|Cover of the book on Magyarlóna|
The village of Magyarlóna (formerly known as Szászlóna, now Luna de Sus, Romania) is a characteristic village of the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania, near Kolozsvár (Cluj). The village was first mentioned in 1332 as Lona, and has a medieval church dating from roughly this period. This Calvinist church has always been noted for its rich set of painted wooden furniture, including an 18th century painted coffered ceiling by Lőrinc Umling (1752). However, its medieval origin was also plain to see: even if its vaults did not survive, the Gothic south portal and the medieval windows of the sanctuary survived. However, until 2009, no real research has been carried out in order to find more of the medieval features of the building. As soon as this work started, significant medieval frescoes have been found on the walls of the nave.
Last year, a book was published about the church and the cemetery around it. Edited by Gergely Nagy (President of the Hungarian National Committee of ICOMOS) and his wife, Klára Szatmári, the book summarizes the history of the village and its church (Klára Szatmári - Gergely Nagy: Magyarlóna református temploma és temetője. Veszprém-Budapest, 2010) . The book was written at the same time as research on the building started - and the first results of this are already reflected there. This research was carried out by art historian Attila Weisz, who first identified traces of the wall paintings. At this point a restorer, Loránd Kiss was brought in to uncover and conserve these paintings.
|Magyarlóna, interior view towards East|
Work continued this year, and so far the following has been revealed: There are frescoes in the nave of the church, on either side of the triumphal arch. The scenes on these walls have been arranged in three rows. On the northern side, the upper two rows, while on the southern side, the lower two rows have been uncovered so far. The top row contains scenes from the legend of a Virgin Martyr, perhaps St. Margaret of Antiochia. As only one scene has been uncovered so far from what must have been an extensive cycle, identification at this point is not yet possible. The second row appears to contain one large composition of the Annunciation, with the figures of archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary arranged on either side of the triumphal arch (similar to the arrangement found at Disznajó). The lower row holds images of saints, one of whom is definitely a bishop. Further images are being uncovered on the intrados of the triumphal arch, and it has also been established that likely the entire north wall is painted.
Magyarlóna thus joins a number of other churches in the immediate region where significant fresco decoration has been uncovered. The neighboring village of Szászfenes (Floreşti) has a large set of badly-preserved frescoes, while better-preserved frescoes have been partially uncovered at Magyarvista (Viştea), and the frescoes of Magyarfenes (Vlaha) have been known since the 1930s. The date of these frescoes varies, although most were painted around 1400 (you can read my Hungarian-language study on this group of frescoes at academia.edu). The frescoes of Magyarlóna are definitely earlier, and were likely painted during the first half of the 14th century - thus at the same time as the earlier of two sets of frescoes at Magyarvista. All these villages belonged to the estate of the bishopric of Transylvania, the center of which was at the nearby castle of Gyalu (Gilău). This factor perhaps accounts for the rich painted decoration of these small village churches - although the role of nearby Kolozsvár cannot be underestimated, either. More research needs to be carried out partly in order to uncover more of the painted cycles, and partly to better understand their iconography and internal connections. For starters, a new edition of the book on the church is being prepared, which will include a preliminary report on these frescoes.
This post could not have been written without the help of my friends, Attila Weisz and Loránd Kiss, as well as Gergely Nagy, who were kind enough to share information on these discoveries and to provide photographs. You can read more about the book (in Hungarian) here. To get to know other aspects of the the heritage of the village, chack out traditional Hungarian folk music recorded there by Zoltán Kallós in the 1960s - just search here for Magyarlóna.