Not much is known about the small medieval church in this Transylvanian village. Known in Romanian as Viișoara, it is Hundorf in German and Csatófalva in Hungarian. The clue about it not being fortified perhaps lies in its German name: “Hun-dorf” means “Hungarian village”. Since it was predominantly Hungarian with few Saxons, and it was the Saxons who fortified churches during medieval times… it didn’t happen here.

One source states the church was finished in the 15th century and then underwent modifications or restorations in 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. When we visited it in 2011, it wasn’t in the greatest of shapes. A date on one of the buttresses said “2010”, as in some repairs had been made just a year before our visit, but the place didn’t look it. Still, it wasn’t falling down either, so it was getting some care, though it wasn’t getting any good use.

Enjoy the photographs!


The medieval church in Viișoara


Dumbrăveni ((before 1945 “Ibașfalău”; German: “Elisabethstadt”; Saxon dialect: “Eppeschdorf”; Hungarian: “Erzsébetváros”) is an historically significant town in Transilvania. Archaeological digs revealed proof that it was an inhabited place as early as the Paleolithic. We fast-forward through history to come to the time of the Hungarian colonization/occupation of Transilvania, when in 1214, it became part of a region controlled by the Hungarian rulers.

In 1552, the Apafi family obtained all of the land around the town of Dumbraveni and Grigore Apafi became the ruler. He immediately began the construction of a castle in the center of the town, a castle of which I will talk in a future post. The interesting part of it is that the castle adjoins the Armenian Catholic church, or rather that the church ended up being built next to it hundreds of years later.

The Armenians were invited to colonize the region in 1671 by the Apafi family. As they were very good merchants and the town was already a market town, they (and the town) quickly prospered. In turn, they gained a good amount of autonomy and in 1766, they started the construction of this large church right next to the Apafi Castle. The construction ended in 1783 and the church was dedicated to St. Elizabeth, in concordance with the town’s new name (at the time) of Elisabethopolis. (source)

As a structure, the church is striking. You’d have to visit a Western European town to find its equivalent. Scale-size, it is much larger than the churches of its time in Romania. One thing you’ll notice right away is the facade is asymmetric, and that’s because the top of one of the towers was knocked down by a storm in 1927. Instead of re-creating the cupola, the town decided to cover it with a flat roof.

The church altar and statues were made by sculptor Simon Hoffmayer. The church hall houses a valuable collection of books, about 2200 volumes on religion, language and natural sciences from the 16th-19th centuries, written in Italian, Armenian, Hungarian, and French Altin. (source)

By the way, there’s another old Catholic church in Dumbraveni, with catacombs. That one doesn’t seem to be maintained and isn’t known by tourists. You can see it here.

Enjoy the photographs!


The Armenian Catholic Church in Dumbraveni


Images from historic churches and monasteries in Bucovina and Moldova

In August of 2*** (regular readers will know the year 😁), we took a tour of the historic churches and monasteries in the provinces of Moldova and Bucovina (within the territory of Romania).

A clarification is in order here. When people hear Moldova they automatically think about the Republic of Moldova, which used to be part of the Romanian province of Moldova but was taken by the Russians in 1940. That whole region has a fairly tumultuous history which you can read here. Just keep in mind these photographs were taken within the current-day borders of Romania and yes, there are two provinces called Bucovina and Moldova in Romania. I’ve lost track of how many times people have tried to correct me on this, all of them foreigners…


I could have published individual posts of each place but that would have been tedious for me (and for you too). I know it was tedious for me when we visited these places, one after another, day after day, dealing with heat, huge crowds and the hospitality industry (you know, the three Hs of travel; they add together to form a fourth H which is a four-letter word)… but we had made a plan and we stuck to it. Romanians in general tend to make trips to these places yearly for religious reasons. We visited these places because of their historical and architectural value, so while we were there we saw as many as we could in the time we had allotted ourselves.

In this gallery of photographs (there are 134 of them), you will see images from the following places:

  • The wooden church in Șurdești (Maramureș), a UNESCO monument and also the highest wooden church in the world
  • Moldovița Monastery
  • Sucevița Monastery
  • Chilia lui Daniil Sihastrul
  • Putna Monastery
  • “Dragoș Vodă” wooden church
  • Voroneț Monastery, famous for the blue used in its exterior murals, called Voroneț Blue
  • Humorul Monastery
  • Arbore Church
  • Dragomirna Monastery
  • Agapia Monastery
  • Văratec Monastery
  • Neamț Monastery
  • Secu Monastery
  • Sihăstria Monastery

Since I arranged the photos in chronological order, you’ll see them just as they’re listed above. You’ll probably want to know which was my favorite place. Dragomirna Monastery, definitely! Enjoy the gallery and thanks for being a subscriber!

I kept things simple in terms of photo gear for this trip, because there were four of us in the car and I knew I’d have to deal with the 3Hs of travel I mentioned above. I shot mainly with my Canon EOS 5D and the EF 24-105mm f/4L lens. My backup camera was the Canon PowerShot G10.

Canon EOS 5D (front)

Canon EOS 5D

Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens

Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens

Canon PowerShot G10

Canon PowerShot G10


The Roman-Catholic church in Dumbraveni

On a side street in Dumbraveni, Romania, in a neighborhood full of gypsies, you’ll find the city’s old Roman-Catholic church. It’s over 1,000 years old, and it’s not being properly maintained, as is the case with many of Romania’s historic buildings. Looking at the building itself, it’s hard to believe it’s stood there for a millenium, but there it is. Sure, there are architectural details which date the building, but it’s not imposing, certainly nothing of the scale of the Armenian-Catholic church just a few blocks away from it.

When we got there, it was locked up. The front door — now made of iron — was bolted. The sign marking it as an historic monument was torn. The back doors were nailed shut, and so were the windows. One of the doors was even walled in.

I walked around the building, trying to avoid human feces that marked the grass courtyard, and noticed that even though the cellar doors were nailed shut, I could pry one of them ajar and squeeze through.

My sense of adventure got the better of me, and I went ahead. I grabbed a little LED flashlight from the car, and headed inside. It was clear the vaults underneath the church had been looted and vandalized, numerous times. There were countless footsteps in the sand, and trash left there by hooligans. Important architectural details, like the columns you see in one of the photos, were either shattered and on the floor, or downright missing.

The grave you see below, one of several built into the supporting walls of the vaults, has been desecrated, along with others. If you look carefully, you’ll see human bones among the rubble.

There was an iron door with intricate relief work, which leads to an inner sanctum. It was bolted shut, and I could see a serious amount of time has passed since it was opened.

There is a lower level to the vaults, partially uncovered here. I’m not sure if the walls below are stable enough for someone to go inside. I would have doubts about venturing there.

The intricate design of the mold on the vault walls is a possible indication that they were painted once.

There you have it. I’m not sure of this church’s fate. No caretaker was in sight when I was there, nor were there visible signs that the church was being cared for.


The Franciscan Church in Medias

According to monastic records, construction of the Franciscan compound in Medias, Romania, began in 1444. The compound includes a monastery, the church (which you can see in the photos shown here) and various annexes. In 1556, after the formerly-Catholic townspeople joined the Reformation, the monks were run out of town, and the buildings were used for various lowly purposes, such as stables, etc.

On a side note, I’m not a Catholic, but it seems to me that using a church as a stable just shouldn’t be done, no matter what its denomination may be.

In 1721, the buildings and the site were returned to the Franciscan order, and monks were invited back into the city, although by now the buildings were run-down and in desperate need of serious renovations. The church, originally of Gothic architecture, gained Baroque stylings on the inside, and the other buildings were re-built as needed.

The church doors were built in 1764, according to the numbers carved unto them.

Nowadays, part of the monastery’s compound is being used by the Medias Municipal Museum, and in the last few years, a Hungarian school has been built on the monastery’s land. The school is scheduled to go into use this fall. There’s more information on the monastery’s history (in Romanian).