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If you actually opened this blog, I’m amazed.  Either you speak Romanian or curiosity just got the better of you.  For those who are wondering, the Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului is an Orthodox church in Săpânța on the very same grounds as the Merry Cemetery.  A literal translation of the name is “Virgin Birth Church,” though a more proper English name would be more akin to “Our Lady of the Assumption.”

Normally I wouldn’t find a small country church worthy of its own separate write-up, but this one is.

Why?

Because a few years from now, it’s going to be the Sagrada Familia of Romania.

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Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului, Săpânța, Romania

We didn’t go to Săpânța to see the church.  We were there to visit the Merry Cemetery, which incidentally surrounds the church on three sides.

Not particularly old, the church was built in 1886.  Until recently, it stood as a rather uninspiring edifice painted in mundane neutral tones.  It wasn’t a fitting companion for the vivid colors and cheerful artistry of the surrounding tombstones.  Clearly some other folks realized that as well and set about to remedy the situation.

Currently the church is undergoing an extensive remodel, one that includes an absolute and complete makeover, particularly to the exterior.  So covered is the building with rickety plank scaffolding that one can only catch glimpses of the magic happening beneath.

Gold mosaic tiles of a church in Romania

Gone is the plain salmon-colored paint.  In its place is an intricate pattern of shiny tiles in green, blue, yellow, and red in patterns reminiscent of the Navajo in the United States.

Mosaic images have been carefully laid out, set against a background of gold that positively glows in the sun.  It’s absolutely stunning.

No detail will be overlooked in its renovation, from the fine geometric details of the colorful spire to the decorative woodwork.

Existing elements, such as the elaborately carved wooden door with its woven rope motif, have been carefully protected during the ongoing work.

At least during our visit, the interior offered little to see, but that could very well change.  Much of it was blocked by scaffolding or was completely closed to the public.

The exception was the ceiling.  Even chipped, with chunks of plaster missing, it was stunning.

Ceiling of the Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului in Săpânța, Romania

The church’s four bells are currently on display, balanced in a quadrant of timbers in front of the building.  Whether they’ll return to their rightful place in the church tower to ring for the villagers or remain on display, I don’t know.

Hopefully they church bells will remain on display for the public.

If you’re planning to visit the Merry Cemetery soon, you’ll undoubtedly be witness to the transformation of the Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului in one phase or another.  Considering the ambitious scale of the renovations underway, the thud of hammers pounding will likely mar the peaceful slumber of the cemetery’s inhabitants for some time to come.

It might not be a bad idea to delay your travel plans a bit.

Or even better – visit twice!  When completed, this church will be simply magnificent.

Know Before You Go
  • Arrive before 10 am to beat the tour buses.
  • Adult ticket price is 5 leu (about $1.15), plus another 3 leu for taking photos (total, $1.80) for the Merry Cemetery, and entrance to the church is included in the one ticket.
  • Official site for the Biserica Nasterea Maicii Domnului, the Orthodox church on the grounds of the Merry Cemetery.  (Minimal info available on the site.)
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