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A building that defines the city

The Lutheran congregation of Cluj first built its own prayer house at the end of the 17th century, and in 1700 a tower was erected over the prayer hall. At the beginning of the 19th century, at the suggestion of Pastor Johann Schmidt, who had the idea of building a church, the congregation bought land from the Reformed Church to build a church and a school. In 1803, donations were collected for the construction of the church and school, but due to financial problems, work did not begin until 1816, under Pastor Martin Liedemann.

The foundation stone of the Pietati church was laid on 29 May 1816, with Georg Winkler, a mason, and Christian Kiermayer, a carpenter, in charge of the work. The construction continued in several stages due to lack of funds. The church was not finally consecrated until thirteen and a half years later, on 29 November 1829.

It is important to mention that in 1818, a Lutheran school was built in the courtyard, next to the church vestry. The former school building still stands in the parish courtyard.

To compensate for the height of the surrounding buildings at the beginning of the century, the tower of the Lutheran church in Cluj was raised by four metres in 1914, according to the plans of the industrialist Albert Akeszmann and the architect Károly Reményik. The Evangelical Church, built in Austrian Baroque style, has a current height of 43 m, an external length of 34.6 m and a width of 17.9 m, while inside the nave is 16.3 m long and 15.35 m wide, the sanctuary is 7.65 m long and 10.4 m wide, and the maximum internal height is 15.8 m.

From 1820 onwards, the side of the church on Bridge Street (now King Ferdinand Street) was occupied by shops, which were demolished during the renovation works of 1958. The Lutheran church, located at the northeast corner of the Main Square, at the junction of the Bridge and Belmagyar/Kossuth streets, is a prominent feature of the town’s skyline, combining late Baroque and neoclassical elements.

Empire style equipment and unique concert organ

The church consists of a rectangular nave, a polygonal sanctuary and a lean-to tower, the main façade facing Kossuth Lajos Street. On the façade is the inscription PIETATI, which means “for piety” or “for spirituality”, indicating that this church is a house of piety/spirituality.

The church is still furnished in the 19th century Empire style, the most beautiful pieces of which are the pulpit with egg-jointed, pinewood-carved pulpit, carved in 1826 by master carpenter Lucas Hoch, and the altar with its composite chaptered columns, framed by a pediment decorated with the eye of God and garlanded urns. The structure of the altar was made by master carpenter Georg Schneider. The altarpiece is the work of the Viennese academic painter Johann Gentiluomo and depicts the scene of Christ on the Mount of Olives.

The church’s other attraction is the stone baptismal font, dating from 1721, with a shell-domed cupola and a white-glazed copper lid with a wooden Baroque statuette of Christ’s baptism. The baptismal font bears the following Latin inscription:

IN HONOREM ET GLORIAM DEI LITET – A kind sacrifice to the honour and glory of God

ECCLESIAE EMOLUMENTUM CURAVIT – Made for the use of the Church

An undeciphered monogram and the year of making, 1721 (photo enclosed).

The church houses a three-manual pneumatic organ built by the Walker firm of Ludwigsburg, Germany, which was consecrated on 5 April 1913. The construction of this organ was not completed due to the outbreak of the Great War, and the third manual was never installed. As a result of the 2018-2021 renovation, the organ was completely renovated and the third manual was built. Thus, the pneumatic organ in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cluj/Kolozsvár is now, after the recent extension and renovation, unique and has become the best concert organ in Cluj.

The history of the church bells is also very interesting. We know from the records of the late caretaker Dr. Károly Jászay that the Evangelical-Lutheran Church – Parish of Cluj/Kolozsvár had six new bells over the centuries, two of which were recast and three of which were used for war purposes. Since 1918, a large 6-mass bell, the Holy Trinity bell, has remained in the Lutheran church tower. In the current church renovation process, just over 100 years later, in the Year of Unity 2020, two new bells were cast in the foundry of Imre Lázár from Odorheiu Secuiesc, so that three bells once again adorn the Lutheran church tower in Cluj. One of the new bells weighs 37 kg and is called the Lord’s Prayer bell, while the other weighs 210 kg and is called the Unity bell. The bells were received and consecrated in Cluj on 2 October 2020.

Renovations to meet the needs of the congregation

In addition to the organ and bells, the renovation, completed in 2021, also added new features to the Lutheran church. The clock mechanism, designed when the church was built, was installed on the tower, and the bells were automated and connected to the clock mechanism using modern electromagnetic technology. During the renovation, special attention was paid to families. The entrance to the inner courtyard of the church has been adapted to meet the needs of wheelchair users and people with disabilities. They now also have access to the church.

At the same time, a children’s corner has been created in the section under the choir loft, which is soundproof with a glass wall. Both young and old can enter and, thanks to the sound system, they can see and hear everything that happens in the church – but there is no noise coming from the children’s corner. This means that families, parents and children alike can attend services and other events.

Pietati is the only Evangelical Lutheran church in Cluj. There are regular services in Hungarian every Sunday morning from 10 am, and once a month there is also a service in German. In addition, the Pietati Church hosts many concerts and cultural events, so this house of God will not only be used by Lutheran believers, but will also be open to the people of Cluj and tourists from Hungary and abroad.

Pictures: Roland Váczi

Financial conditions for the implementation of the project

In 2015, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Români – Cluj Parish started the preparation of the complete renovation of the church, with the aim of increasing its tourist attractiveness and therefore the number of visitors. Regional Consulting & Management SA was involved in the management of the project with the participation of Tektum Arhitectura and Arta SRL as general designer. With the help of our partners, in 2016 a successful application for funding was submitted under the Regional Operational Program 2014 – 2020, Priority Axis 5 – Improvement of the urban environment and conservation, protection and sustainable use of cultural heritage, Investment Priority 5.1 – Conservation, protection, promotion and development of natural and cultural heritage. On 13 October 2017, Financing Contract No 581 was signed with the Ministry of Regional Development, Public Administration and European Funds (currently the Ministry of Development, Public Works and Administration) as Managing Authority and the North-West Regional Development Agency as Intermediate Body.

On 13 August 2018, following a procurement procedure, the contract for the restoration works was signed with the association formed by the construction companies Kvadrum Axis SRL and Decorint SRL. At the same time Ostentum SRL provided technical supervision throughout the execution. On 22.07.2021 the reception of the restoration works of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cluj-Napoca took place.

In parallel with the church, the entire complex of buildings, including the headquarters and offices of the parish and the bishop, as well as the former Lutheran school, were renovated, the costs of the works being provided by the Hungarian government and the Romanian State Secretariat for Religious Affairs.

The consecration of the church and the complex will take place on 24 September 2021.