„SAINT MICHAEL” ROMAN-CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL

ARCHBISHOP’S PALACE
October 23, 2017
MILITARY ENGINEER GARRISON
October 23, 2017

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Built 800 years ago, the Roman Catholic Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Transylvania. It has also the oldest and tallest building both in Alba Iulia and the Alba County for centuries. Its 56.7 meter tower dominates the city skyline seen from afar.

The cathedral is considered to be the third religious building on the same site. It is built out of stone blocks from the walls of the Roman camp at Apulum. The works started at the beginning of the thirteenth century. From an architectural perspective, the edifice encompasses all styles used between the tenth and thirteenth centuries: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. The Romanesque is the most prominent. Started in this period, the construction of the cathedral lasted for decades, gradually adopting other architectural and decorative solutions that fit stylistically with the Gothic style. The interior remarkably mirrors the gothic style as well. Moreover, another notable intervention that is still visible today dates from the Renaissance. It is the Lázó chapel, located on the northern side.

The cathedral has witnessed remarkable events such as the entrance of Michael the Brave in the citadel of Bălgrad in 1599. The patron saint of the Cathedral is St. Michael, the patron saint of Alba Iulia.

Following the Reformation in Transylvania, the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Alba Iulia was abolished in 1565, and the Cathedral returned to Calvinist Protestants. We can speak about embellishment and renovation works after 1716, when the cathedral was owned again by the Roman Catholic Church. For instance, the four baroque statues on the northern side of the cathedral date since then. They depict Hungary’s holy kings, Stephen and Ladislau, and the bishops Adalbert and Gherardus. Currently, on the western front of the cathedral, you can see replicas of the original statues which are kept inside.

The cathedral is also a genuine Transylvanian pantheon. The southern side of the nave shelters the sarcophagus of Iancu de Hunedoara (Voievode of Transylvania and Governor of Hungary). The crowns, both Hungarian and Romanian, are placed on the tomb of the voivode, a sign of appreciation by both nations. The opposite nave shelters the tombs of John Sigismund (the first Prince of Transylvania) and the one of his mother, Isabella (Queen of Hungary). The Roman-Catholic Cathedral is unique both in Transylvania and in this part of Europe, by its age of more than eight centuries, and also by architectural elements that have harmoniously integrated into the structure of the edifice. There are enough reasons for us to consider the cathedral as the most important monument in Alba Iulia.

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