January 22, 2016

2233 ROMANIA (Harghita) - The Franciscan Church in Şumuleu Ciuc

Since 1959 a neighborhood of Miercurea Ciuc (the county seat of Harghita County, located on the Olt River valley), Şumuleu Ciuc (Hungarian: Csíksomlyó) was first recorded in 1333, as Sumbov. According to historian Losteiner, the village had its own church and monastery as early as 1208. Settled there around 1440, as certifies the bull of Pope Eugene IV, the Observants, the stricter-to-rule branch of the Franciscan order, built a Gothic church with Virgin Mary as patron, completed in 1448.

It became a pilgrimage site in 1567, when Hungarian King John II Sigismund Zápolya wanted to convert the Székelys to the Unitarian faith. The Székelys refused to abandon the Catholic faith and resisted. A battle took place on a nearby field, on Saturday before Pentecost 1567, from which the Székelys emerged victorious. The monks saw this as a sign of the care of Virgin Mary, and since then, this event has been commemorated by a pilgrimage when the believers gather on Pentecost every year.

However, the church and the monastery weren't spared the devastations of history. The old church was burned by the Tatars in 1661, but the statue of the Virgin and St. Anton's shrine remained miraculously unscathed. As the years passed and the pilgrimage become increasingly powerful, the church could no longer accommodate the crowds, so at the end of the 18th century the idea emerged to build a larger church. The present church's construction started in 1802 in late Baroque style and lasted 72 years.

The two-tower church has a 12m-high aisle which hosts magnificent paintings by Italian and Hungarian painters; the organ, re-built by Johannes Caioni, and the statue of the Virgin Mary, carved in lime wood, in the main altar both count for a masterpiece. Also known as the "Woman Clothed with the Sun" or "The Weeping Madonna", the statue represents Virgin Mary shrouded in sunrays, with the moon and the earthly globe under her feet, a circle halo of 12 stars around her head.

About the stamp
Prepaid postcard (the coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Romania, 1965-1989).

Şumuleu Ciuc - Wikipedia
Virgin Mary's wonderworking statue in Harghita's Sumuleu Ciuc, the centerpiece of a grand pilgrimage - Agerpres

Sender: Mircea Ivănescu Sr.
Sent from Siculeni (Harghita / Romania), on 17.04.1980
Photo: M. Andreescu

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