Homoródkarácsonyfalva (Romanian: Crăciunel, German: Krötschendorf) is a village in Hargita County, Romania. Administratively, it belongs to Oklánd. It lies just 21 kilometers southeast of Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc), in the valley of Kis-Homoród, and it is 670 kilometers from Budapest. Its name comes from the fact that it was the property of a person born on Christmas Day (“karácsony”), hence the name.
It was first mentioned as Karasun in 1334. Its Unitarian church, surrounded by a rampart, stands on a prominent hill. Its Romanesque sanctuary is still preserved, enlarged in 1495-96 when the tower was built. Its coffered ceiling dates from the first half of the 18th century. In the 18th century, there was a dispute between the Catholics and the Unitarians over possession of the church, which required human sacrifice, and the Catholics finally built a separate church for themselves in 1783.
Its Greek-Catholic church was built in 1880 but had few worshippers. In 1910 it had 1006 Hungarian inhabitants. Until the Treaty of Trianon, it belonged to the Homoród district of Udvarhely county. In 1992 all but 2 of its 526 inhabitants were Hungarians.
On the Dongó hill, to the right of the southern entrance to the village, there was a saline spring where a spa was built at the beginning of the 20th century, but it fell into disrepair in the 1930s. It was restored in 1954 but has since fallen into disrepair.
The fortified church
The Unitarian church has a mural of Saint László on the north wall and a rune inscription in the tower. The Gothic-style church of Homoródkarácsonyfalva, built in the Romanesque style at the end of the 13th century, stands on a hill in the middle of the long village, east of the road. The church, surrounded by a stone wall, has a semicircular enclosure with a semicircular vault and a western portal from the first period of construction.
Its southern gate and the extension of its windows were probably built in the 14th century. The west gate, with a relief of the Agnus Dei and the date on the relief, was built when the sturdy tower was constructed in 1496. In the lining of the upper loophole window of the northern wall of the tower, there is a runic inscription stone, formerly used as a decorative stone.
Its still undeciphered inscription may have been added in the 14th-15th centuries. After the Reformation, in the 1560s, the Catholic village converted to Unitarianism and the church became a Unitarian church. Dates of 1646 and 1649 have been found engraved on the northern buttress of the sanctuary, which may be the date of a major restoration when the corbelling of the nave was raised and a surrounding wall may have been built.
A shingle-roofed south portico was built in 1752, and a floridly painted wooden coffered ceiling was made. The Unitarians added height to the tower between 1804 and 1806, giving it its simple late Baroque plasterwork architecture.
About the wall paintings (frescoes of St. László, the Nativity, the Homage to the Three Kings, St. Ilona): As part of the program of researching Transylvanian murals and painted woodwork, a probe was opened on the northern wall of the church and the face of a royal saint was revealed. The excavation of the murals took place in the first week of April 2006, with the financial support of the Foundation for Homoródkarácsonyfalva. The earliest fresco was found next to the triumphal arch, painted from the floor at a height of about 140 cm. It is partly above the present pulpit, where we can see the scene of the birth of Jesus in a very irregular frame.
It was probably repainted at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. Also on the north wall, just above the original crown, is a depiction of the Battle of St. László at Kerlés (1068), known as the Legend of St. László. Its first scene is the rarely depicted ‘interrogation’. A mustachioed figure kneels before the saintly king on his throne. Next to him, the bishop stands with his hand raised in blessing at the gate of a stylized building symbolizing Várad (Oradea).
The battle scene is divided into two parts. Saint László, in the middle of the battle, strikes with his axe at one of the Cuman warriors, who is clinging to the neck of his horse. A new window, made in 1853, destroyed part of the chase scene; the figure of Saint László is completely lost, and only the fleeing Cuman’s spear can be seen on the surface to the east of the window.
The figure of the backward arching Cuman warrior and the kidnapped girl survive intact. In the wrestling scene, Saint László’s costume changes. Instead of his cuirass, he wears a red dress with red sleeves trimmed with ermine, and his helmet is missing from his head, only a crown is visible. The decapitation scene is identical to the scene in Gelence and the scene in Homoródszentmárton, which is known only from drawings by Huszka József. The resting scene follows the new vertical division. The intensity of the colors of the mural has hardly changed over the centuries, and it can still be seen in its original splendor.
The last medieval painting is thought to have taken place during the construction of the tower in 1496. From the traces that have survived on the tower, it is possible that the entire façade was decorated, not just the interior. The known painting on the tower is not figurative, but rather corner moldings and window frames that emphasize the corners.
Of the interior paintings from this period, only the one in the nave has been fully explored. Here we found a mural depicting the homage to the Three Kings and Saint Ilona, surrounded by a rich ornamental frame. The painted sanctuary has not yet been excavated.
Hungarian Székely runic inscription of Homoródkarácsonyfalva
During restoration work on the Unitarian church, it was discovered that the inscription on a fragment of the building’s lining, previously known but not conclusively interpreted, was much older than previously thought. The inscribed stone was set into the late-Gothic tower of the church, which dates from 1496, with the letters ‘upside down’.
Understandably, the researchers also dated the writing to this date. However, it is now clear that the fragment was originally part of a dismantled Romanesque gateway and was only added to the tower when the church was rebuilt. It is concluded that the runic inscription must have been carved into the wall sometime around the 13th century. The inscription found in 1994 on the site of the demolished medieval church of nearby Vargyas may be of a similar date. The inscription was carved on the edge of an archaic baptismal basin dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. The inscription probably reads “MiHáLyJ:iRTánKöVeT”. (It means: “Mihály wrote on this stone”)
A more recent reading of the Homoródkarácsonyfalva inscription by Ráduly János: “… NeM HiSZeND NeKI / Homoród SZéKeLYI VéSK.” (“Talking runic monuments”, 2008, 20-26). It means “You won’t believe him but it was inscribed by a Székely from Homoród”) In the church, a mural depicting the battle of St. László and the Cuman warrior also has a word carved in runic characters: “TATÁR” (“tartar”). Next to the inscription is the year 1625.
Outside the wall surrounding the Unitarian church a memorial was erected with the inscription: “The blessed memory of our great Queen Elizabeth will live as long as a Hungarian heart beats. In 1904 the Unitarian congregation of Karácsonyfalva”. The monument and its inscription are dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, who played a major role in achieving the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867.
Source: Hungarian Wikipedia
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Here are more pictures of Homoródkarácsonyfalva: