Shrine of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Logo

517 S Belle Vista Ave

Youngstown, OH 44509

Ph: (330) 799-1888

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Struggles For Existence

There  was need for this unshakable confidence.  The Calvary of Transylvania was not over yet.  Now that the ancient religion was safe,  new perils appeared on the horizon threatening the people’s very existence.  The Tartars were coming again!  After the occasional raids of previous centuries, the Tartar invasions, with the era of the Turkish rule over central Europe, became regular.  The Osman overlords were using their Tartar satellites, who settled on the other side of the Carpathian Alp, as punitive squadrons to keep the conquered countries in check, especially Transylvania.  Whenever the Prince of Transylvania made a wrong political move, or an attempt to assert the country’s independence, the Turkish pashas dispatched their Tartar detachments across the Carpathian Mountains to ransack, rob and kill, and thus, to force the population to obedient subservience.  The survival of the people was now at stake.  They were really in need of protection and refuge!  Where else could they find it, if not at their dear Madonna.  The gracious Patroness did not let them down at this time, either.  She stood by them, giving more obvious proof of her motherly solicitude than ever before.

The atrociousness of the Tartar raid of the year 1661 surpasses human imagination.  After having burned down 26 Sekler villages, the barbarous invaders turned their bloodthirsty savagery against the Shrine of the Madonna.  The monastery was completely destroyed, and four of its Franciscan inhabitants perished along with it.  The church also had suffered considerable damage, and though the roof had collapsed, the wooden statue of the Madonna emerged unharmed.  It stood there in the midst of smoldering ruins like a heavenly apparition to inspire new faith, hope, and courage in her martyred people.  The Tartar chieftain, who led the pillaging, was by no means unaware of the impact the Madonna was exercising on the population.  To take revenge on her he entered the ruins of the church and lifting up his spear he wanted to knock the statue down.  However, the only damage he could do was a little scratch on the face of the Madonna.  His arm was suddenly paralyzed.  Frightened, he ordered withdrawal and took to flight with his hordes.  After several unsuccessful attempts to patch it up, the cut is still visible on the fact of the Madonna.  The people of Transylvania interpreting it as a symbol of her indestructibility clung to their Patroness with even stronger confidence.

The extraordinary intervention of the Virgin on behalf of her Seklers was even more conspicuous in the attack of the year 1694.  Again, as so many times in the past, the alarm, “The Tartars are coming!” resounded from valley to valley in the distressed land.  As their villages burned down, the populace fled again to the refuge of Csiksomlyo.  Being outnumbered by the Tartar invaders, they did not even think of armed resistance.  Crammed within the walls of the sanctuary, they awaited the inevitable end with resignation.  When the despair had reached its lowest, one of the Franciscans, Fr. Francis Nizzet, stood up and as if touched by the inspiration of the Virgin, began to deliver a fiery sermon, exhorting the frightened crowd to place their trust in the hands of their Mother and be ready to defend themselves.  With full confidence in the Madonna he organized the women and girls into combat groups, put fur caps on their heads to look like men and lined them up on the slope of the hill to give the impression from the distance of a huge army.  In the meantime, he sent the few-armed men into the woods to ambush the Tartars at the most favorable moment.  The children were given all kinds of noisemaking devices and were placed at strategic points on the monastery grounds.

When the approaching pillagers sighted the column of the fake soldiers and heard the ear splitting fracas of drums, bells, flutes and trumpets, they took to frantic, disorderly flight, running right into the ambush of the hiding men.  Very few of them reached their tents on the steppes across the mountains.  The victorious Seklers celebrated their new triumph with great joy at the Shrine of their great Comforter and Conqueror.

After the Turkish-Tartar Era more peaceful centuries dawned on Transylvania.  The tranquil years were used by the grateful Seklers to erect a new, more magnificent abode for their gracious Madonna.  The present baroque building, begun in 1814, is testimony of the zeal, love and gratefulness of the Seklers of the 19th century.