The Chapel of the Saviour
There is no exact data referring to its origin. It might have been built to remind of the victory of Nándorfehérvár. According to Losteiner Leonard: “Capistran and the Great Hunyadi called on the name of the Saviour for help in the battle on August 8 1456, the day of the transfiguration of the Redeemer, and they won.”
The single-naved, arched, rectangular medieval chapel was expanded around 1680 with the help of Kelemen Mikes, governor of Háromszék, and Sámuel Kálnoki, chancellor of Transylvania. The stave representing their coat-of-arms was built in the same period. The panels stuck to the ceiling represent figures and the west side-paneled gallery were painted in 1800.
The panels stuck to the ceiling contain a pair of saints in frames, composed of angel heads and elements of baroque flora. The saints in pairs, from the front right hand side, are the following: Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Anthony of the Deserts, Saint Paul of Thebes and hermit, Zaerárd Benedek. The apostles: Jacob, Philip, Peter, Paul, John, Andrew, Jacob, Simon, Bartholomew, Jude and Matthew.
The winged picture on the left-hand side represents the Transfiguration of Jesus. The patronal festival of the chapel is on the 6th of August. Its side pictures are the following: Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, Saint Paul the Apostle and Saint Anthony of Padua.
Inside, on the chapel’s walls the following reading can be seen: “Divine Salvator! A divine fight is fought by this camp and those who love you from the heart win their celestial home”. Outside the chapel on its right-hand side, towards the south the following lettering can be seen: “We are waiting for the Saviour! Our Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our divine humble bodies into glorified shape. Philipp. IV. 20.”
On the epigraph on the north we can read the following: “The transfigurated and glorified chapel of Salvator after 200 years has been mended. DoMUs SaLVatorIs et JanVa IVstIfICatIonIs poenItentIbVs.”
On the sunk panel of the choir banister the following can be seen: a Virgin with the lettering: Patrona Hungariae; Saint Stephen; Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary and floral arrangements.
The main altar was made in 1679 as a pledge of Katalin Kornis, wife of János Haller. The central picture of the altar represents Jesus with the cross in his hands. On the sides the picture of Saint John the Apostle and the picture of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine can be seen.
The south side altar in front of the arch shows the scene of the Calvary, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The north side altar represents the Queen Virgin Mary holding Jesus in her arms. Its structure and painted ornament is of Renaissance style.
On the south side a simple Gothic door can be found with the following label: “Renovated Salvator 1678”. This represented the original entrance. In the Middle Ages the chapel was surrounded by a stonewall.
The prevailing guardian of the Salvator chapel is the hermit. We don’t know the exact date of their first presence. In spite of the prohibition of Joseph II in 1782 there has always been somebody living next to the chapel after this date. The hermitage was rebuilt in 1944. Its previous inhabitant Jakab Imre was a pilgrim hermit; he fenced in the area of the chapel and planted fruit trees.
The Chapel of the Suffering Jesus
To the East from the Chapel Salvator the Chapel of the Suffering Jesus can be found. This is only a small cab inside with the statue of the fallen Jesus tied to a column. This statue was made in 1810. On the west side of the chapel there is a lettering calling for reverential prayer: “sIne Inter MIssIone orodItIs Deo In LoCo Isto et Plae oratIones Vestrae AtqVe sUspIrIa non erUnt InanIa.” (On this place you shall worship the Lord and your prayers will not be in vain.)
The Chapel of Saint Anthony
On the West of the mountain Kissomlyó one can find the Chapel of Saint Anthony. The first chapel was built by the Franciscan monk Márk Jakab who attributed his escape from the Tartar-Turks in 1661 to Saint Anthony. The chapel that we can see was built in 1750-73 on the place of the original chapel. Its Baroque altar picture represents Saint Anthony, the patron. The Ninth of Saint Anthony was started in 1741.
The Patronal Festival
The Patronal Festival is celebrated on 2 July, the day of the Visitation and in the Catholic Church it was started by the Franciscans during the 13th century. They brought it to Csíksomlyó as well, which might be the reason for which the Pilgrimage Church was devoted to the Visitation in 1448.
Before the period of the Gothic church there existed reverence towards the Virgin Mary promoted by the Franciscans.
Pope Eugene IV gave evidence of this: “a multitude of the faithful comes together to worship and they do not stop gathering together often.”
The Pentecost Patronal Festival
During the Reformation, in 1567, Zsigmond János, Prince of Transylvania, wanted to convert the Catholics from Csík, Gyergyó and Kászon to the Unitarian Church with the help of the army. The three Szeklers territories defended their faith with the leadership of Stephen, parish priest of Gyergyóalfalu.
The Reformers were received on the Hargita Mountain while the elderly, the women and the children were praying in Csíksomlyó. The combat ended with triumph and the winners came back holding birch twigs in their hands. To commemorate this historical event the faithful go on a pilgrimage to Csíksomlyó every year. At the beginning only the faithful from Csík, Gyergyó and Kászon went on the pilgrimage but later on other faithful joined from: Háromszék, Udvarhely, Marosszék and Hungarian-speaking natives of Moldavia.
They marched with flags and ringing bars. On their arrival they were received by a Franciscan monk at the Chapel of Saint John. The pilgrims attended a holy mass in the church or in front of the church, they made their holy confessions, received Holy Communion, greeted the Virgin Mary and made a procession led by the faithful from Gyergyóalfalu and then the rest in the order mentioned above.
The procession went round the Mountain Kissomlyó. When the high priest got to the Salvator Chapel, the pilgrims sang the song called:
“Mary you are wholly beautiful” and then they received the blessing of the high priest. The last pilgrimage before Communism was in 1949, before Bishop Áron Márton was arrested. During Communism the authorities wanted to stop the pilgrimage with various methods. For this reason in that period there was no procession and the number of the pilgrims decreased as well.
In the Antiquity, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337), the labarum used to be a military flag representing victory. The labarum from Csíksomlyó was made in 1567 to commemorate that the battle from Hargita was won and it is carried in the procession in front of the bishop and the priests. According to the tradition the labarum is carried by the best students from the Catholic High School in Csíkszereda.
From the 1990s the procession that was prohibited before the 1950’s started. Since 1993, as a result of the increasing number of pilgrims, the holy mass has been celebrated in the saddle between the Mountains of Kissomlyó and Nagysomlyó. Nowadays the clerical cordon and the pilgrims joining them take part in the procession following the same route as before.
In May 7, 1936 the Holy See allowed that every day a person who visits the Pilgrimage Church of Csíksomlyó, confesses, receives Holy Communion and prays for the intention of the Pope can earn total indulgence.
The Stations of the Cross
From the foot of the mountain Kissomlyó to the Chapel Salvator, on the steepest part, there are the Stations of the Cross called also Jesus’ Steep. The oldest crosses were placed in 1868 but nowadays only a few have remained. After World War II, new Stations of the Cross were set in place; these were made by the stonecutter József Kovács from Zsögöd. Walking on Jesus´ Steep today is one of the essential parts of the pilgrimage.
The Virgin Mary Patronal Autumn Festival
The Autumn Festival is held on Sunday after the Festival of Kisboldogasszony. On September 12th, Mary’s Name Festival takes place. The faithful do not come with crosses but with zeal to greet Mary and earn indulgence. This is also called the Székely’s Festival.
The Ninth of Saint Anthony
According to Leonárd Losteiner the ninth of Saint Anthony celebration started in 1617. Since 1720 the students from Csíksomlyó went with crosses to the chapel on the Festival of Saint Anthony. People from Csík joined them and this is how the Tuesday Ninths Mass started. During the mass there were festive speeches as well.
In autumn 2008 the Mary Congratulatory celebration started. Every first Saturday of each month pilgrims gather for solemn mass, rosary and procession with candles.
The Second Order of Saint Francisc, the Clarissans settled in Csíksomlyó in 2000. According to the life example of Assisi Saint Claire they live a contemplative life.
The Day of the 1000 Székely Girls
At the beginning of the 20th century in their search for bread our Székely girls went to different Romanian areas as: Regat, Bucharest, Galați, Brăila and other big cities. It was feared that the clothing of the day could lead to a decline of morals. As a response to this threat, countermeasures were taken by P. Gábor Takács, the head monk of the Franciscan Convent from Csíksomlyó, Andrea Stettner and Flóra Zakariás, social sisters, who created the Day of the 1000 Székely Girls from Csíksomlyó. On the first event held in July 7, 1931, 1600 girls came in traditional costumes. They made their confessions, received Holy Communion, recited, play-ed and danced. Moreover they made a vow of faithfulness to their dress, faith, customs and morals. Following the first event they met on Saturday after the festival of the Visitation every year if the authorities did not forbade it.
“You shall know that this dress is not made only of skirt, blouse and vest but it has other features as well or the dress is not complete. The prayer book and the rosary are also included and everything these represent: fine spirit, endearment and religiosity. Without being deeply religious and fine spirited, the homespun dress is only a mocking of who our ancestors were”.
These were words from the predication of P. Gábor Takács in 1931.
In the Service of Culture
The church and the monastery were not only the ecclesiastical but also the cultural centre of the area. The Franciscan monks taught the young first on elementary level, then later on grammar school level as well.
The Pilgrimage Church of Csíksomlyó is surrounded by two blocks of buildings. The large building on the East was the place of the old grammar school, hall of residence and teacher-training college.
The building on the West was the House of Csík, Gyergyó, and Kászonszék. Later this became the place of the teacher-training college.
From the donation of the vicar from Kozmás, Mihály Lukács (1678-1730), dean of Csík, built dormitories in Csíksomlyó, which helped many children in Csík to continue their studies.
P. Jukundián Simon with the help of Lajos Haynald, the bishop of Transylvania founded the institutes where the choir maters and teachers were trained in 1858. Choirmasters studied in the institute at the end of the 19th and at beginning of the 20th centuries.
The grammar school was given to the diocese in 1911 and moved into the building of the present Márton Áron Highschool and it functioned as Roman Catholic Grammar School until 1948.
The famous mystery dramas from Csíksomlyó were played by the pupils in the 1700s and were presented for Eastern, Pentecost or Saint Anthony´s day. This represented the beginnings of dramatic art in Székely Land.
The Franciscans founded a press in 1675 which functioned until the 1800s. Until 1727 when the Jesuit press was founded in Kolozsvár by P. János Kájoni, the cultured scientific Franciscan monk, this was the only Catholic press in Transylvania. The first product of the press was the Latin-Hungarian ecclesiastical hymnal entitled Kájoni Cantionale Catholicum (1676). The press published especially ecclesiastical works: hymnals, calendars, measures, sermons and prayers. In addition works of history, philosophy and literature were published as well as books in Latin and Hungarian for pupils in Csíksomlyó and for other Catholic schools.
The “Hadi Lap” as well as revolutionary manifestos were published here in 1849. Many products of the press can be found in the Museums of Csík and Kolozsvár. Next to the press a bookbinder workshop operated as well, where they worked for external orders, too. The leather bindings were adorned with different techniques like: printing decorating elements without using any ink or gold tooling. The remaining decorative tools can be seen in the Székely Museum of Csík.
The first publication of the press: Cantionale Catholicum (1676)
The printing-machine handled by hand (1676) can be found in the History Museum of Kolozsvár today.
Lather binding book with the Franciscan shield on its back cover dating back to the 18th century.
The Franciscan monks in Csíksomlyó established a library whose history dates back to the 15th century. Their library was one of the biggest and most valuable in Transylvania. It consisted of 96 incunabula, painted parchment codes, rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries, among them valuable old Hungarian printings and finally manuscript volumes. The only library from Transylvania that survived the Reformation was the one from Csíksomlyó. Nowadays all these books are under the maintenance of the Székely Múzeum of Csík. Next to the monastery a picture-writing workshop also operated between the 17th and 18th centuries.
Kájoni Codex (1634-1671)
The oldest manuscript of the library. Tractatus virtutum (1467)
One of the most valuable books of the library is the Raynerius de Pisis: Pantheologia, printed around 1476 in Basel
János Kájoni: Sacri concentus (1669)
Values in the Monastery
During the centuries the treasures of the Pilgrimage Church diminished a lot. Among the remaining artifacts, the most valuable is the cross of Mary´s silver crown that was made by Ignác Batthyány in the 18th century. There are four other chalices from the 15th to 16th centuries and a Gothic Episcopal chest cross that was changed into a small cross of approximately 20-30 cm.