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Catholic Dome

domul catolic smallCurrent name

The Dome, the Roman - Catholic Episcopal Church

Address

12 Unirii Square

Historical names

The Main Church, Hauptkirche

Dating

Founded on August 6, 1736, completed in 1774

Architectural style

Austrian Baroque, typical of “imperial edifices”. The towers are similar to those of the Holy Trinity Church in Salzburg, designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (father), one of the foremost architects in the service of the Habsburgs. Overall, the volume of the dome is more balanced than that church’s.

Many of the dome’s language elements are reminiscent of the style of Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (son), who also played an important role in the design of “imperial foundations”. Some sources say that the Timişoara dome was made based on a “plan type” of the latter.

On March 14, 1736, the master engineer Kaspar Dissel of Timişoara had presented three options for building the dome, therefore some sources suggest that he would be the dome’s author.

Another source names the Viennese Johann Jakob Scheiblauer as the designer of the dome.

The main façade is remarkable, with pilasters arranged rhythmically, Ionic on the lower side and Corinthian on the upper one. The tripling of the pilasters’ edges gives the contours the vibration and patterns characteristic to baroque compositions. The concave curvatures of the façade’s central body, the curving of the towers’ roofs and of the entrance aedicule are elements typical to the architectural language of Baroque compositions.

Building site management

1736 – 50 - Kaspar Dissel

1750 – 53 - Johann and Wenzel Lechner

after 1756 - Carl Alexander Steinlein, Johann Theodor Kostka

in the last building stage: master builder Philipp Maurer

Restoration works

2003 – 04 - architect Mihai Botescu

The interior does not display the specifically overloaded look of Baroque cathedrals.

The main altar painting: 1754 – Michel Angelo Unterberger, the Vienna Art Academy Director.

The eight lateral altars (Baroque with Rococo elements) have been completed around the year 1772 by Johann Nepomuk Schöpf and other artists.

The organ is a work of Timişoara craftsman Leopold Wegenstein. The Wegenstein business was most famous organ builder from the today’s territory of Romania. Wegenstein organs can be nowadays found not only in the Banat, but also many large churches in Transylvania. The towers clocks were created by Timişoara craftsman Kidl.

Uniqueness aspects

The Dome is the most important Baroque monument and also the most important Roman Catholic religious monument in the Banat region.

Several bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Cenad and Banat, as well as some governors, military commanders and senior officers are buried in the crypt. Unfortunately all the sarcophagi are simple and modest, and the richly decorated Baroque tombstones are missing (as we might have expected).

Dome history

1. The Dome’s history is linked to the last battles with the Turks, the last Austro-Turkish war of 1788 to 1791. The Dome then served as a military depot, in particular a salt deposit.

The war began between Russia and the Ottoman Empire (1787 – 1792), which triggered the involvement of other powers. In 1788 Sweden attacked Russia and Austria attacked the Ottoman Empire, both without declarations of war (Austria claimed that after the outbreak of hostilities it gave a declaration of war to the Turks). In fact, everyone counted on the Russians’ quick victory, and Austria wanted to prevent its ally, Russia, to occupy by itself the Balkans.

After the first surprise of the Austrian attack, the Turks managed to defeat the Austrian troops (which also included the Wallachian-Illyrian Border Guard Regiment from southern Banat). Both in 1788 and in 1789 the Turks entered the Banat (in 1788 – nearby Lugoj and south of Timişoara).

On August 12, 1789, the Russian-Austrian army defeated the Turks at Focşani-Martineşti. The Austrians occupied Iaşi and Bucharest, and the Russians eastern Moldova (Bessarabia).

In 1790, Sweden was defeated by the Russians. The Russian and Austrian armies took the offensive across the Danube in today Bulgaria and Serbia. This caused Prussia’s, England’s and Holland’s reaction, which threatened to militarily intervene, on sea and land, to prevent Russia and Austria to occupy the Balkans. The war outbreak against republican France left the Russian-Austrian-Turkish war, which caused huge damage especially in Southern Banat, without any sustainable political consequences.

Only Orşova city, surrendered by the Habsburgs to the Ottoman Empire in 1739 (following the lost war, which like all three Turkish-Austrian wars of the eighteenth century had been started by the Habsburgs) was “returned” to the Habsburgs!

 

2. During the 1849 siege, in the war between the young Hungarian Republic and the Austrian Monarchy, a projectile hit the Dome’s roof (at that time the artillery could not aim very precise), piercing the arch.

Although the church was filled with civilian refugees, there were no victims, an event considered at the time a true divine miracle.

3. On the original plans one can see that on the fronton between the towers there was the double-headed eagle. It was removed soon after the 1867 Compromise between Austrians and Hungarians, no longer being “politically correct”.

4. For all the buildings made out of the emperor’s money there was in Vienna an institution in its own right: Hofbauamt – “the office for buildings of the court”. Therefore, all work done on the Dome had to be approved in advance by it; a large amount of documentary material (reports, decisions, approvals, blueprints) resulted from the 40 years of work, most of this highly interesting material is still kept in Vienna.

5. The first church service in the Dome was in 1754, although the building was still quite far from being finished. The more sustained funding to complete the Dome, registered after 1754, coincided with the great wave of German settlers (the Theresian colonization) which virtually doubled the number of Catholics believers in Banat.

 

 

 

 

 

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