History


Homoródszentmárton lies in Transylvania, Udvarhely county (46*14’N, 25*23’6’’E), in the valleys of the Nagyhomoród river and the Gyepes and Kénos brooks. Its population is Hungarian, more than half are Unitarian, the rest are Reformed, Catholic and Baptist. The main occupation of the inhabitants is farming.

The area has been inhabited since ancient times, as proved by the Neolithic axe and urn found in the outskirts of the village a few decades ago. Roman coins found in the earth as well as the small lake formed in the shafts of what looks like an old salt mine testify to inhabitance during Roman times.The name of the village dates back to the middle of the 12th century, when Hungarian king Géza II brought settlers in the upper valleys of the Nagyküküllõ and Homoród rivers .The remainders of the first settlement were probably destroyed during the Tartar invasion of 1241, which would explain the fact that the churches in the region were all built in the style following the Tartar invasion. The old church of our parish – pulled down in 1887 – was also built at that time, and it used to rule the southern landscape with strong walls around it, offering shelter to people from the neighboring villages, too .The bastions were demolished the 19th century and out of their material a new school, a parish hall and a cantor’s residence were built .The front bastion was heightened and turned into a steeple.

The old church, built in 1613, was owned by the Unitarians. According to a description made by an engineer , it was 13 fathoms long and 3 º fathoms wide. Having in view the contemporary figures as well as the fact that following the death of Dávid Ferenc the parishes under oppression did not grow and the number of the church members did not increase, we may correctly assume that our church was established under our first bishop and as such it is one of the first Unitarian churches in Transylvania. The life and soul of the church were the Birós, who up to the middle of the 19th century, by way of their wealth and connections had been like a shield for the Unitarians of Homoródszentmárton. The tokens of their generosity were a bell cast in 1666 by Biró István and Baltazár and a communion cup made of lead donated in 1695 by Mrs. Biró Bálint Mohai Adviga. Of the relics destroyed during the first world war a Turkish rug dating from the 17th century and a fine piece of embroidery, a minister’s seat spread made of silk in 1695 , are worth mentioning.

The Birós gave our church the first chief warden, Samuel, who had an immense role in assuring the future of the Unitarian Church. We owe it to the Birós that our congregation has remained Unitarian throughout the storms of history. The Unitarian branch of the family sank into poverty a century ago and died out, whereas the Catholic line of the family still lives in Betfalva. The parish of Lókod - 2.5 km away – used to be a branch of our church since it was formed .This parish became independent on 25 June, 1803 and therefore did not have to contribute to the restoration of the walls.

Until the 1770s the Unitarian church was the only one in Homoródszentmárton. But then the Ugron family founded a reformed congregation of reformed serfs, among whom a few had been converted by force from Greek -Catholic religion.. On the Biró estate – which they had gained through marriage- they built a church and as patronizing-family they supplied almost all of the minister’s salary. Encouraged by this the Unitarians tried to convert a few Greek-Catholic serfs themselves, but seeing their devotion to their faith , they refrained from using force. They were satisfied with their tithe being paid to them. This went on until 1848, but in 1849 these former Greek-Catholics became full members of the Unitarian church of their own will. Based on the records we have, we can rightfully claim that our congregation has always treated the question of religious conviction with utmost patience and tolerance.

The real problem was the condition of the buildings. While it was needed, the fortress had to be maintained in good shape, and then there was the church and the buildings pertaining to it. In 1741 all the buildings on the minister’s lot became the prey of flames. It is a proof of the peaceful relationship between the Reformed and the Unitarians that after the fire Ábránfalvi Ugron Ferenc and his wife, Biró Mária made a financial contribution to the rebuilding of the parish hall.

In 1847 the church that seated 84 people and whose walls were decorated with beautiful frescoes was found in such a bad condition that it had to be pulled down. They even made a collection, but the work was put off because of the revolution in 1849.A few years later the money that had been raised made only a major repairing possible. After forty years of renovation the building was officially closed in 1887. The 600 year old building was demolished and in its place the present day church was built.

During the constructions Unitarian church services were held in the Reformed church, where on 11 June 1888 minister Dombi Mózes died during service. The construction was carried on by Dombi János, who had been invited to come home from the parish of Datk.

According to Draskóczi Jenö , an engineer from Udvarhely, the first service in the new church was held on 22 December 1889. Yet for lack of funds the inauguration ceremony could only take place on 10 July , 1892.

During the fifteen years preceding the building of the new church the congregation had constructed a new school and new homes for the cantor-teacher and the minister. Due to planning errors though, the new church-building had to be repaired several times , which meant a heavy burden for the congregation till 1939 , when the church and the steeple were fixed with iron fittings.

The first world war left permanent marks on the life of the congregation and the village. The existing funds depreciated and the church lost a bell made in 1666 . The pipes of the organ made in 1844 did not escape the plundering of the occupying soldiers either. In the center of the village a memorial was erected to commemorate the 37 men who died in the war. After the Trianon peace treaty there were many restrictions , religious winter celebrations were forbidden, services were attended by informants , the members of the congregation were harassed, the teachers who refused to swear in were fired , ministers were jailed and the people were threatened with being forcibly converted.

On 7 September 1919 minister Zoltán Sándor was arrested and taken to Udvarhely and then to Kolozsvár. Meanwhile our school had been confiscated , but in 1940 it went back to church property for a short while, only to be taken over by the ministry of education during communist nationalization. Under these circumstances the visits paid by American brethren on 8 April 1920 and 20 July 1922 were a real jubilee for our church . Following these visits we established a partnership with the Unity Church of Mount Claire , New Jersey. Out of the donations of our partner church and the people who had immigrated from Homoródszentmárton and were living in a city called Indiana Harbor, a new bell was purchased in 1923. The names of these people, who in spite of living abroad were fully committed to their homeland, are worth mentioning : Csala István and his wife Sándor Ida, Joe Wash, Kelemen Dénes, Sándor Lajos and his wife, Vajda Károly, Toth István, Wagner Willmos, John Poca, Benedek László, Silló Dénes and Both Károly , who contributed 24 dollars to the 160 $ received from Mount Claire.

In 1920 the number of the people in the village was 875. Out of these 468 were Unitarian, the rest being Reformed, Roman Catholic, Baptist and Jewish. The Unitarian school had become a Romanian public school while the Reformed school remained ecclesiastic for some more time. Our church had run a school till 1848, the expenses being paid by the community, in 1904 the school was taken over by the state of Hungary. Following the ‘nationalization’ in 1919, after two years of struggle, the school had been closed for lack of supplies . After this 60% of the children went to the public school while 4o% attended the ecclesiastical school. Despite the hardships the church still had a youth group and a women’s group working, and between 1940-44 was running a kindergarten with state support.

The Second World War had its disastrous consequences, too, 19 men died in the senseless struggle. After 1947 the life of our congregation changed. Forced industrialization led the young people away depriving the village of its sources of energy. The well-handled homogenization policy changed the ethnic composition of the village and the region. Due to the diminished economic potential, the limited possibilities for learning and mortality the congregation had lost 200 members compared to 1920.The buildings that went to state property during the communist regime have not been returned yet. The 23 acres of land are now owned by the church, but the situation of the forests is still unclear.

Unfortunately the change of regime in 1989 did not turn things around in the economic situation of the village. The misguided agricultural policy has impoverished the congregation, instead of the much coveted upswing there was decline as far as economy, culture and religion are concerned. The young people did not move back to the village and years go by without a single christening or wedding in our church. In the last ten years we lost 68 members and it is more and more difficult for the aging congregation to uphold the church .