Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hungarian Pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady of Csikshomlyo -- 250,000 Participants

Hungarian Pilgrimage to Szekerland
(Budapest) 250,000 people took part in 2015 in the great pilgrimage to Csikshomlyo in Szeklerland in Romania from Hungary. The pilgrimage to the Marian church dates back to an ancient vow that, following years of prohibition, has experienced a new and unimagined rejuvenation after the collapse of communism. Although Poles, Slovaks and Czechs and as well as leaders of eastern Central Europe, take part in the pilgrimage alongside Hungarians, to Szeklerland, the major event is virtually unknown in the West.

The Szekler, a Hungarian minority in Romania

Who in the German (Or anywhere else for that matter) speaking world knows the place Székelyudvarhely (German Oderhellen, Romanian Odorheiu Secuiesc)? To the Hungarians, however,  the location is not unknown, it is the historical center of Székely Land. Thus it is inhabited by a Hungarian minority in part of Transylvania which is now part of Romania.There are different theories about the exact origin of the Szeklers, which has historical and political origins. The most likely and the thesis most often represented by the Hungarians themselves  is that they were settled by the Hungarian kings for border security since the end of the late Middle Ages, as the Saxons were settled in the 12th century  near the Szeklers. Traces of  Szekler self-government can be traced back, in any case, to the 12th century.

Annual pilgrimage goes back to a vow of 1567

The Church of Csikshomlyo (Sumuleu)

The Hungarians also  know still much better, however, that Csikshomlyo (German Schlomenberg), which is the destination of a the great Hungarian pilgrimage  every year at Pentecost. In addition to the historical significance of the pilgrimage, it is marked by a national commitment that emphasizes a unity between the Christian faith and the Hungarian nation. Originally, therefore, it emerged as a pilgrimage of Szekler, but it is now regarded as a pilgrimage of all Hungary.
The pilgrimage goes back to a vow of a Catholic Szekler that promised the Virgin Mary in 1567 the Virgin Mary promised an annual pilgrimage to her for a happy outcome of a battle at Csiksomlyo against the army of the Protestant princes. Catholics were led into battle by a priest.
The Church of Csiksomlyo goes at least back to the year 1444, when Pope Eugene IV. Issued a circular calling Christendom to support the Franciscans in the construction of the church. He granted a special blessing for pilgrimages to the Marian site. However, there is an older predecessor, perhaps a chapel, for  the special devotion of the Szekler to Our Lady of Csiksomlyo. Already in 1345 it was said by the Szekler of the Tartars, that they were defeated by the Blessed Mother.  The Franciscan monastery associated with the sanctuary became a spiritual center of the Hungarian nation.

Thanks for a miraculous victory

Csikshomlyo (Stich 1856), left the church with the Franciscan monastery, above the Chapel of St. Anthony 

In 1567 the elected Hungarian King Johann II. (John Sigismund Zápolya)., originally himself a Catholic, was initially Lutheran,  then became Calvinist and then become shortly before his death Unitarian, wanted to force the Szekler to Protestantism. Zápoľský, like his father John I, was a vassal of the Ottoman Sultan. Hungary was already a Turkish pashalik. The true Lords in Budapest were the Turks. Transylvania, however, was still a free and independent, Hungarian principality.
On the Saturday before Pentecost in 1567, Johann II. marched with an army into action against the territory of the Catholic Szekler. The Catholic priest Stefan assembled the Catholics in Csikshomlyo. While the men fought in the battle, women, children and the old prayed before the image of the Virgin and Child in the old church from the early 16th century.
As a result of the defeat,  Johann II. granted in 1568 at the meeting of Torda, the decree which allowed different Christian denominations in Transylvania. That same year, the first thanksgiving pilgrimage took place for the miraculous victory in the previous year.

The Marian Statue survived pillaging Turks unscathed

The statue of Mary with baby Jesus, beneath God  the Father

In the 17th century the Turks and Tatars invaded Transylvania, massacred who resisted and abducted thousands into slavery. The churches and monasteries were burned   down. Even to Csikshomlyo they advanced and set the sanctuary on fire, but the statue of Mary with baby Jesus and the altar in the chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua above the Sanctuary, survived the fire unscathed.
Pilgrimages to the Marian church between Kis-Shomlyo and Nagy-Shomlyo (Kleinschomlen and Großschomlen) received a big boost.
After the First World War and the Treaty of Trianon, in which areas inhabited by a majority of Magyars  of the ancient kingdom of Hungary were swallowed up by the newly established successor states of Austria-Hungary , the pilgrimage to Csikshomlyo took on a new meaning for Szekler as a spiritual refuge, as a source of identity. Transylvania with Székelyföld has belonged to Romania  since 1920.

Pilgrimage banned under communist rule 40 years

Back of the covered altar

After the Second World War, Soviet-occupied Romania, was taken over by Communist Party rule. During the Soviet dictatorship, the annual pilgrimage to Csikshomlyo with the traditional procession was forbidden. On a small scale, the tradition was continued by the Szekler Catholics, however.
With the fall of the Ceauşescu regime and the end of communist rule, the pilgrimage was resumed in 1990.  Since then, it has developed into a pilgrimage of all Magyars. Thus, it was not only the Szekler  pilgrimaging to the mountain saddle, but Magyars from across  the border from all Hungarian regions. In the form of a star pilgrimage they come from all over the Hungarian-speaking area, as well as many Hungarians abroad.
Because of the large number of pilgrims, the church became too small.  In1993 a covered altar was built several hundred meters away from the church under the open sky.

The three crosses on Tolvajos - 250,000 pilgrims

The three crosses on the Tolvajos

Under the summit of Tolvajos, there are three large crosses with three years. 896 recalls the year of arrival of the Hungarians, 1442 the original date for the start of the pilgrimage to Csikshomlyo and 1896 to the year of birth of Aron Marton, who during the communist dictatorship was Hungarian Roman Catholic bishop of Alba Iulia , (Gyulafehérvár, in German originally Weissenburg, since 18th century Karlsburg). Bishop Marton is honored for his commitment to the Jews in World War II as Yad Vashem or "Righteous", was immediately arrested after the Communist takeover as an "enemy of the people."  After seven years of jail, he immediately took up service as a bishop again, earning him another eleven years of exile. By Western mediation,  the regime agreed that he could take part in the Second Vatican Council in Rome. Marton declined, however, because he feared that the Romanian government would refuse him right of   return. In 1967 his release was secured by  the mediation of the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz König and the Austrian Embassy. The bishop at first remained under police surveillance. Because believers did not trust the communist authorities,  a "small bodyguard" was formed among the Szekler, which accompanied the bishop until his death in 1980
In 2015, 250,000 Hungarians took part in the pilgrimage, which is also a protest against the demarcation of Trianon. The usual procession to the church which until 1993 could not be concluded, happily, because of the increasingly large crowd. Many pilgrims carry along birch branches decorated with church banners and flags of the Hungarian and Székely Land. At  the head of the procession, the pilgrims from the Szekler city of Gyergyószentmiklós (Romanian Gheorgheni, German Niklasmarkt). The special symbol of the pilgrimage is the Labarum , the ensign of the Roman army, the Emperor Constantine the Great before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, a cross and the monogram of Jesus. Under this sign, He achieved victory. The following year, the Edict of Milan was issued, with the lifting of the ban of Christianity and the persecution was discontinued.

The Symbol of Constantine the Great's Army and the Csángós

2015 pilgrimage 250,000 Hungary to Csikshomlyo

The standard at 36kg is respectively supported by the two best students of the local Catholic school. If the Szekler are hardly known to  non-Hungarians,   the Csángós  are completely unknown. They form the end  of the reduced procession. The Csángós or Tschangonen are a Hungarian minority closely related to the Szeklers, whose historic settlement area is located on the eastern slope of the Carpathians. Their territory never belonged to a Hungarian state, but was ruled by a Moldovan, Romanian prince. Finally they sing their hymn, "Thou art all fair, Maria," in reference to one of the oldest Marian prayers, the Tota pulchra es Maria, which is from the 4th century and consists of the Old Testament verses that refer to the Virgin Mary,
The pilgrimages of recent years have each had a motto, for example, in 2003 "Do whatever he says"; 2004 "Woman, behold thy son, and you, behold your mother!"; 2005 "Stay with us Lord"; 2013 "Blessed, because you have believed"; 2014 "Blessed is the womb that bore you"; 2015 "Under your protection we flee".
In 2008 a group of pilgrims broke off from the  pilgrimage to the Austrian Marian shrine of Mariazell and walked 1400 kilometers on foot to Csikshomlyo in order to participate at Pentecost in the pilgrimage.
For the first time in 2008 a special train was launched from Budapest to bring the pilgrims to Szeklerland. In 2010, there were already two pilgrimage trains. Since 2012, three pilgrimage trains leave from Budapest, the "Szekely Gyors,"  "Csiksomlyo Express," and the "Marian Train." 

Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Bild: Wikicommons
Trans: Tancred
Link to Katholisches...


Grrgec said...

King Johann II. (John Sigismund Zápolya) is actually a Croat. His last name is Zapolja. The village exists even today in eastern Croatia, in Slavonia.
Petar Zrinski who is similar to Leonidas of Greece is also a Croat and not Hungarian.

Tancred said...

Honestly, I had no idea about Hungarians living in Siebenburgen or their resistance to the Turk, the Tartars, Protestants and Reds. It's a compelling and hopeful story.