Armenians and Jewish are two traditional extraordinary etnic minorities of Transylvania that have unfortunately disappeared over the XX th century. They left behind a rich culture and some very valuable architectural monuments, mainly religious ones.
Armenians have settled in Transylvania in late 17th century and their evolution has been strongly influenced by the multicultural and multi religion specific of the area. In 1726 Janos Antalffy, the Roman Catholic bishop of Alba Iulia sent a letter to Rome reporting that 80 Armenian families were living by that time in Armenopolis (Gherla) and the same number of families in Elisabethopolis (Dumbraveni).
They had been granted privileges from the local ruler in order to support their mainly trading and crafteman activities. Those privileges attracted the hostility of the other ethnic groups of Transylvania, mainly the Hungarians and Saxons in some cases leading to conflicts. In 1712 for instance, the Saxons from Bistrita who were ruling the town forced all Armenians to leave the town in 24 hours, taking them responsible for the sprung of a black plague epidemic. Due to this order 231 Armenians from Bistrita relocated to Armenopolis, however, the ousting of Armenians did not solve the black plague problem.
In Gheorgheni on the other hand there had been tensions between Armenians and local Szeklers mainly based on Szeklers envy on Armenians fast developing trading business. Here the Armenians were banned from showing up at the local marketplace before 8.00 am in the summer and 9.00 am during winter in order to prevent them from buying large stocks of products just to resell them more expensive during the day. More than that, the Szekler provinces banned Armenians for digging wells and in some places even to build churches.
The Armenians from Transylvania had been converted to Catholic faith by Oxendio Virizesco, born in 1655 in Botosani and Catholicized as a child. He later studied Collegio Urbano (the missionary college of the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) in Rome and in 1685 was sent to Transylvania where he carried out an intense missionary work among the Armenians.
Nowadays Armenian Catholic Church includes:
Parohia Armeano Catolica (Gherla, Szamosujvar)
Parohia Armeano Catolica (Dumbraveni, Erzsebetvaros)
Parohia Armeano Catolica (Gheorgheni, Gyergyoszentmiklos)
Parohia Armeano Catolica (Frumoasa, Csikszepviz)
I the pictures below you can admire the Catholic Armenian Cathedral of Dumbraveni, finished in 1790, one of the largest cathedrals ever built by the Armenians.