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Land Of Diversity And The Prayer Of Thousands: Transylvania And The Fair Of Csíksomlyó

Robert Velkey 2016.05.17.

The Fair Of Csíksomlyó is the most important happening for the Catholics of Transylvania and it has become the biggest Catholic celebration also for the entire Hungarian nation. The history of the holy place dates back to the 16th century. In 1567, the first prince of Transylvania, John Sigismund Zápolya, began violent missionary work in Transylvania and wanted the Catholic Szeklers to adopt the Unitarian faith. The army of the prince battled Szeklers congregated to protect their Catholic faith at Pentecost at the hills of Csíksomlyó. According to the legend, the Szekler “army” defeated the Prince’s forces and after the victory they returned to the sacred place annually for thanksgiving to the Blessed Virgin Mary. By today, the fair of Csíksomlyó has become the most important Catholic fair for the Hungarian nation. Since then, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and people interested visit the holy place gather each year on the hillside above the Csíksomlyó neighbourhood of the ethnic Hungarian town of Csíkszereda (Miercurea-Ciuc), Hargita county.

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Patrona Hungariae the Blessed Virgin Mary in the pilgrimage church of Csíksomlyó

On the weekend of Pentecost, a little team from Hungary also headed east to visit the legendary fair. Part of the editorial staff of Hungary Today visited Transylvania, worthily named “Fairy Garden”, for the fair; let’s join us during the journey in the land of the beautiful landscapes and colourful diversity.


The route of the journey in Transylvania

Everybody has imaginations about the captivating land of Transylvania. People usually call Transylvania the whole territory on the other side of the Romanian border  that was the part of Hungary before the Treaty of Trianon in 1920. To be accurate, the land of Transylvania starts after the Királyhágó mountain pass and the city of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). The territories before the pass used to be called Partium. However, something really happens at the border. The hills lead the traveler to “Kolozsvár, city of treasures” (Kincses Kolozsvár), through scenic view on the road.

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Scenic view on the road to Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca)

The capital of Transylvania

Kolozsvár is the second most populous city in Romania and the unofficial capital of the region of Transylvania. It’s home to universities, vibrant nightlife and landmarks dating back to Hungarian rule. The house of birth of the great Hungarian king Mátyás Hunyadi (Matthias Corvinus) is in the downtown of the city. The St Michael’s Church is the second largest in Romania and with its 80m high tower it has the highest one in Transylvania. Although Kolozsvár was a purely Hungarian city a hundred years ago, by today it only has a 16% ethnic Hungarian minority, numbering some 65 000 people.

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The statue of Matthias the Just at the main square of Kolozsvár in front of St. Michael’s Church

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The house of birth of Matthias Corvinus in the centre of the city

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The Gothic interior of the Roman Catholic St. Michael’s Church on the city’s main square

The Fair of Csíksomlyó

The origin of the thanksgiving fair has been already mentioned but let us see how is it looks like today. All the pilgrims arrives to Csíksomlyó (Sumuleu Ciuc) on the Saturday of Pentecost. Some of them walks hundreds of kilometers to visit the fair and pray at the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the Patron of the Hungarian Nation. The main program is a thanksgiving mass on the hill of Somolyó near by the Salvator Chapel. Hundreds of thousands participated on the reunion at the Pilgrim’s Shire on the hill on Saturday. After the mass the celebrating fold returned to the city of Csíkszereda (Miercurea Cuic) and after a refreshing gathering and singing started the preparation to the journey back home.

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Szekler pilgrims on the way to the Thanksgiving Fair

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The mass on the Mass

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Prayer to Patrona Hungariae

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Multi-faceted Transylvania, land of diversity

Romania but specially Transylvania is something like a kaleidoscope. According to your turns it changes its faces. The natural attractions, landscapes and the places are captivating and multicoloured so you can always find something beautiful and something unexpected little detail in front of you. But not only the mountains, the healing green fields, forests and grazing cows are so various. The villages and the cities of Transylvania one by one has a unique mood, history, community and culture too. This multicolored picture comes from the multicultural ethnical combinations and the strong local identities of the habitants. The values of the strength of the community among the Hungarian minority and the brotherhood of them is exemplary about humanity in the 21th century.

Let’s have a look in the kaleidoscope of Transylvania and enjoy the wonderful landscapes and the suprising faces of the fairy garden.

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photos: MTI; Hungary Today’s Team