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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The Turbulent Past

The most conspicuous features of Transylvanian architecture are the fortress-churches.  Their striking lines give to the region a melancholy mood of medieval history.  Massive walls fortified with bastions and buttresses surround the church-buildings.  Even the steeple had been built in such a manner as to serve as a watchtower besides housing the bells.  These strange fortifications are leftovers of an era when the churches were not only the strongholds of the faith, but also a physical refuge sheltering the life of the populace.  These fortress-churches also speak eloquently of that historic mission the land and people of Transylvania were to fulfill at that dangerous point of impact where East and West met.  As the easternmost outpost of western Christian civilization, Transylvania stood guard, defending it against the inroads of the pagan east, absorbing with her own body deadly blows meant to destroy Christian life and culture.

The lofty Carpathian Mountains, like solicitous arms, embrace the land of the Seklers, extending a huge protecting shield over it. For many centuries they have been like a natural ally to these brave defenders of the Christian West in the discharge of their historic mission.  However, when in the 13th century the Mongolian hordes began to descend, like a devastating deluge from the central plateaus of Asia, not even the towering range of the Carpathians could stop their smashing attacks.  Through the deep valleys of the natural fortress the Mongolian invaders often penetrated the lovely hilly country of the Seklers, leaving blood, charred villages and death behind.

Though the barbarian invaders had later withdrawn into the steppes of Asia, they left their satellites, the Tartars, from the other side of the Carpathians.  Thus, for many centuries, Transylvania had on its eastern border the Tartars and all the horrors, devastations and savagery that name implies.  Raid followed raid; transforming every Transylvania village into bloody battlefields.  When their ransacked villages could no longer offer protection, the populace sought refuge within the fortified walls of their churches, from here to continue the bitter battle for their lives.  So the churches of Transylvania became strongholds not only of the faith, but also of the very life of the populace.

When later the other deadly enemy of Christianity, the expanding Osman Empire, bypassing the bulwark of the Carpathian Mountains, had succeeded in penetrating almost the heart of Christian Europe, Transylvania and its people, squeezed between two pagan enemies, were under continuous attack from both East and West.  Though exposed to the Turkish and Tartar raids for many centuries, her villages burned down a thousand times, her sons massacred or deported into slavery, the heroic people of Transylvania outlasted the enemies.  How did this handful of people manage to survive?  How could they escape the tragic end of many other nations, greater and mightier than they; driven into oblivion by the turbulent events of history?  Indeed, the very survival of the people of Transylvania is like a miracle.

This survival cannot be credited only to the protecting shield of the Carpathian Mountains, nor to the sheltering strongholds of their fortified churches.  There was someone else who kept a loving, watchful eye over their periled lives, their heavenly Patroness, the famous Madonna of Csiksomlyo.  It was this sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin at the foot of the mountains, her miraculous statue, that mighty bulwark, which kept their faith and confidence alive, instilling them with courage to withstand the most ravaging attacks.  It was this statue, hallowed by time and tradition, to which the Seklers had refuge when their faith was assaulted or their homes destroyed by the enemy. Even if the gracious Virgin at times seemed to cry and suffer with her martyred people, – her Shrine became repeatedly the victim of the barbarian furor, – at the end she always led them to victory.  Small wonder that the history of the Shrine and statue of the Madonna of Csiksomlyo cannot be detached from the history, culture and destiny of Transylvania and its Sekler-Magyars.  This explains that boundless love, attachment and filial piety the Catholics of Transylvania still have for their beloved Patroness.  They acclaim her their victorious Protectress, and rightly so.  To her they owe their very survival.