The Church of Densuş – the Oldest Church Made of Rock

Located in Hunedoara’s village of Densuş, Saint Nicholas Church is an orthodox church and one of the oldest in Romania having a Byzantine rite, as it was built in the 7th century and bettered in the 13th century; although there are several disputes among historians about the age of this place of worship. It is said that the Church of Densus was built on a former roman pagan temple worshipping the god Mars built in the 2th century; and even this temple is said to have been built over a Dacian temple dedicated to their only god, Zamolxes. The late Roman architectural style can be felt as the church was built with rocks brought from the ruins of not far away Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. The interior exhibits invaluable fragments of murals dating back from the 14th century.

Considered the oldest church in Romania and Southeastern Europe, the church has held services continuously for 700 years.

The church hosts a series of unique murals. Even the church’s pillars are painted. The western wall shows a 18th century representation of the Last Judgment, Saint Marina fighting the devil, Jesus Christ dressed in a traditional Romanian shirt and a rather disturbing depiction of Saint Thomas wearing his skin on a stick.

The wooden paintings on the iconostasis are also from the 18th century. In the Holy Altar, the famous painter Stefan Zugravul made one of his masterpieces. The table is actually a roman tombstone taken from a sarcophagus. Above the area where the priests is in service, there can barely be seen a few strands from Jesus Christ’s hair.

The Saint Nicholas Church at Densus has suffered a great deal of blasphemies. From 1556 to 1733, Calvinists were the ones in power in Transylvania, so around 1700 there were two priests in service alternatively at Densus, an orthodox and a Calvinist. When the Calvin priest was in service, he put all the sacred icons with their front facing the walls and when the orthodox Romanians came back, they always put them back in their place. All the sacred images were eventually vandalized and painted over by Calvinists. Even more, Turks also vandalized and set everything wooden on fire, but the rock made church survived.

The Church of Densus is part of Tara Hategului / Hateg Land; a place full of Dacian-Roman vestiges. The Hateg villages are known for keeping churches, manor houses and medieval fortresses.

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Stefania Tripe
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King.


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