Church of Magyarvalkó

History of the church – The fortified church of Magyarvalkó (Hungarian name; Romanian name: Valeni) is often described as the most beautiful example in the Kalotaszeg (Calata) region of Transylvania. It has been modified many times through the ages since its possible first building phase started in the second half of the 13th century. The building was originally erected as a Franciscan monastery in the Romanesque style (1261). From this period only the nave (middle part) remained with its semi-circlular arch windows and round arch vaulted wall towards the connecting parts. The polygonal sanctuary is a Gothic addition from 1452 with peak-arch vault at the top. The building was partially burnt down several times. After the Turkish-Tartar marauding hordes destroyed it in 1658, the church was rebuilt and protected by two circles of stone walls surrounding the building, the inner of which included lofted gate towers. The massive bell tower, with its four-pinnacled spire and gallery, was also built in this period as a perfect observation point. In case of danger the whole population of the village could find protection in the fortress and defend the walls together. The last known heavy damage caused by fire took place in 1710 as part of the Hungarian war of independence fought against the Habsburg Empire. The decorative coffered ceiling is quite new, originating from 1778 and painted by Lorinc Umling and his son.

About the region – Kalotaszeg ethnic region (Hungarian term; Romanian name: Calata region) is characterised by its Medieval fortified Reformed churches with their decoratively painted coffered-ceilings and tower roofs with gallery and four pinnacles. The church-fortification processes started only in the 17th century in the region as a result of the Tartar attack in 1658. The maurauding hordes were sent by the Ottoman sultan as a response to oppose the Transylvanian prince’s endeavour and military campaign to take the Polish throne. For a period from 1660 the Western border of the princpality remained without any defences as the castle of Várad (Oradea) was from that time occupied by the Turks. By the end of the 16th century all Hungarian villages of Kalotaszeg – as part of Transylvanian Principality – converted to Reformed (Calvinist) instead of Catholic, inheriting all the stone churches and also building new ones. The Orthodox Romanian population settled in mainly separate villages built chiefly wooden churhes, with similar timber architecture to those of the fortified churches. This region’s folk art (embroidery, costumes, music etc.) and vernacular architecture influenced Hungarian architecture and art a lot, especially in the first half of the 20th century, when the ultimately decorative Kalotaszeg style was acclaimed as the most representative of Hungarian folk art.

General Structural Description – Timber construction of the tower – the oak structure of the tower supports a large gallery around the bell and a huge spire with a king post and rafter structure nearly 20 metres high. The four pinnacles stand upon the beams supported by the posts of the gallery. Under them the corner of the structure is strenghtened with a dragon beam, also employed to support the pinnacle posts. The massive 16 metre high and 1 meter deep wall supports an additional timber frame structure connected to it with many elements. This duplicated structure ensures the stability of the gallery and the spire against the forces of the elements. The timber construction of the inner tower supports 4 levels with beams, the first of which acts as a choir to the main nave, while the top is the level of the gallery.

The Medieval Structure of the Nave Roof – The current form of the roof covering the nave and sanctuary is considered to be built by local craftsmen continuing the Medieval (Gothic) carpentry traditions in the 17th-18th century. The structure is typical of Transylvanian Gothic roof construction, except for the absence of the longitudinal bracing grid systems. The triangular frames formed by the rafters and the tie beams rest upon two sole plates running in parallel on top of the stone walls. The rafters are morticed and tenoned to the ties. Parallel with the walls a post plate is placed upon the centre points of the tie beams to house the posts for the principal frames. All pair of rafters are connected to the collar beams with pinned half lap joints. The top of the posts in the principal frames are also half-lapped with collars, they are just as high to be able to host this connection. We can discover 4 types of bracing within this timber structure. Three of them stiffen just the frame itself within the planes of the roof triangles. In the principal frames the posts, the collars and the rafters are tied together, forming a V-shape. At the general frames however this system formed by the posts and bracings is substituted by large St. Andrew’s crosses connecting the rafters and the tie beams through the collars. The lower and side part of the triangles are also braced, tying the rafters and the tie beams together. Finally the posts are braced in two directions, to the tie beams and also to post plate as well. All the bracing elements are placed with pinned half lap joints, except for the peak of the V-shape where pinned dovetails can be observed. On the outside part of the wall the sole plates have a duplication to be able to host a less steep lower roof starting from nearly at the half level of the rafters. The outer sole plates run outside of the wall’s geometry at many places. The shorter rafters with shallower slope meet the general ones with a mortice and tenon joint, while at the bottom birdsmouth joints were used.