Muzeul de la Centrul Eparhial Oradea
The Diocese Museum of Oradea
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Orthodox Christianity played a vital role for the Romanian population in Bihor county beginning with the 18th century (when Greek-Catholic Christianity will also follow this example) until later on, representing in fact one of the pillars of national Romanian identity.

This form of Christianity had long been grounded in local soil and over the years it provided the framework for various activities from the intellectual and artistic field, which is visible in the great number of historical documents and many forms of manuscripts, old religious prints, icons on wood or glass or religious objects, etc.

The beginnings of an Orthodox museum collection in Oradea are attributed to Roman Ciorogariu’s work as the first bishop of the re-established Orthodox Diocese of Oradea. Right from the onset of his work, he decided to bring together all religious objects and religious old items in the area at the Diocese, so as to build a museum. For this purpose, he sent a letter to every Rector’s office and to all parishes on 11th/24th December 1921. During his patronage and afterwards, the multiplication of patrimonial objects in the care of the museum determined the extension of the building. Hence, four exhibition rooms and two storage rooms were set up between 1970 and 1973, and the collection was inaugurated together with the sanctification of the Diocese chapel of ease on 25th November 1973 by Bishop Dr.Vasile Coman of Oradea.

At present, the museum collection is structured by units according to exhibition categories: The collection of documents, The collection of manuscripts, The collection of old books, The collection of icons on wood, The collection of icons on glass, The collection of religious objects.

The Collection of Documents

The museum collection holds documents that are extremely valuable and of utmost importance for the history of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Oradea. For instance, these authentic documents are relevant to the life and work of bishop Roman Ciorogariu: Gramata mitropolitană (The Metropolitan Gramata) no.225 from 24th September 1921, from Sibiu, referring to the appointment of Archimandrite Roman R. Ciorogariu as Bishop of Greater Oradea; the act Fundaţia Jubiliară Episcop Roman Ciorogariu (The Jubiliary Foundation Bishop Roman Ciorogariu), which was founded on 6th December 1927 on the occasion of his 75th birthday to help priests’ widows and orphans and Testamentul moral al episcopului Roman Ciorogariu (The moral testament of bishop Roman Ciorogariu), written on 27th January 1928, along with other documents.

The Collection of Manuscripts

The collection comprises 17 manuscripts, out of which the oldest dates back to the middle of the 17th century, Octoih slavo-român (Slavic-Romanian Octoechos), written in Romanian and Slavonic in the Cyrillic alphabet.

A great number of these manuscripts were copied by both local and pilgrim clerks, who carried intense cultural activity in Bihor county (writing, translation, manuscript copying, etc.). Outstanding were the figures of Vasile Sturze Moldoveanul, who left behind two Molitvelnice (Euchologions) and a Minei (Menaion), Ioan Popa from „Ţara Leşească”, who left us Cazania lui Varlaam (The Homily of Varlaam). Among the clerks from Ardeal we mention Ştefan Popa from Vima Turzii, author of two Molitvelnice(Euchologions), and Toma Popa from Poieni (Cluj), who compiled a Minei-Triod (Menaion-Triodyon). From the local clerks, such as Flore Popa, there is still an Octoih (Octoechos) and a Molitvelnic (Euchologion), from Pavel Muncăceanul and Ioan Petrovici a Minei (Menaion), from Gavril Popa a Penticostar (Pentecostarian), and from Ioan Popa from Luncasprie a religious Codex, written in 1674 in Romanian in the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Collection of Prints

This collection comprises a relatively large number of prints that appeared between the middle of the 16th and the 19th century (1844). Given the lack of typographies that were willing to print Orthodox books, a significant number of preserved books come from other corners of Transylvania or from the South of the Carpathians, from Wallachia. This explains the presence in Bihor county of the Evangheliar (The Gospel) printed in Braşov in 1561, a copy of which was found in the village of Brusturi, and of the Tâlcul Evangheliilor (The Gospel Moral) and Molitvelnicul românesc (The Romanian Euchologion),both printed in Braşov between 1567 and 1568. The presence of Cazania (The Homily)-the lesson book of Coresi- is also to be found here, along with another fragments of Coresi’s works – Cartea românească de învăţătură (The Romanian Lesson Book), printed in Braşov in 1581, owned by the church in Lupoaia.

Among other remarkable prints are: Liturghierul slavon (The Slavonic Missal), printed in Kiev in 1629 under the spiritual patronage of the scholar metropolitan Bishop Petru Movilă, written in Slavonic, Cazania lui Varlaam (The Homily of Varlaam), printed in Iaşi in 1643 by the scholar and metropolitan Bishop of Moldova, Varlaam, Noul Testament de la Bălgrad (The New Testament from Belgrade), printed in Alba-Iulia in 1648 by metropolitan Bishop Simion Ştefan and Îndreptarea Legii (The Law Code) printed in Târgovişte in 1652 under the guidance of metropolitan Bishop Simion Ştefan.

Apart from these books, the collection holds five foreign books (in Latin and Slavonic): Psaltirea (The Psalter) written in Latin in 1573, Vechiul Testament (The Old Testament) printed in Rome in 1588 in Latin, Psaltirea (The Psalter) printed in Moscow in 1759 in Slavonic, and Evanghelia (The Gospel) printed in Moscow in 1779 in Slavonic and Evanghelia (The Gospel) printed in Moscow in 1857 in Slavonic.

The Collection of Icons

The collection of icons on wood holds almost 300 icons on wood and glass, the oldest dating from the 17th century.
The collection consists of three royal icons from the church in Ghighişeni attributed to the renowned artist David Zugravul, along with two others bearing the artist’s signature – Iisus Hristos binecuvântând (Jesus Christ Blessing) and Maica Domnului cu Pruncul – Hodighitria (Mother of God with Child – Hodighitria). He is also the author of the Uşi împărăteşti (Royal Doors) from the church in Seghişte, also exhibited in the museum.

Among the local painters from this county, the work of Teodor from Micherechi (today a village in Hungary) is outstanding, being the author of two icons on wood (Maica Domnului cu Pruncul – Hodighitria/ Mother of God with Child- Hodighitria and Deisis, dating from 1768) and of the icon bearing the painter’s signature, Maica Domnului cu Pruncul (Mother of God with Child).

There are other stunning icons in this collection due to their beauty and the richness of ornaments, such as icons on wood with the distinctive symbol of the twisted rope- Iisus Hristos Pantocrator (Jesus Christ Pantocrator), dating from 1741 and signed in the upper part in Cyrillic by painter Ştefan from Vicea. Dating from the 18th century, the set of icons named Prăznicare (Feasts) are of great artistic value and very expressive. Tempera and gold were used on wood by apparently the same anonymous author coming from a Greek school.

Icons on glass: are numerous, the majority of which depict Maica Domnului cu Pruncul – Hodighitria (Mother of God with Child- Hodighitria), Eleusa (The Comforter) and Maica Domnului Îndurerată (Weeping Mother of God). Other icons with biblical themes are also present here, such as Naşterea Domnului (The Birth of the Lord), Intrarea Domnului în Ierusalim (Entry into Jerusalem), or those of saints, patrons and protectors such as: Sfântul Ierarh Nicolae (Holy Hierarch Nicholas) and Sfântul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe (Holy Great Martyr George). Most of them, painted by an educated and famous icon painter, Popa Sandu, come from Nicula and are exhibited together with icons from Iernuţeni- Maica Domnului cu Pruncul – Hodighitria (Mother of God with Child- Hodighitria), Sfântul Ierarh Nicolae (Holy Hierarch Nicholas) şi Sfântul Arhanghel Mihail (Holy Archangel Michael). These date from 1798 and represent works of great artistic value.

The Collection of Religious Objects

This collection comprises numerous liturgical objects made out of fabric which are of great artistic value (such as the Holy Slavonic Antimension, woodcut on linen fabric from 1692); Wooden liturgical objects, especially wood crosses for blessings, painted with tempera, the oldest dating from the 18th century; the collection holds a cross on pedestal from the 18th century, painted with tempera, a ciborium and several wood patens, a wooden chalice and a box for keeping the Holy Chrism; Metal liturgical objects: crosses, chalices, censers, communion sets, shrines, patens, asterisks, spears, spoons, dikirion, trikirion, and others, made of metal, silver, gold-plated silver, some from the 18th, others from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most valuable cross is the silver and gold-plated silver filigree cross on pedestal from the first half of the 19th century, adorned with gemstones. In its centre it holds a cypress wood cross, on one side bearing the sculpture of the Crucifixion scene, and on the other, the Baptism of the Lord. This work is of outstanding artistic expression. We also mention that the collection holds three silver plated censers from the 18th century, of great historical and artistic value. The oldest is the 1762 censer, donated to the church in Velenţa by the Gavrilete brothers, with the inscription: ‘Ierei Ioann Gavriilovici, Gheorghii Gavriilovici. 1762 – Anno 1762′.

The collection of liturgical vestments comprises several bishops’ vestments, of which the vestments of Bishop Nicolae Popovici of Oradea stand out, made of silk, with gold and silver thread, with sticharion, sakkos, epitrachelion, omophorion, zone, epimanikia and epigonation.

As one may assume, from a historical, artistic and architectural point of view there are other invaluable religious objects. In this category fall the 1686 wooden bell yoke, from the historical monument of the wooden church from Boianul Mare, Bihor county; the 1746 bronze bell, from the wooden church in Şumugiu; the wooden church door(16th -17th centuries) from the wood church from Lazuri de Beiuş, a very rare example of old Romanian art with sculptural adornments including rosettes, spindles, twisted rope motifs, zoomorphic images such as the dragon, a Gothic-style triptych and others.