The Black Church from Brasov: Over 600 Years of History
Over 600 years old, the Black Church from Brasov is the most iconic historical monument from this old Transylvanian town. The largest hall-church east of Vienna and one of the biggest medieval churches from this part of Europe, this impressive Gothic construction is impossible to miss if you’re wandering through the center of Brasov.
Attacks, fires and religious change
The dimensions of the Black Church from Brasov are monumental, it’s 90 meters long, 25 to 37 meters wide, 65 meters tall, with a capacity of receiving up to 5,000 people and walls 21 meters high. Initially named Saint Mary’s Church after the patron saint of Brasov, the church was built starting with the 14th century on the location of an older and smaller religious edifice. The magnitude of the church’s dimension was meant to impress worshipers and gain new adepts for the Catholic Church that reached in Transylvania its Eastern border.
However, the plans of the Catholic Church were shattered by the Reformation values embraced by the local Saxons who transformed the Black Church from Brasov into an Evangelical parish in 1542. Two years later, Johannes Honterus, the promoter of the Reformation in Transylvania was chosen as the first Evangelical priest, and the church was redecorated according to the new principles.
It took centuries for the construction that started in 1383 to be finally completed, the violent attacks of the Ottoman and Tatar armies destroying or at least delaying substantially the process. In the end, the church was finalized in 1477, but at a smaller scale given the scarce resources and the constant threat of a new attack against Brasov.
Still, the worst came in 1689 when historical Brasov was destroyed by a devastating fire. Only the walls, the font and the treasury from the vestry survived from the edifice that is known as the Black Church ever since. The monument was rebuilt in the 18th century, but its restoration continued up to recent years.
The treasures of the Black Church from Brasov
The Black Church from Brasov is one of the most beautiful Gothic monuments in Romania. It also has the biggest mechanical organ in the country and the largest collection of Oriental carpets outside Turkey. Below the carpets, you’ll surely notice the gallery panels painted with the coats of arms of merchants, but also those with the symbols of the ten virtues.
The pulpit that dates from 1696 is decorated with the sculptures of Moses, the four Evangelists and the representation of Agnus Dei, plus two references to moralizing Bible passages. On the opposing wall, you will see the coat of arms of medieval Brasov. While the choir altar dates from the 19th century, on the northern side you can admire one of the oldest altars in Transylvania, a valuable 15th-century piece brought here from the church in Feldioara. From the same period dates the mural painting representing Virgin Mary with Saint Catherine and Saint Barbara from the southern hall.
The thematic exhibitions from the southern and northern towers will guide through the history of the church and the life of Johannes Honterus. Here, you will also find the beautiful old funeral stones of senators and judges that were once buried inside the church.
Visiting the Black Church is a must and a top thing to do in Brasov, one of the most beautiful cities in Romania. The history of the monument is a faithful image of the main events that shaped the past of Transylvania in times of peace and war, from enemy invasions to the fundamental role of Saxon colonists and the impact of the Reformation on their society.
Visit the Black Church from Brasov during the summer when once or twice a week the church organizes organ concerts.
The church is closed for visitors on Monday.
For the visiting schedule, check www.honterusgemeinde.ro