Fortified protestant churches of Transylvania: Oklánd
Fortified protestant churches of Transylvania: Oklánd

Fortified protestant churches of Transylvania: Oklánd

The rich built heritage of Transylvania tells the story of the local communities, their faith, their symbols, their values, and churches have been exceptionally well preserved to tell the story of the community over the centuries. A particularly interesting church is the protestant church of Oklánd (Ocland).

Leaving the bastion of Catholicism, Lövéte (Lueta), we can find the so called Protestant sea along Homoród (Homorod) river. These small settlements have converted to Unitarian religion when the winds of protestanism reached the area. As a reminder, one of the biggest achievements at that time of the Principality of Transylvania was that in 1568 freedom of religion established through law was proclaimed, becoming the first region in the entire World to guarantee peaceful cohabitation of different religious communities. At the beginning this freedom was only given to the four established religions: Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, Unitarian churches.

For a long time, Oklánd’s name was associated with the institution for the mentally disabled, what was functioning here. If someone went to Okland, they could certainly expect (not even close to being politically correct) joking remarks like: “will you stay there for a longer period?”, “You are going to a good place”, “Yes, you belong there”. Time goes by slowly in this village, which has a population of almost a thousand people, and is mostly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians. Horse drawn carriages, tractors and cars share the roads, carefully avoiding the sunbathing ducks.

“Come inside wanderer, when your way takes you through here, if you have good intentions, here you will receive love.”

That Szekler Gate

The oldest Szekler gate in Harghita County , still in daily use, leads to the house of the priest nearby the church, the gate was built in 1809 was restored in 2014 . The characteristic pattern of the Szekler gates can already be found on it, like: the use of blue-green-red colors, a recurring pattern of tendril flowers and garlands, good wishes and a message written on the arch above the small gate. These are still characteristics of Szekler gates today, with the difference that the pattern is smaller, more detailed, and much denser. Storks have built their nest on the pylon next to the gate, their pairs are resting on the top of the church.

The church

Based on its style features, it is assumed that the oldest parts were built in the XIII century. The oldest remaining part had a Romanesque style ship, was built in the 15th century, although the settlement itself was first mentioned only in 1546 . The first faith congregation to take possession of this church was Catholic, but later the surrounding villages were also influenced by the wind of Reformation and have converted to Unitarian religion, which tey still keep.

The tower of the church, like most of the towers in Szeklerland, was built as a separate part, with two rows of portholes, and served a protective function during the Tartar invasions. The tower was built higher in 1937-38, when the tower-building ‘fashion’ reached this area as well.

The rules of orientation (building the main entrance in the eastern direction) probably did not apply here, as its first entrance was located on the southern side, this was latter built-in to be a complete wall, but was restaurated during the restoration.

It was probably fully surrounded by a castle wall in 1789, of which only the two parts connecting to the church by the tower can be seen today. Originally, it was around 2.5 meters high, to show a meaningful resistance to the invading Tatar troups and to provide protection to the locals.

Interior decoration

The interior of the church is richly decorated, dominated by the dark blue color, and a mixture of different styles from differenc era is treacable. Its coffered ceiling was made in at least four parts, between 1713 and 1771–1786, and the differences in style of the four sections can be seen with the naked eye. The decorative elements painted on the cassettes are largely repetitive floral motifs, interrupted by written quotes and messages.

The most interesting cassette is the representation of the solar system according to Copernicus, which is unique in the world! Next to it we can find a unique calendar broken down into months with a circular representation, this is nicknamed the Oklánd Easter Cassette because it is possible to calculate from it on which day this holiday will fall.

Frescoes

During the comprehensive restoration, thanks to the professional work, the walls covered with extensive frescoes were also excavated! Interestingly, there were paintings on both sides, not just the one lit by the sun! Usually the older churches used the so called light painting technique, where only the wall lit by the sun was decorated with a row of frescoes, and as the position of the sun changed, the light was projected on different parts of the wall, the frescoes were painted in an order to coincide with the celebration and the position of the sun. So for example during Christmas the light would fall on that part of the frescoe which represents the birth of Jesus.

On the southern side of the window, where the small medieval, arched door was found, an iconic depiction of St. Peter and Paul can be seen. On the north wall there is a series of images capturing different moments of St. Ladislaus’ legend, unfortunately in a fragmented state. The colors of the series of images (shades of reddish and bluish, drawn from almost only two colors) and the drawing technique are the same as on the frescoes in the church in Bögöz (Mugeni)! Under the legend the Resurrection appears, showing the moments of the Last Judgment.

1848 recruitment flag

Of particular interest is an 1848 recruiting flag framed, in order to protect it. The flag could have escaped for so long (142 years) because it was hidden in the organ around 1848, and it was only found in 1990!

Crowned pulpit

It has a richly decorated neo-Gothic-styled crowned pulpit, typical for this region. It was added later than the frescoes and cassettes. However the latest element is from the 19th century: the organ loft was only built in the 19th century.

Visiting:

It is kept closed due to the high value of the monument! It is worth visiting in the time window from 11:00 to 11:45 a.m. on Sunday! Worship begins at 12:00 at noon, the first bell, calling the locals to attend the worship is at 11, at this time the bell ringer lady will arrive, she will let you in. Respect, on the other hand, is important, the locals arrive before the 12 o’clock start, so it is appropriate to leave the church before their arrival!

If you want to read more…

Medieval Protestant Churches of Transylvania

Wooden church of the Archangels: Michael and Gabriel of Transylvania

Transylvanian wooden churches – a glimpse into the past

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With love,

FROM TRANSYLVANIA

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