Photo: Marko Laci

Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe, Gergen, Sankt Georgen) is located in Transylvania, it is in Romania. It is a famous Hungarian Székely settlement by the River Olt. It is one of the centers of the mainly Hungarian-inhabited Székelyföld (Székely Land). There is a fabulous fortified church in it.

A Székely-gate at the Székely Museum (Photo: Harrison)

Sepsiszentgyörgy is one of the oldest cities in Transylvania, the settlement was first documented in 1332 as “de Sancto Georgio”, its priest was called Mihály.  The city was the economic and administrative center of the Hungarian county of Háromszék. The “sepsi” prefix (sebesi → sepsi, meaning “of Sebes”) refers to the area which the ancestors of the local Hungarian Székely population had inhabited before settling in the area of the town. The previous area of their settlement was around the town of “Sebes” which later became populated mainly by Transylvanian Saxons. You can read more about the Székelys here:

Sepsiszentgyörgy Source: Benő Gyula

It was mentioned as Zenthgywrgh in 1412. Hungarian King Zsigmond (Sigismund) visited it and made the settlement a town on 28 April 1417. Soon, it was mentioned as a market town in 1462. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.) the city was the economic and administrative center of the Hungarian county of Háromszék, which spanned present-day Covasna (Kovászna) County and parts of Brasov (Brassó) County. Here is more about Transylvanian Saxons to read:

Sepsiszentgyörgy is famous for its fortified Reformed church which initially had been a Catholic church, dedicated to St. George (Szent György). We know the town was mentioned in 1509 as “Sigillum oppidi Sepsi Sz. György” and “Sepsi Zenthghewrgh” in 1515. The city had the right to hold markets but this privilege was enlarged in 1520 by King Lajos II. The church was fortified in 1547 by Daczó Pál. It was carried out in the Gothic style.

It still retains its Gothic features today: its sanctuary is multi-arched, with a mesh vault, the ribs of which rest on guarded stones. One of the guardian stones we can see is the sun and moon (the ancient Székely coat of arms), the other has a male and female face. The south door of the church has also survived, probably from the time of Daczó’s works. It has a nice Renaissance decoration on it.

Photo: NeaAlecu

The church was surrounded by a high castle wall with double fortifications: the inner high wall was surrounded by an outer, lower one. Much of this was demolished in the 18th century. It had two bastions, one of them was covered by a tower roof. The tower had to be rebuilt after 1758, 1761, and 1802.  The outer wall of the city was built in the 17th century but it was pulled down in the 20th century.

The city was taken by the Crimean Tatars in 1658 and by the Turks in 1661. Many of the inhabitants died during these hard times. We know a sad letter written in the 1660s by a local priest who wrote that Pasha Ali had taken 900 of the inhabitants into slavery. According to the letter, the church was in a very ruined condition but we can predict it was still in full Gothic style.
Also, there were epidemics and famine in the Early Modern period, during the 17th century; once there was a time when there was no rain for 17 months.

Photo: Andrei-kokelburg

The church was damaged during the earthquake of 1802, and images of saints appeared on the walls under the falling plaster. The bell from ancient pre-Reformation times is also dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Peter. In the city, you can visit the Székely National Museum: I have included many pictures of their exhibition in my gallery.

Photo: Andrei-kokelburg

The Székely National Museum is open to the public since 1875. This outstanding scientific institution has undertaken the task of carrying on research activities and presenting the heritage of the Székelys and the region of Székelyföld. The year 1879 that appears on the Museum’s seal represents the date when it passed into the common proprietorship of the Székely nation.

At present, it represents the biggest Hungarian public collection outside Hungary and it is also one of the most important tourist attractions of Kovászna (Covasna) county and Székelyföld. It is enlisted as a regional museum in the network of the Romanian museums and it is maintained by the Council of Kovászna County. Its activity is also supported by the Székely National Museum Foundation registered in the 1990s.

Székely National Museum Photo: Vargyasi Levente

The complex in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe) designed by Károly Kós comprises a library and departments for natural science, archeology-history, and ethnography. The Art Gallery in Sepsiszentgyörgy, the external museum units in Kézdivásárhely (Tîrgu Secuiesc), Csernáton (Cernat), Barót (Baraolt) and Zabola (Zăbala) also make part of the institution. Also, there are five other autonomous, specialized museum institutions in Kovászna County belonging to the Székely National Museum.

You can read more about the museum here:

Photo: Stancosty

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Here are more pictures of Sepsiszentgyörgy: