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The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God, Lipoveni neighborhood

The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God is located in the lower city, on Mărășești Street, and is one of the oldest constructions of this kind in Alba Iulia. Romanian believers built the church in the eighteenth century. Its construction was connected with the restructuring imposed by the building of Alba Carolina fortress, which forced the resettlement in a new location of the medieval city lying outside the walls of the Roman fortress.

The construction of the Vauban type fortress in Alba Iulia from 1715 to 1738 was a major event in the life of the city. Although it was aimed at replacing the ancient and medieval defensive walls, it had a greater effect on the extra muros settlement than on the settlement within. The whole settlement outside the walls had to be resettled to the east, so that an area of protection with a width of 200 to 500 meters around the new fortress could be created. In this area, called a glacis or protective space, no building could be erected.

Previously, the Austrian authorities had prepared the terrain for the new settlement. Thus, the marshy spaces were drained and between 1714 and 1720 the sanitary channel was dug by the regularization of a branch of the Ampoi River. Although not all the problems of this terrain were solved, the inhabitants were displaced and in this way the new neighborhoods Lipoveni, “the Hungarian city”, Heiuş, and the “German city” (Maieri) appeared. Not only houses, but also public edifices, essential for maintaining an urban life, were constructed. In this context, stone churches were built for the inhabitants of the new neighborhoods.

The Lipoveni neighborhood was established before 1720. In this new neighborhood were resettled the inhabitants of an old neighborhood of the same name, one first mentioned in 1602. In this neighborhood lived Romanians originating in Lipova and Caransebeș who sought a safe haven in Alba Iulia after the Ottomans overran their region. The population consisted especially of artisans, fellmongers, and masons. Rubin Patiția stated in his notes that they came from Lipova to dig the ditches of the fortress. As a reward, they received plots of land for their homes.

Soon after the resettlement of the population, with life well on its way back to normality, the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God was built. It was the second church to be built in the new neighborhoods after the church of Maieri (1713). In 1752, the church figured on city maps on a plot on the northwestern side of Lipoveni.

Religious unrest from 1759 to 1761, which culminated in Sofronie’s movement, led to denial of the union with the Roman-Catholic Church and the return to Orthodoxy of an important number of Romanians from Transylvania. That generated disputes among the Romanians over the church of Lipoveni. In the end, the church remained in the possession of the Greek-Catholic Romanians, who proceeded to carry out some works of reparation. The main donor was Ioan Dragoș de Thurma, magister of post. His name and his coat of arms are engraved on a silver candle preserved in the church above the imperial doors and iconostasis. Those repairs gave the church the shape that we know today. In 1948, when the Communist regime decreed the abolition of the Greek-Catholic Church and the expropriation of its goods, the church became Orthodox.

It is a single nave church with a pentagonal apse on the eastern side and a massive bell tower on the western side, which was probably added during the reparations carried out in the second half of the eighteenth century. The construction of the bell tower covered the western portal. Thus, the church received its peculiar appearance, its massive, tall bell tower contrasting with the low and long nave. The rectangular nave has two bays. A calotte on pendants covers each bay. Broad arches separate bays. The apse and the ground floor of the bell tower have the same type of vault. Their construction also dates perhaps from the second half of the eighteenth century.

Shortly thereafter the church was painted. Fragments of original fresco were discovered in 1922 during repairs to one of the vaults of the nave. The present painting was executed in 1957 and 1958. The church has a tile roof over the nave, while the tower keeps its Baroque roof, the shingles of which have been replaced by tin.

In the cemetery were buried both common parishioners and personalities of the community, such as Ioan Dragoș de Thurma. The tombstones are no longer in their original positions, having been dislocated during restoration work in 1970, when an attempt was made to emplace them along an alley. (C.A.)