Important note for church visitors:
Because of the restoration work that happens in the church and the vacant position of the guide/caretaker of the citadel, at the moment we cannot guarantee that a visit of the church will always be possible.
Groups or individual visitors should announce their visit prior to it. ("Kontakt")
Thank you for your understanding!
The Romanesque church was built as a catholic church dedicated to St Mary in the 14th century. After the Reformation in 1550 it became a Protestant church but was still used as a church of pilgrimage up to the 17th century. Graffiti dated from this period (the earliest dating from 1405) have been found in the choir which have enabled scholars to date the frescoes.
The church consists of a nave and two nave aisles all of which have a coffered ceiling as well as a choir, which has a ribbed vaulting. An enclosed tower is situated above the entrance hall on the west side of the church. On the north side of the choir there is a vestry under which a crypt was built in 1688. Inside this crypt Michael Apafi I and his family were buried, but their sarcophagi were removed to Budapest in the 20th century.
At the end of the 15th century an additional floor with crenels was added to the tower and a wall with guard towers, of which only one is preserved, was built around the church as a protection against Turkish and Tartar attacks.
The walls and ceiling of the choir as well as the north wall of the nave are covered in some of the most important gothic frescoes in Transylvania. Those in the choir could be dated back to the last quarter of the 14th century thanks to the graffiti mentioned above and they show influences from South Tyrol.
In the cross vault the four evangelists as well as the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, the Worship by the Magi and Jesus presented at the temple can be seen. Around the headstone, displaying the coat of arms of the Apafi family which owned Malmkrog for many centuries, the frescoes show: St. Appolonia, Dorothea, Ursula, Katharina, Agnes, Margaretha, Barbara, Agnes, Lucia and Agatha.
The north wall of the choir shows scenes from the Passion of Jesus.
On the south wall we can identify scenes from the legend of St. George, the Archangel Michael, 2 Blackfriars, some Saints, the Coronation of Mary, the family of the donor and St Christopher.
The Archway into the nave is headed by a ??? flanked by the Saints Peter and Paul
The frescoes in the nave, which date back to the 15th century, are less well preserved than those in the choir as they have been painted over for centuries. They show: Scenes from Genesis, the Childhood of Jesus, Passion, Appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection and legends of Mary. The direction of reading is fluent, i.e. from left to right at the top, then right to left, then again left to right …
The winged altar originating from about 1495 is the oldest altar still in its original location in Transylvania. The painter is unknown and scholars believe that the pieces on the panels of the closed altar might have been painted by one of his pupils.
The main piece shows the Madonna on a throne surrounded by angels, i.e. a maestà. At the bottom the donors, Michael and Clara Apafi, are depicted with their patron saints, the Archangel Michael and St. Clara of Assisi. This proves that the order for the altar was given before 1469, as Michael Apafi died that year.
The main piece is flanked by the Saints Catharine, Barbara, Agnetha, and Margaret. The open wings show the Birth of Jesus, the Worship by the Magi, the Ascension of Mary’s Soul, and the Death of Mary.
The immobile wings visible when the altar is closed show the Archangel Michael and St George. The Annunciation and Mary visiting Elizabeth can be seen on the closed wings which are characterised by a different style and different proportions.
On the base of the altar the Resurrected Jesus and the coat of arms of the Apafi family can be identified. The truss, which is conserved in its original form, contains statues of Mary and St. John.
The church also contains late Gothic pews.
The organ now in use was built by Wegenstein in Timişoara in 1925 to replace a much smaller one from the 18th century.
In 1882 the frescoes in the choir were partly painted over, but were uncovered again in 1913-14 in the course of repairs on several parts of the church, which were finished in 1925.
The church is used for weekly services by the Protestant community of Malmkrog which still consists of 150, mostly young, Saxons today.
Malmkrog was mentioned for the first time in 1305 in a contract by the family of Apafi. These Hungarian nobles possessed Malmkrog and its inhabitants for many centuries. This is not typical for a Saxon village, as most Saxons settled on ground belonging to the King himself and were given special rights and independency. For a long time only one building in the village apart from the Manor House and the Vicarage was built of stone. Only in the middle of the 19th century, when they were released from their servitude and after a great fire which destroyed most of the village, the people of Malmkrog built houses of stone for themselves, which can be seen from the dates on many of the houses in the village.
In 1989 Malmkrog had a Saxon population of 650 people, today there are only 150 members of the parish left. Still this is the highest proportion of remaining Saxons in a village in Transylvania and a very high percentage of young people gives hope that the old community and its traditions are going to survive. In Malmkrog you can still sometimes see people wearing traditional clothing for church and many of the old feasts are still celebrated in their original fashion.
The village now has a population of 1200 people in total, consisting of Saxons, Romanians, Gipsies and a few Hungarians.
The Manor was built by the Hungarian princely family, Apafi, probably in the 15th century. It is most unusual to have a manor house in a Saxon village - Mãlâncrav and only two or three other villages were governed by Hungarians. Archaeology reveals that the Manor House was built in several phases. There was first a house on the site in the 15th century. The present house was built, in its original form, by (possibly before) the 17th century. It appears to have been rebuilt in the 18th-19th centuries.
Fifteen inventories have come to light in Budapest. They include all the alterations made in and around the house during a period of exactly a century: the earliest was made in 1679, the last in 1778. They show the structure, decoration, furniture and state of the buildings - the Manor House, the 'Curia Nobilitaris' itself, and also the outbuildings, the gardens and the farm establishments, and give a detailed list of tools, items of furniture and crops kept in them.
[…] This detailed record is very unusual, perhaps unique. Budapest historians confirm that such records simply do not exist for other contemporary 17th-18th Transylvanian or Hungarian manor houses. The record exists because of the importance of the former owner, Michael Apafi, prince of Transylvania, and his successors and close relatives, the noble Hungarian Bethlen family.
Much of the information is taken up with descriptions of locks, doors, furniture, paintings on the interior walls etc. However, there is a lack of useful detail about the location, size and shape of the buildings. No picture or plans of Almakerek have been found from this period, or from the 19th century. The Trust therefore commissioned archaeological research on the site, which revealed that the existing building, as well as being longer towards the west, was surrounded by a complex of outbuildings: stables, vinegar houses, kitchens, guard and prison huts, and a small tower.
In the late 18th century the Apafi family died out, and the property passed to the Bethlen family. In the 19th century the house was bought by a Hungarian commoner. Around this time the beautiful Apafi family mausoleum was removed from the church or graveyard to its present site, the National Museum in Budapest, where it is on permanent exhibition.
The deeds of the house record that in the 1920s it was sold by its last private owner to the Evangelical village community. The house was […] confiscated […] by the communists from 1947-1989. […] In December 2000 the […] building was sold to the Trust by the Evangelical [Church], since they had no plans for it's future use nor funds to save and restore it.
Under the architect Jan Hülsemann and masterbuilders Fritz Klusch and Ernst Linzing, the Manor House has been restored as much as possible to its original 18th century plan. […] On October 1st 2007, the restored Apafi Manor was consecrated at a service in Malancrav Lutheran church, officiated by Lutheran, Romanian Orthodox and Hungarian Catholic priests. […]
Source: http://www.mihaieminescutrust.org/content/nd_standard.asp?n=172 (6.3.2008) Abbriged