THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH
It is situated on Ferdinand I Boulevard, and since 1913, it has been celebrating „The Holy Heart of Jesus”. It also may also appear under the old name of Saint Sebastian.
The Franciscans, a Catholic monastic order founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209, are attested in Alba Iulia since the 13th century, by holding a church and a monastery in the northeast of the city. Later on, in 1691, when the Habsburgs took over Transylvania, the Franciscans returned to Alba Iulia through two different groups: some were the Bulgarian Franciscans who settled in the citadel and raised the chapel of St. Giovanni de Capistrano, and the others were Transylvanian Franciscans who settled in the Lower City. The Chapel of the Bulgarian Franciscans was destroyed during the siege of 1849. A statue of St. John Nepomuk was saved and moved to the Roman Catholic Church in Bărăbanţ village.
Wearing a brown monk robe, the Transylvanian Franciscans, several decades before the Austrian authorities allowed them to move into the lower city, they encountered the refusal of the prince Gheorghe Rakoczi to settle near the fortress. The Habsburg occupation led to the restoration of Catholicism in Transylvania, which had suffered an important drawback against Protestant confessions during the Principality years. So, in 1725, the Franciscan brothers received an area of the so-called Heiuş neighbourhoods and the German City (later became the Maieri Quarter) to raise a house of prayer.
The swampy terrain conditions, caused by the frequent floods of the river Mureş, forced them to postpone until 1752 the beginning of the construction which was finalized back in 1770. However, on several occasions it was necessary to restore the church, due to many floods and even a fire. Even on the frontispiece of the church, the Latin inscription recalls the works of 1843, at the initiative of Bishop Nicholas Kovacs, when the edifice was „restored from the ashes”. Soon, during the 1849 Revolution and also during the siege of the fortress, the site suffered new destructions.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, due to the increase of Catholic believers in the Lower City, the Church was given the status of a Parish Church. Due to multiple renovations and restorations the original appearance was affected. The latest interventions took place within the urban plan of the 80s when the monks’ cells were demolished.
Scientific consultant: Tudor Roșu, PhD historian
Translation made by: Ciprian Dobra, PR expert
The Transylvanian Franciscans, a group of the Catholic monastic order of the same name, arrived in Alba Iulia in 1691 and settled in the so-called „Lower Town”. This period overlapped with the Habsburgs taking over Transylvania and when Catholicism was restored in the region.
In 1725, the Franciscans were allocated a swampy area in the Heiuş and German city (today Maieri) neighbourhoods to raise a house of prayer.
Constructed between 1752 and 1770, the Franciscan Church was renovated several times due to repeated overflows from the Mures River and a fire. The latter is mentioned on the frontispiece of the church, where a Latin inscription describes how the edifice was „restored from the ashes” during recovery works, which took place in 1843 and were commissioned by Bishop Nicholas Kovacs.
Shortly afterwards, during the Revolution of 1849 and a siege on the citadel, the site suffered destruction again.
The church acquired the status of a parish only towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the number of Catholics increased in the Lower City. While it was dedicated to the „Most Holy Heart of Jesus” in 1913, the church continues to be referred to by its old name, Saint Sebastian, on occasion.
This place of worship is also unique in light of its unorthodox design. The dimensions of the church narthex, nave and altar are distinctly smaller than its bell tower – a rare design feature.