemetery (behind the restored church). Who would think that one can experience time travel to the Middle Ages by coming here? Behind the late-Gothic style entrance door, inside the church, elements of almost every architectural style can be discovered, together with the colorful murals. The church is part of the World Heritage Site. It is worth traveling here, to discover the cultural and historical values of this kirk. Gelence (Ghelinţa) is located nine kilometers south of Târgu Secuiesc.

The semi-circular sanctuary, the three sides of the nave and the openings of the southern and western gate were built in the 13th century. The original wooden baptismal was presumably sculpted in the 14th century and can still be considered the “pride” of the church. At the turn of the 15th-16th century a larger Gothic sanctuary was built; the date carved on the pyx (ciborium) says 1503. In 1628 the church was reinforced with new pillars. The inscription on one of the ceiling cassettes is a homage to the new reinforced church. Around this same year the painted panel-ceiling was also built out of 103 cassettes. This was followed by the construction of the outside protective wall. The western and southern baroque style portico dates back to the 18th century (1766). The same year, 1766, can be read on the door leaf of the sacristy. The interior of the church was finished in the 18th century, and at the end on the same century, the main and secondary altars were also built. The votice of the altar depicts the church's patron saint, Emeric of Hungary. The paintings illustrate one of the legends of James, son of Zebedee and scenes of the New Testament are also rendered (Massacre of the Innocents, The Exodus). The scenes continue on the northern aisle with the Passions of Christ (Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Maundy and the Last Supper, Christ Before Pilate, Flagellation of Christ, Crucifixion of Christ). The legend of Saint Ladislaus is painted above The Passions of Christ – because of this forgotten mural this church became one of the “wonders” of the region. The mural illustrates six scenes of the legend, including scenes of war, duel or beheading. Other paintings depict the Last Judgement, scenes from Garden of Eden or the legend of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine. The geometrical and floral motifs of the panel-ceiling are representative works of the 17th century Renaissance. It is more than certain that this is the work of Saxon painters from Brassó (Brașov). Presumably around 1766 the gallery was also painted, representing saints like Nikolaos of Myra (Saint Nicolas), Saint George, Saint Anne, Saint Klara, John the Baptist, John the Apostle. Beside the name of these Saints, the names of the families who donated the paintings are also “recorded”.

This kirk is unique in South-eastern Transylvania. It’s historical and architectural value makes it distinctive. Szekler runic scripts from the Gothic period has been discovered on the sanctuary.

The small cathedral is a real mecca for all those who would like to discover the history of architecture merged in a single place.

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Kisgyörgy Zoltán

Geolog, jurnalist