Reconstructing the Image of the Old Altar Screen of the Orthodox Church in ‘Maierii Sibiului’ Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan Universitatea ‚Lucian Blaga’, Sibiu (ro) résumé: Les informations concernant la construction de l’ancienne église orthodoxe dédiée à saint Luc dans les Maierii Sibiului sont rares. La série de modifications apportées au monument au fil du temps, en particulier en ce qui concerne l’aspect de son intérieur, et le peu d’éléments originaires encore préservés font que ce vieux lieu de culte roumain a considérablement réduit son potentiel en tant que source évocatrice du passé. L’ignorance des paroissiens et des prêtres locaux a sacrifié l’authenticité de l’église en échange des renouvellements qui n’ont pas eu la qualité de l’enrichir de quelque manière que ce soit. En compensation de ces pertes, le présent article souhaite restaurer, au moins par une reconstitution imaginaire, l’ancienne image architecturale de l’église, avec l’iconostase et les autres dotations artistiques d’il y a deux cents ans. Une telle reconstitution a été possible par l’identification de plusieurs images photographiques qui témoignent de l’aspect extérieur et intérieur de l’église avant que les changements radicaux du xx e siècle aient eu lieu. mots-clés: iconostase, église orthodoxe, photographie, peintures murales, repeint. rezumat: Caracterul sumar al informaţiilor despre edificarea vechii biserici ortodoxe cu hramul „Sf. Luca” din Maierii Sibiului, precum şi seria de modificări pe care le-a suferit de-a lungul vremii monumentul, îndeosebi în ceea ce priveşte aspectul său interior, care nu mai păstrează decât puţine elemente de originalitate, au făcut ca acest vechi lăcaş de cult românesc să-şi diminueze semnificativ potenţialul de sursă evocatoare a trecutului. Ca o compensaţie faţă de aceste pierderi rezultate din nesocotinţa preoţilor şi a credincioşilor acestei parohii, prea grăbiţi să sacrifice caracterul de autenticitate al bisericii în schimbul unor înnoiri care nu au avut totuşi darul să o înnobileze în vreun fel, autorul îşi propune să restituie, dacă nu în realitate, măcar printr-o reconstituire imaginară, înfăţişarea de odinioară a edificiului, cu aspectul arhitectural, cu tâmpla şi celelalte înzestrări artistice de acum două sute de ani. O atare reconstituire a fost posibilă prin identificarea câtorva imagini fotografice, care redau aspecte de la exteriorul şi din interiorul bisericii „Sf. Luca”, surprinse într-o perioadă anterioară radicalelor modificări intervenite în cursul secolului al xx-lea. cuvinte cheie: iconostas, biserică ortodoxă, fotografie, pictură murală, repictare. In 1791, a decade after the promulgation of the Patent of Religious Tolerance (November 8th, 1781) and of the Rescript on Conviviality (March 22 nd , 1781) by Joseph ii, an Orthodox church dedicated to Holy Evangelist Luke was built in Măierimea Sibiului, in the vicinity of the Tower Gate in Sibiu. At the time, it was the second Romanian church in that part of the city’s outskirts, outside the walls of the town. 1 The other church in Maieri was a Greek-Catholic one, known as the Church between the Fir Trees. This other church was built in front of the same Tower Gate, between 1778 (the year when the first stone was laid) and 1783 (the date of its consecration). 2 The bell tower was erected later, in 1788. But there was also a third church that may interest us in Sibiu. It was an Orthodox one and it predated the church dedicated to Holy Evangelist Luke in Măierimea Sibiului. This Church in the Pit was built by Stana, the widow of Hagi Petru Luca – a member of the Greek merchant company in the city – only two years before, in 1789, and it was located the Josephine suburb. Significantly affected after the two earthquakes of April 5 th and December 8 th 1793, 3 this earlier Orthodox place of worship had to be demolished and then rebuilt from the ground, as seen today, between 1802-1804, by Stana’s sonin-law, the merchant Hagi Constantin Popp. These were the places of worship available to the Romanian commu- nity in Sibiu at the turn of the 18 th century. The main source of information for the church in Maieri used to be the archive of the Episcopal residence in Sibiu. It recorded the most significant events in the parish life of the Romanians in Sibiu during the second half of the 18 th century. Unfortunately, this collection of documents was destroyed when the building was devastated during the 1848 revolution, and then burned in March 1849 amid the confrontations between the Hungarian revolutionaries and the imperial army, thus making it impossible to completely reconstruct the history as recorded in the acts destroyed by the fire. 4 This also explains why historian Nicolae Iorga, who visited the Romanian churches of Sibiu at the beginning of the 20 th century and wrote about several inscriptions, documents or notes in ritual books, did not talk about the Orthodox church in Maieri. Historian Ioan Lupaș wrote a brief historical note in relation to this church, included in a study dedicated to the life of the Romanians in Sibiu. He was the first historian to cite the text of the existing inscription on the balustrade of the trelliswork mast. 5 The historical circumstances in which the worship place of the Orthodox parishioners in Maieri came to be founded were investigated by Teodor Bodogae, a professor of Theo- Museikon, Alba Iulia, 1, 2017, p. 95-106 | 95
96 | Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan Fig. 1, 2: “Saint Luke” Orthodox Church, Sibiu (current view). Credits: Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan. Fig. 3: The iconostasis of “Saint Luke” Orthodox Church (current view). Credits: Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan. logy from Sibiu. He drafted a first monographic outline dedicated to the church, based on scarce pieces of information about the Romanian inhabitants, disseminated throughout the Saxon chronicles of same city. 6 A monograph of the parish 7 was published in 1993 by priest Ioan Chioaru, minister at the altar of “St. Luke’s” church during 1937-1988. However, his monograph did not include any new data, at least not related to the oldest stage in the church’s history. The historical research mentioned above highlighted the precarious socio-economic condition of the Romanians living in the Măierime, as well as their difficulties in affirming their ethnic and religious identities, regardless of the confession they belonged to, and despite the fact that they had always constituted the active presence in this place (they worked the gardens and orchards scattered among the many ponds beyond the southern boundary of the fortress). 8 As noted in Teodor Bodogae’s study, “during the 15 th and 16 th centuries, although they were forbidden to buy houses” in the “Lower City” (the urban area located under the fortification walls and extending beyond the Cibin River), they counted several hundred souls. Even before the settlement became a district in 1721, a number of 211 families were mentioned, mainly Romanians, from whom the authorities perceived a land tax amounting to 1180 florins 9 . As long as the Romanians in Măierime were not recognized as “permanent residents”, they were only allowed to maintain a rudimentary form of public and religious organization. The liturgical cult was carried out in a chapel (Bethaus) arranged in a most modest manner, “without a bell and without a tower” 10 . This resulted from a complaint made by the Romanians in Măierime to the Saxon magistrate in Sibiu on March 31 st , 1762, illustrating how inappropriate the chapel in which they prayed had become, and asking the magistrate to allow them to arrange a space that would at least accommodate the large number of attendants to the religious service. A few months later, in August 1762, the Orthodox worshippers from Maieri reached an agreement with a certain G. Fronius concerning the liturgical use of a large-surfaced room that he had accepted to provide in his household. But the fact that the edifice was only 175 steps away from the Greek-Catholic Church “and that the cemetery was common to the two Romanian parishes” raised the suspicions of the Habsburg authorities, at a time when throughout Transylvania massive returns of the Greek-Catholics to Orthodoxy were taking place. 11 It was obvious that the Romanian Orthodox community on the other side of the Cibin sought to overcome the provisional situation they had been in for too long and to convince the authorities to allow them to build their own place of worship. They did not wait for too long in anticipation of their response, but instead took concrete actions, building a brick storehouse in 1766. The authorities could still not be persuaded, not only regarding the church project, but also with allowing the Romanians from Măierime to arrange the space of the improvised chapel in a way that would clearly express its liturgical destination. At the orders of the Governor of Transylvania, the magistrate of Sibiu began an investigation, on account of which the Orthodox were informed that their initiative to build a church was contrary to “royal ordinances”. Moreover, as noted in Reverend Teodor Bodogae’s study, “in the meeting of August 11 th , 1766, at the report of Kessler, the city’s villic [local judiciary in charge of the city’s economy and responsible for maintaining public order, author’s note], it was decided to ask G. Fronius to install a stove in the room [where the Orthodox chapel had been arranged, a.n.] as well as a chimney on the rooftop, to avoid giving the impression that there would actually be a church where [the Orthodox, a.n.] would attract Greek-Catholic worshippers. Governor Hadik’s order formally implied that if a Romanian church were to be given approval, it Fig. 4, 5, 6: The original mural decoration on the balustrade of the trellis-work mast in “St. Luke” Orthodox Church. Credits: Ioan Ovidiu Abrudan.