Transylvania: Our First Steps in Romania

On the final weekend of August 2021 Steps for Christianity launched the walking component of the project with a working delegation visit and blessing service, both held in Sibiu County, Transylvania in Romania.  

Panoramic view of Michelsberg/Cisnadiora

On Friday, August 27, Steps Founder and Director H.E. Jörgen Nilsson KLJ OMLJ met with Evangelical Church General Secretary and Director of the Fortified Churches Foundation Friedrich Gunesch, with introductory discussions held as to the work of the Order, Church and Foundation.

The city of Sibiu, also known by its traditional German name, Hermannstadt, is a historic, cultural and religious center for the people of Transylvania, and the episcopal seat of both the Bishop of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of the Augsburg Confession of Romania, and the Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

A visit to the Landeskirchliche Museum at Teutsch Haus included a tour conducted by museum Curator, Arch. Heidrun König, who provided a detailed history of the Transylvanian Saxon people, community structure, and the role of fortified churches in the region.

On Saturday, August 28th, a visit to the Andrei Șaguna Faculty of Orthodox Theology, Romania’s oldest continuously-functioning Orthodox theological faculty, focused on a meeting with Faculty Dean, Rev. Dr. Daniel Buda, where a discussion on the history of ecumenical relations in Romania was held.

A vigil of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was held at the Medieval hilltop fortress of the adjacent village of Michelsberg (also known as Cisnadiora). The ecumenical, multi-lingual service was officiated by Rev. Dr. Ionut Blidar of Timișoara (Romania), a priest of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, and included the presence of Eng. Gabriel Tischer, Michelsberg Evangelical parish representative.

At the conclusion of the vigil service, the Lutheran hymn ”A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was sung both in gratitude to the hospitality extended by the Evangelical Church as well as in recognition of a common cause and vision that the Order and Steps project has with the people and Christian confessions of Transylvania.

32,000 steps were walked by the participants climbing up towards and around the church to begin the walking component of the Steps project. New banners and the mantles of present members of the Order were blessed in preparation for the start of both Steps and the work of the Order in the months and years to come. 

While the planned hike on Sunday 29th was cancelled due to a heavy rainstorm, the day was spent conducting field visits to fortified churches to better understand the present state and needs of these important living monuments to the defense of Christian heritage and community in what was once a frontier region of Europe.  

Both the Order and Steps thanks those people and institutions of Hermannstadt/Sibiu and Michelsberg/Cisnadiora who made this first delegation meeting a success.  Discussion and preparations are presently underway for further regional activities and possible cooperation and partnerships in the near future. We have begun…and we will return!