St. Michael’s Church
St. Michael’s on a summer Sunday morning. The streets are still empty, and it is still possible to find a parking space along the sidewalks. The sun shines on the square and the Gothic parish church. The building of the church’s construction is dated to the year 1316. In August of that year, Charles Robert de Anjou granted Cluj city rights (civitas). To help realize this grand event, construction started on a Gothic church in the center of the square. The relatively small sanctuary joins a long nave, this is explained by the fact that the number of city residents was increasing, therefore the Church would receive an increasing number of people. The church building was completed in 1430, during the reign of Sigismund de Luxembourg, whose three coats of arms adorn the western gable portions: the center that of the Roman Empire with its two-headed eagle, the emblem of Hungary to the right and that of Bohemia to the left. The middle symbol was modified in 1444, when the winged statue of the Archangel Saint Michael was placed over it. The church’s nave together with the sanctuary is 70 meters long, 24 meters wide, surpassed in size only by the Black Church in Brasov among Gothic buildings in Transylvania.
On the southern side of the church under the main cornice is a frieze with flames stretching from the scale that goes up to the bridge, almost imperceptible from afar. During previous renovations a cannonball was set here. To bridge the left footpeg on the second buttress of the south wall of the exterior is the only ornament that embodies a person: a bearded figure with long hair below the stone canopy decorated with lilies, whose head is already missing. It constitutes an enigma, who was the character immortalized by the sculptor: Saint Sebastian or a king?
The church originally had four gates . But today is only the western gate is used, which was incorporated into the church axis as the small windows above , the reasons for are unknown. Two gates were located in the north , one of them being converted to the entrance of the chapel’s tower built in front of it. In the south is a gate with a double arch and horizontal niche, which is used to help ventilate the church, namely to allow the heat to penetrate into the cool interior of the church. If the sun still provides some heat, one can sit on the bench here even in November.
From the northeastern corner of the main square you can see the tower in its entirety, although trolleybus lines and cables are not favorable for photographers. Initial plans included two front towers on both sides of the western gate , but – as is usual – only one was made: the north tower . It was rebuilt in Baroque style between 1742-44 , and because of lightning and earthquakes was cracked and damaged to such an extent that it was necessary to demolish to it. After collections and plans were made to start construction of the new tower in 1837 in neo-Gothic style, being completed in 1859 . The height of the six level tower reached 80 meters with a 4 meter gold cross. The clock was designed by the engineer Anton Geiser, its big hand pointing at the hour and the little hand – the minutes . At the end of the 19th century. tower had five bells which rang for distinguished events.
The inside with the church’s Gothic arches with three naves always surprises those who enter: from the bundles of pillars that divide the naves rise a Gothic vault floor without the creation of vaults, thus according to the height. The original Gothic facilities were almost completely lost, keeping only the skeleton pulpit and a few fragments of frescoes unearthed during the last restoration.
This is explained by the fact that from 1545, the church was used by the Protestants, which removed the Catholic endowments. In 1716 the Catholics recovered the church from the Unitarian church with aid from the army, and since the 1740s due the custom of those days – baroque church furniture was placed. The most beautiful piece of this furniture is the pulpit, being the most luxurious ornament in a baroque church in Transylvania. The bottom was made by “swamping” medieval stone pulpit painted and decorated in the Gothic style.
This is the work of Johannes Nachtigall , the crown is shaped by Anton Schuchbauer, the two sides form a perfect whole . On the bottom rail of the richly decorated cornice and parapet are four niches in relief, in which the figures of the four evangelists are found together with associated symbols, seated at the table and seem ready for writing . On the niche of the ladder is John with an eagle , and Luke with the bull’s head, following Mark with the lion, the line being completed by Matthew with the angel.
On the lower cornice among the evangelists find the relief with the holy church leaders , each having a book in front, representing knowledge: from the right first bishop of St. Augustine is that just raises the floor beside him as the symbol of the angel; beehive – the attribute of St. Ambrose dressed in episcopal clothes – is seen behind the next statue , probably due to an incorrect restorations, St. Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin, a cardinal wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and his face forcefully moving forward to left, resting his foot on the lion that symbolizes him, and overhead Pope Gregory the Great , the father of church music , stands a dove. Compared to the rather static representation of the four evangelists , the church leaders are captured dynamically by executing different movements.
The crown pulpit is supported on both sides by angels with trumpets. The bird on the center floor canopy with spread wings represents the Holy Spirit. The winged figure in Roman legionary garb is St. Michael the Archangel , patron saint of the church, stands in the ornate cornice above dancing cherubs, holding a cross -handled spear.
The church originally had five altars in Baroque style, of which today there are only two. The most famous is the altar with the three Magi from the East found in southern chapel. It was molded by Anton Schuchbauer and gilded by Georg Grasser between 1747-1750 and is decorated by 16 statue . The left image is an angel altar and a rake on the right of the other two philanderers. They are depicted as if dancing. The image on the altar is the most valuable painting of the church, a work of the late Austrian Baroque master Franz Anton Maulbertsch dated to around 1748. The magi worshiping the king is an oil painting done on canvas, size 87 x 171 cm which was brought from Vienna. The central figure of the painting is Mary who keeps the left hand of Jesus that stand on her knees, turning his gaze to the Virgin. The child reaches out to kiss Gaspar , the one with the gray beard that goes to the knees , behind which is Melchior , with black hair and crown , holding a bowl as gift. Next to it – at the forefront of the painting – there is Baltazar’s great figure with a golden flask of oil in his right hand, having his servant behind him with a parasol . Behind the Virgin is revealed the yellow-jacketed figure of Joseph . In the background is a baroque wall with urn, the top painting the picture of two angels in the clouds which have a shining star . The composition is warm, serene…
The church was decorated with Gothic furniture in the 1870s . In place of the old baroque altar the carpenter Ludovic Back designed and created to the main altar that is used to this present day, winning an award at the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna. The main alcove houses the statue of St. Mary the Great, patron of Hungary, on the left (north bay) is the figure of St. Stephen, and St. Ladislaus is the right statue . In this period were made stalls in the sanctuary, with boxes for both priests and confessions.
The stained glass windows were made in Budapest and painted between 1893-1912, with scenes from the Bible. The image of the Archangel Michael (above the main altar ) and the Holy Virgin .
The well-preserved fragments of ancient frescoes can be seen today in the Schleunig Chapel to the right of the main western gate, and can be seen especially in the upper parts of the north wall composition. Above is a scene from Golgota.
On the south wall of the nave is an intact fresco that captures the Virgin Mary accompanied by the seven virgins. Maria can be recognized by baby Jesus held in his arms. East of this scene is almost indistinguishable Calvary fragment with Christ on the cross to the left of Mary Magdalene, which can only be recognized by the upper body.
Information given by Mr. Gaal György.
Translated by Darius Roby