The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Michael is a symbol of Cluj-Napoca and one of the most representative monuments of the Gothic architecture in Transylvania, similar to the Black Church in Brașov. It impresses through its dimensions, being 70m long and 80m high.
The church was erected shortly after King Charles I of Hungary (Charles Robert of Anjou) gave Cluj the status of a city and ecclesiastical autonomy in 1316. Its construction took place in two stages: the first one started in 1316 and ended in 1390, while the second unfolded between 1410 and 1487, during the reign of King Sigismund. The initial plans showed a church similar to St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.
During the Protestant Reformation, the edifice served, in turns, different religious communities. Between 1545 and 1700, it was a Lutheran, Calvinist and Unitarian church, only to be attributed in the end to the Roman Catholics after the Counter Reformation. After returning to the Catholics, the church was restored in Baroque style. Along the years, the edifice witnessed several important historical moments, from the baptism of King Matthias Corvinus to the investitures of Gabriel Bethlen, Sigismund Rákoczi, Sigismund Báthory and Gabriel Báthory as princes of Transylvania.
After a number of fires and earthquakes that destroyed the church’s tower, in 1837 started the works at the actual clock tower, which ended in 1860. Built in Neo-Gothic style on the northern facade and reaching 80m in height, it still remains the highest church tower in Romania. The church’s interior presents Italian Renaissance and Baroque elements, as well as 15th century frescoes. A final restoration of the building, which took place between 1957 and 1960, brought to light numerous 14th and 15th century paintings of Italian influence. The Neo-Gothic altar was rewarded at the 1873 World Exhibition.
The church’s exterior is not very ornamented. Remarkable are the four Gothic gates, and especially the main, western one. Above the main gate you can notice a wonderful bass relief of St Michael, the church’s patron, killing the dragon. To its right, visitors can admire the Hungarian Kingdom’s coat of arms, while to its left they can see that of the Czech Kingdom.
In front of the church you can admire the Matthias Corvinus statuary ensemble, dating from 1902, composed from five statues presenting King Matthias Corvinus (Matei Corvin) of Hungary (equestrian) and four of his generals.
How to get there:
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Michael is located in the Union Square, in Cluj-Napoca’s centre.