The Szekler Gates of Máréfalva

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The earliest mention of the “knitted” gate dates as far as the early 17th century. The only preserved monument (i.e. Székely or Szekler gate) from this period is the entrance gate of the Franciscan Monastery garden located in Mikháza (Călugăreni), dating from 1673. The oldest still standing typical Szekler gate is in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Odorheiu Secuiesc), built in the fence of the Székely National Museum.

Their origin dates back to the times when the lands were in the “hands” of the nobles. Every noble mansion had an entrance gate like this. Over the 18th century the gates became “famous” even between the lower ranks. The first media documentation (newscast) named these gates “grand gates”, “old gates”, “knitted gates”; they do not occur only in Szekler Land, but in the whole Transylvania and several parts of the Carpathian basin.

The traditional “knitted” gate has three supporting pillars, and three major components: the big slatted door, sized so as to allow a cart loaded with hay to pass, while the small door is for the passage of persons. The three pillars are held together by a transverse beam that has a pigeon loft or dovecot covered with a shingles roof on top of it. The rooftop can be covered with one or two rows of serriform shingles. The 'dovecot' is just symbolic, because it was never used for really breeding pigeons. The simpler form of the gate is not decorated, only carved and has  no pigeon loft. The artistic value of the gate is given by the carpenter’s work, the only writing on it being the maker’s name and the date.

The Szekler gate is decorated with artistic carving, many times even painted. Important elements of these strictures are the pits, which are often fitted by carvings to the horizontal and vertical elements, ensuring the stability of the whole structure. The part right above the small door was named the “gate-mirror”, which can have multiple forms: with lattice-window openings, or might be filled and decorated or just one big opening. The small and the big doors have an opening that is fixed with forged iron to the jets. The small gate has a handle with a heart-shaped metal washer.

The gate manufacturers were (and still are) aware that their work could stand for several hundred years. The consolidating wooden part, dug 1 m deep into the ground putrefies much earlier, this is why this part of the gate had/has to be replaced and with a so-called crankshafts.

The material mostly used to build these gates is oak or Austrian oak, but in Csík (Ciuc) and Gyergyó (Gheorgheni) some gates are made of fir. On average, four cubic meters of wood are used for one gate. The wood should be dried for two to three years to get the best results. Nowadays, to speed up the drying process of the wood different treatments are used.

The gates around Udvarhely (Odorhei) are famous for their decorations, whereas the gates of Csík (Ciuc) and Háromszék are famed by their monumental character. In Fenyéd (Brădești) and Máréfalva (Satu Mare) we can find some older and earlier versions of the Szekler gate. These gates are not so enormous and a little simpler in structure. The gatemakers from Udvarhely (Odorhei), in the early days, used to garnish every small element on the gate. The characteristic ornaments of the gates are quite varied, from crawling sarmentums to guelder-roses, tulips, sprouts, scillas, spirals, palm-leaves or pigeons. The colors used on the gates are red, green, white and blue.

For me the gates are “wonders” because I know them, I feel them and I have a connection to them; not only because I used to be a teacher in the village, but I have an emotional tie to the Dávid gatemaker family.

  • 3 Generally known

  • 5 Condition

  • 5 Accessibility

  • 5 Spectacular

  • 3 Touristic utilization

(Based on 5 opinion )

Suggested by

Gyarmati Zsolt

Historian, warden of Csíki Székely Museum