Unitarian church: medieval fresco scenes covering 100 square meters, unique coffered ceiling, painted furniture, sanctuary dating from the Árpád Dynasty of medieval Hungary
Catholic church: Rococo ceiling, sculptures dated before the Reformation period, side altar from 1646, 18th-century altar!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Roman Catholic church of Homoródkarácsonyfalva


The erection of the Roman Catholic church of Homoródkarácsonyfalva took place at the end of the eighteenth century. The pastoral care of the Catholic congregation of the village, the majority of which were Unitarian, was provided by the Jesuits of Székelyudvarhely in the first half of the eighteenth century (1739). In 1768 or 1777 strife brought about by differences in religious views between Catholics and Unitarians came to the fore triggering the building of the present-day Catholic church. The sanctuary and the nave of the church are also richly ornamented by stucco decoration, the star-like motif in the middle of the ceiling of the latter figuring the date of 1785 written in a reversed pattern. The stucco decoration of the ceiling, one of the most qualitative accomplishments of its age, is applied to a carrier, which is also outstanding. The ornamentation was not applied to a close structure of beams (placed directly next to each other) and thatch, but to the dense structure of laths fixed on oak beams laid 10-15 centimetres from each other and covered with plaster. The monogram of Christ (the letters “IHS” standing for “in hoc signo”) framed by the motif of a quatrefoil can be seen on the ceiling of the sanctuary; apart from this space, the ceiling is covered by richly overflowing Rococo plaster pattern carved on site. The present-day colouring of the ceiling differs completely from decoration typical of the 18th century, and originally it could have been white resulting in the solely dominating effect of light and shadow of the surface.
Valuable items of furniture and paintings have been preserved in the church, in the parish and its neighbouring buildings until the present day.
The fragmented rear of the altar of the church shows that it was not designed for and placed in the church of Homoródkarácsonyfalva. The mensa of the altar is decorated by stucco ornamentation painted over several times.
The sculptures accompanying the oil painting of the main altar representing the scene of The Visitation are missing. Similar counterparts of the ornamentation of altar wings of Homoródkarácsonyfalva can be seen on some altars of the Basin of Csík (Csíki-medence in Hungarian), for instance, in Csíkszenttamás, Csíkmindszent and Csíkrákos. The size of The Visitation painting had become too large to fit into the altar case, in which the altarpiece could only be fixed in a slanting position. The former painting of the main altar was replaced to the northern wall of the sanctuary. The painting represents the Virgin Mary with Christ accompanied by angels. The misleading retouch of the painting of low quality does not follow faithfully the original layout of the representation. Considering the erection of the altar, it was made according to the technique typical of the 17th century: the painted canvas was fixed with nails on a panel reinforced with strutting. By the process of retouch, slats imitating frames were nailed on the altarpiece awkwardly so that the traces of nails disappear; these slats serving the framing of the altarpiece fit aptly in size into the altar case. The former altarpiece of the church consecrated to the honour of the Virgin Mary visiting Elizabeth” (in Hungarian, “Sarlós Boldogasszony,” one of the feasts of the Virgin Mary held on 2nd of July, is associated with the agricultural activity of harvest in Hungary) is assumed to have been replaced so that the new painting of the altar correspond to the patron saint of the church. The decoration on the gable of the altar is an awkward imitation of the original one. This former gable decoration was relocated to the top of the altar on the right in the nave. The painting of this altar in the middle represents St. Margaret of Antiochia identified with an inscription, and was fixed on the panel according to the above mentioned technique customary and typical of the 17th century. The stout formation of the two projecting ornaments of the wings, and the formation and size of the heads of the putti demonstrate that this altarpiece was a part of the former main altar. The tabernacle used recently is a work of art created in a relatively late period. A five-centimetre long fragmentary section of the rear of the original tabernacle is still preserved on the predella of the altar. This small predella was painted blue and decorated with stars in line of the fashion of its era. Initial revealments and cleanings on the altar have proved that the original underlying colour of the altarpiece was black, while the wooden engravings were richly gilded and covered with silver and lustre.
The altar situated on the right side of the nave deserves special attention. The composition of the Holy Trinity painted on oil canvas was replaced to the central panel of the altar. The inscription of the lower part of the altar reads thus:
SS. TRINITAS UNUS DEUS MISERERE ANIMABUS DEFUNCTORUM BENEFACTORUM. 1794.
A C Ö
The altar is considered as one of the most qualitative and earliest works of art of the 17th century Transylvanian altar architecture. The date of 1646 found on the central cartouche of the predella dates the central panel of the altarpiece to 1646. The base of the two twisted columns girded with vine leaves, the engraved winged angels, the festoon of the side panels and the qualitative decoration of the pedestal and the inner cartouche of the predella are unprecedented in the altar architecture of Székelyföld. The underlying black colour and the engravings with a thin metallic coating are characteristic features of the small altar. Each piece of furniture of the church, including the main and the side altar, the painting of The Visitation in an ornamented framework next to the pulpit and formerly composing a part of the altar have been retouched several times. The original basic dark tone covered richly with metallic coating of high standard is hidden under the retouch layers of white oil painting, bronze powder and  silver.
Two, one-metre high lime sculptures representing St. Nicholas and St. Augustine bishops have been found in the attic of the church and the outbuildings recently. The saint bishops formed with voluminous draperies and characteristic position might have originated from the era before the Reformation, and might have composed parts of an altar. The possibility that the intact sculptures used before the Reformation were replaced to the 17th -century altar, a common practice not unprecedented in Székelyföld, is not excluded either. Their damaged paint layer put on the canvas suggests a medieval technique of metallic coating of sculptures. These excellent works of art bearing a relatively small degree of fragmentary parts were painted over. The surfaces covered by lustre and silver primarily were attached by retouches. I assume that an attempt was made at restoring the old polluted glazed layers of paint by the use of low-quality coating. Considerable part of the earlier canvas paintings of the Passion of Christ has remained intact on canvasses. Four of the canvas paintings of good quality are stored in the parish, while an additional four damaged canvasses are kept in an outbuilding. In the environment of the latter other fragments of seventeenth-century altarpieces were lit on. Two fragmented small sculptures of angels, and a third wooden one resembling those in its formation have been found, the latter one laid in a frame could have composed a part of the gable or predella decoration of a 17th-century altar. Similarly, figures of angels painted on board and cut around by saw are scattered here and betray the characteristic features of Transylvanian altar architecture. The artistic and cultural-historic significance of these provincial altar decorations of modest quality is important. They offer an insight into an age and its works of art of which our knowledge is incomplete due to their ruination. To understand the value, of these works of art, it is enough to consider the number of the surviving images of the Passion of Christ series.
Excerpt from the book entitled Frescoes and painted furniture of Transylvania 3. (Erdélyi falképek és festett faberendezések 3.) by József Lángi and Ferenc Mihály.

A parallel phenomenon is encountered in the case of the side altar of the Virgin Mary at Csíkszenttamás, where a 15th-century sculpture of the Madonna was placed in the central compartment of the 17th-century altar. A side panel of a former altar wing representing the Visitation was fit into the 18th-century altar of the church at Csíkszentdomonkos. The painted image of St. Peter can be seen on the rear of the truncated panel. The main altar of Csíkzsögöd can be mentioned as a third example of this practise, where a winged altar was erected in 1673 embracing the earlier statue of the Madonna.

 

 

 

 

 

Zoltán Mátyás: Passion

 

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Unitarian church: medieval fresco scenes covering 100 square meters, unique coffered ceiling, painted furniture, sanctuary dating from the Árpád Dynasty of medieval Hungary
Catholic church: Rococo ceiling, sculptures dated before the Reformation period, side altar from 1646, 18th-century altar!