Ecumenical Route

Tourist Routes Sibiu


History and ecumenism in Sibiu

In the middle of the 12th century, King Geza the 2nd of Hungary called over 2500 German colonists to develop and protect the South-East area of Transylvania (the country above the forests), a fruitful plateau surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, located on the territory of current Romania.

They represented the first wave of German colonists to settle down here, laying the foundation of the Saxon communities. The immigrants who were called are Catholic, one of the reasons for the colonization being to increase the number of Catholics in the „Kingdom of Transylvania”. In 1224, the Transylvania Saxons acquired through a Diploma Andreanum a series of privileges granted by King Andrew the 2nd of Hungary: an administrative-territorial organization in societal structures entitled „seats” and their own ecclesiastic organization on the territory of Sibiu shire (Comitatus Chybiniensis).

The centre of the ecclesiastic organization of these seats formed the Provostship of Sibiu in 1198, with centre in Sibiu, which was initially directly subject to the Holly Seat and since 1224 to the Archbishopric of Strigoniu. In the area of the future city there are already two monastic institutions of the Dominicans and Premontrens, related to the evangelizing mission of the Hungarian Apostolic Crown, both having churches, one on the foundation of which there is „Sf. Maria” gothic church (it stands today) and another one, the Dominican, in the area of the current railway station. After 1526, once the Hungarian Kingdome disappeared, Transylvania becomes an autonomous princedom, the religious autonomy level of several orders increases, fact approved by the Transylvanian Diet of 1557. If the Diets of 1545 attempted to protect the old Catholic belief, by forbidding any changes in the issue of faith, the diets from Turda in 1550 and 1557 recognized and legalized the religious equality and plurality of Transylvania (referring to Catholicism and Lutheranism).

In 1564, in Turda, as a result of the disputes at the core of Protestantism, Calvinism was also legislated. In 1568 and 1571 the Unitarian confession followed, sided with by Prince Ioan Sigismund. Thus the „accepted religions” of Transylvania Princedom will be four: Roman-Catholic, Evangelic, Reformed and Unitarian. These will be foreseen as official religions of Transylvania in the approved constitutions of Transylvania” in 1653 and will remain in force until 1848. The Orthodox religion had the status of a „tolerated religion” being the religion of a population, not the religion of the privileged orders of the princedom (noblemen, Saxons, Szekelys). The Roman-Catholic church, although accepted, didn’t have a bishopric from 1542 until 1667, the Catholic monasteries within Transylvania being abolished.

Only after the formation of Transylvania as a „Great Princedom of the Imperial Crown”, the Catholic Church changes its status from being accepted to being a state church. The Catholic monasteries and churches were retroceded to the bishopric and the ones from the regions populated by Protestant religions were transferred to State ownership. In the 16th century, the Orthodox confession was canonically organized. It was considered to be represented in the Diet by the „land lords” of residence area of their population and parochial churches, namely by the authorities of the noble shires, the Saxons Shire and the Szekelys Shire.

Emperor Leopold the 1st created in 1701, for the Romanians of Transylvania, the possibility to benefit from the accepted status for their church, through its union with the Roman Church, offer accepted by the Metropolitan and the Synod of Transylvania Orthodox Church. Implicitly, the emperor would increase the advantage of the Catholic Church, which was a state church at the time in Transylvania. The Leopoldine Diploma of 1701, would establish an equal religious level between the Greek-Catholic Romanians and the Roman-Catholic believers and also equality in respect to their politic and civil rights, with the other three orders of the princedom. The Diet of Transylvania blocked the publication of the Leopoldine Diploma. The constitution of a fourth order was repeatedly rejected by the Diet (1744-1791). Nevertheless, in 1744 the United Church is recognized as being official in Transylvania, followed by the recognition of the Transylvanian Orthodox Church in 1791 as official, with canonical subordination to the Archbishopric of Karlowitz. The Romanian Orthodox Bishopric acquires its autonomy after the constitution of the bishopric of Sibiu in 1784, and since 1864 under the leadership of Andrei Șaguna, the Metropolis of Ardeal was canonically constituted with headquarters in Sibiu.

According to the Josephine Tolerance Edict, in Sibiu existed a synagogue consisting of a baroque edifice preserved unaltered until today, doubled by a new Neo-Gothic edifice in the 19th century. According to the legislation og the Romanian Kingdome after the annexation of Transylvania to the Kingdome (1918), the various confessions benefit from equality and autonomy based on the modern Constitution of the Romanian Kingdome, as yet, with two setback episodes after the surrender of the North of Transylvania to Hungary (though the Dictate of Vienna, during 1940 – 1944) when the Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholic Church from the surrendered territory suffered persecutions and the Judaic population suffered deportation and extermination and implicitly abolition of the mosaic religion. During the period 1948-1990 of the socialist state RPR-RSR, which was ideologically atheist, all the religions suffer marginalization and confinement, the Greek-Catholic Church being banned during 1948-1990. In 2007, the year of the European Cultural Capital, the third European Ecumenical Assembly took place at Sibiu, gathering representatives of all Christian confessions. They discussed about all the great challenges the European churches are faced with. The topic of the Ecumenical Assembly of 2007 was: „The light of Christ shines for everyone”.

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