THE ROAD TO EDIFICATION
For any hiking in the “Scorilo” tourist area, the starting point is the centre of Caransebeș, where the most imposing building is the new Episcopal Cathedral with the patronage: “The Resurrection of the Lord” and “The Saint Prophet Elijah”.
Caransebeș was always a city of confession of the Orthodox faith. The erection of a cathedral at Caransebeș had been a wish of the clergy and believers in Mountainous Banat since the re-establishment of the Caransebeș Diocese by the imperial diploma dated on 8 July 1865. The first bishop was Ion Popasu (1865-1889), who planted carefully the “roots” of the theological education in Caransebeș, in the time when the bishop of Transylvania was Andrei Șaguna.
Following the “road to edification “, one can say that the moral founder of the cathedral is the first Patriarch (1925) of Romania, Miron Cristea, who during his time as a bishop of Caransebeș (1910-1919) spoke countless times about the need for erecting a new cathedral. He also started a fund for building the cathedral for which he donated 20,000 crowns. Due to the historical conditions occasioned by the war years and the rise of communism, the cathedral was not built. Moreover, on February 5, 1949, the historic Bishopry of Caransebeș was abolished. It was re-established after the 1989 Revolution in 1994. The cathedral’s plan was drawn up during the Bishop Emilian Birtaş, and the foundation stone of the new Episcopal Cathedral in Caransebeş was placed on 27 October 1996 by IPS Laurenţiu Streza, the Metropolitan of Transilvania, at that time Bishop of Caransebeș.
“Through the hard efforts of Bishop Lucian Mic, the cathedral was finished between 2007-2010 and on September 12, 2010 it was sanctified by Daniel, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, 100 years after the installation of Miron Cristea in the royal seat of Caransebeș. “[Alic D, 2010].
The other bishops of Caransebeș, Nicolae Popea (1889-1908), Iosif Traian Badescu (1920-19339, Vasile Lăzărescu (1934-1941) and Veniamin Nistor (1941-1949), were true missionaries of the Christian faith of the Mountainous Banat in the old days .
Looking at the building, you will be wondering: Is it a big cathedral or a small cathedral? As Lucian, the bishop of Caransebeș, confessed on sanctification: “It is a cathedral according to the sacrifice of our forefathers and contemporaries. It is a cathedral in which we all find ourselves again.” The cathedral is constructed in neo-byzantine style, 37 m long, 24 m wide and 45 m tall.
The Episcopal Cathedral has the shape of a Greek cross with a main entrance and two side entrances, three towers at the facade and a central dome. The interior of the church preserves the Orthodox Christian tradition with the altar, nave and narthex. In the two towers there are 7 bells made by Höiz from Ülm (the Bavaria Land – Germany), based on a medieval method, passed from father to son through an uninterrupted series of bell-ringers. The smallest bell has 200 kg, and the largest has 800 kg. The big cross on the central dome is 8 m tall and the other two on the entry towers are 6 m high.
They are gilded to provide the durability and brilliance of these “adornments” of the church. The cathedral is adorned on the entrance façade with icons made with the mosaic technique: “Thomas’ Sunday” icon, which shows one of the appearing of the Savior Jesus Christ after the Resurrection from the dead, the “Last Supper” icon and eight icons of the holy apostles.
History has made Banat a mosaic of cultures and religions. Caransebeș is the only place where two churches, the Orthodox Cathedral and the Roman Catholic Church are very close to one another, only 8.4 m, as in a brotherhood of Christians.
This is also the message of the “Christian Unification Archway” between the two Christian churches, under which thousands of local or visiting Christians pass daily. The archway, ornamented with stone sculptures made by Eugen Apetri, is also a testimony of the joy and gratitude of the inhabitants from Banat for the first visit (7-9 May 1999) of a Pope from the Vatican to Romania, Pope John Paul II.
From the first step inside the place you experience the feeling of reconciliation with everyone, but especially with yourself, which only the special places can give you. It is quiet and yet a humming floats in the air. Everything is motionless and yet you perceive movement at every step. It’s different! It is an inner peace there, for which once you have returned to the mundane world, will long for it for all your life. Lighting a candle in the chosen place equates with the rekindling of faith.
In the cathedral, you can admire the sculptured iconostasis carved from sycamore wood and two of the most famous heritage icons of the Caransebeș Diocese’s “Old Ecclesiastical Art Collection“: the Virgin Mary icon and the Baptism of the Lord icon.
The old ecclesiastical art collection of the Caransebeș Diocese contains 141 old icons and 6 books of worship, collected in time at the Romanian Orthodox Deanery of Resita, with the help of the Archpriest Prof. Dr. Vasile Petrica.
A permanent exhibition of 83 icons can be visited at the basement of the Episcopal Cathedral from Caransebeș, and the second exhibition is in the Eparchial Centre.
When you leave the church, you should contemplate the statue of Miron Cristea in front of the cathedral, made in the style of contemporary statuary art, meaning that the sculpture “socializes” with the passers-by due to the fact that it can be touched. The patriarch’s eyes are looking toward the place he has dreamt of and for which he was the first to subscribe. Miron Cristea is wearing a soutane, and on his head a kamelaukion. In the left hand he holds the episcopal crutch, and his fingers from his right hand, pointed towards the sky of the city, are drawing the holy sign of the cross. The 2, 20 m statue is basted in bronze in the “lost wax” casting and placed on a 1, 10 m high stone marble of Ruschita. The author of the work is the Timisoara sculptor Aurel Gh. Ardeleanu.
Passing under the “Arcade” you will see in the immediate vicinity of the new cathedral the ruins of the medieval church within the Sebes Castle, built at the end of the 13th century and destroyed at the beginning of the 18th century. The remnants were discovered in 1988 and after the reconstruction they identified the Romanic architectural style with transition to the Gothic. The church was in the shape of a ship with an altar and a bell tower.
“It was a Romanian church, though the builders were strangers, because if they had been of another origin, there would not have been found at the entrance certain tombs of women buried with gold and silver coins, surely not from here, from this area. Another argument is that under the altar tombs were found, no church, except the Orthodox Church, they do not introduce graves under the altar “, argues IPS prof.univ. Laurentiu Streza [Streza L., 2010].
Until 2010, the status of the Episcopal Cathedral has been held for 145 years by the oldest church in Caransebeș: the Church of the Great Martyr George, built in the eighteenth century in that style that dominated the Banat, the Baroque provincial style. The historic cathedral was consecrated in 1923 by King Ferdinand and in 1930 by King Carol II.
At the traditional dedication day “The Resurrection of the Lord”, the Episcopal Cathedral of Caransebeș received a second saint patron, the “Holy Prophet Elijah, the Evangelist”, a saint patron with great piety for all the faithful from Banat.
Every year, on the second Sunday after Easter –Thomas’ Sunday, the celebrations of the Episcopal Cathedral in Caransebeș are held and cultural and religious manifestations are opened under the title of “The days of faith and of the culture in Caraş-Severin” which reached its 6th edition (2012), and for three days they organise the “Banat Ruga / Saint Patron’s Day” of the town of Caransebeș.