Often described as an architectural masterpiece of the 20th century, the Catholic church from Orsova is a unique monument in Romania. Located in the center of a small forgotten city from the shore of the Danube River, the existence of this church is ironically enough connected to a major civil engineering decision of the atheist communist regime.
The construction of the most important hydroelectric power station on the Danube, in the Serbian and Romanian sector, known as the Iron Gates, significantly increased the water level, submerging entire villages, the island Ada Kaleh and partly Orsova. The city was soon rebuilt on higher grounds, and the local authorities granted the Catholic Church permission to build a new edifice.
This was the only Catholic church built during the communist regime, and the result was a dazzling contemporary creation, completely original and courageous.
Done between 1972 and 1976, after the plans of brilliant architect Hans Fackelmann who also designed the West University and the Music High School from Timisoara, the Catholic church from Orsova was his life’s masterpiece. Looking like a giant concrete tent, with a rooftop shaped like a cross, this surreal church amazes even more with its unconventional interior paintings.
Created by artist Gabriel Popa, these watercolor paintings have nothing in common with the traditional saint portraits or biblical scenes found in every other church. Sparking a lot of controversies back in the day, the painter reinterpreted in a contemporary and personal manner one of the most famous stories of the Bible, ‘Via Crucis’ or ‘The Way of the Cross’.
Covering the walls of the church, the paintings bring a new set of characters, this time from real life, close to Jesus in his long journey to resurrection. Internationally acclaimed gymnast Nadia Comaneci, British music legend John Lennon, and the founder of communist Russia, Vladimir Lenin, join Jesus on his way to eternity in this audacious act of creation.
This church is also proof of the multicultural heritage from this part of Romania as the religious service is performed in four languages: Romanian, German, Hungarian, and Czech. You can always visit the church, there’s no entry fee, and the way to God seems way easier to find when no saints are judging you from the walls.
Spend at least one day hiking or river cruising along the Danube Gorges from the nearby Iron Gates Nature Park.
Go for a hike in the nearby Cheile-Nerei Beusnita National Park where you can see some of the wildest gorges in the country, waterfalls, and rare lakes.