When anyone thinks about Cluj-Napoca, they probably visualize the immense Gothic edifice placed exactly in the heart of the city. Saint Michael’s Cathedral is undoubtedly the most representative landmark of Cluj. Although most cities have a grandiose holy monument in its center, St. Michael’s plays an impressive role on the city’s identity. It has been a constantly notable sight all throughout history. The expansion of Cluj-Napoca owes a lot to this Cathedral because it sparked the construction of all the administrative and public buildings around it.
The Cathedral is the second greatest Gothic church in Transylvania, after the Black Church in Brasov. Its massive tower measures 80 meters and the cross on top of it is 4 meters tall. These make up the highest church tower in Romania.
The first documentation regarding the church’s existence is from the year 1349, although other sources claim it had begun 30 years prior. The piece of land on which it stands was initially used as a cemetery that has its own chapel. The construction was funded mostly by citizens of Cluj-Napoca and it was finished in 1444, as it is inscribed at the entrance. The initial tower was built in the early 1500s, but today stands the one built in 1862.
The Cathedral has undergone several changes and additions since its inauguration year. Today it is a harmonious mélange between Baroque, Gothic and neo-Gothic. The changes were undertaken as a result of a fire in 1679 and the Church was rebuilt in Baroque style in 1744. A second major event that changed the aspect of the church took place in 1763 when it suffered an earthquake and the tower was totally destroyed. After a while, in 1837 the existing clock tower was built this time in a neo-Gothic style.
The church served different confessions during history. First it was Lutheran, afterwards it became Calvinist, then Unitarian for about 150 years and in the end Catholic, as it is today.
Even though it has an undeniable architectural importance, it also has a historical reputation because several major events were hosted within. Some of these are: the baptism of Matthias Corvinus Rex and the crowning ceremonies of numerous princes of Transylvania.
The interior of the St. Michael’s Cathedral consists of elements varying in style, an assembly of visually appealing works of art.
Entering the cathedral, the first of these elements is the monumental entrance portal of the church. It was initially decorated with King Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg’s coats of arms, a big contributor to the construction. Also at the entrance there is a representation of St. Michael, the church’s protector. The centerpiece of the interior is the altar, a neo-Gothic inspired religious artwork. The altar is decorated with a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary and two Hungarian saints to her sides, St. Stephen and St. Ladislau. The spiral staircase and the stained glass windows catch the eye of every tourist, as well as the organ above the entrance.
Besides its religious masses and organ concerts, St.Michael’s also gives tourists the opportunity to see the panorama of the city from its tower, but exclusively once or twice a year, so do not miss it!
There are a great deal of restaurants, cafes, shops and libraries encircling Cluj-Napoca’s greatest landmark, which make it easy for tourists to spend all day roaming around it.