Kézdiszentlélek is a settlement situated amidst gorgeous surroundings, with a respectable history of its own, and through its notable ecclesiastical events, a pearl amongst the villages of Upper-háromszék. In Kovászna county, one and a half kilometers from Kézdivásárhely, it spreads on the banks of the Kászon-stream, in the forefront of the Sekler-Kászoni mountains, also known by the locals as the Holly-land.
The Perkő mountain rises above the settlement, also called the holly mountain of Háromszék, the place of pilgrimage of the Roman-Catholics. The village's name derives from the its church consecrated in honor of the Holy Spirit, the settlement's name was first mentioned in texts originating from 1332. Erstwhile the village consisted of two parts: the first pertaining to Felső-Fehér comitatus, whilst the second to Kézdiszék.
It's borders, along with Kiskászon were the property of the Apor and Mikes families. The settlement had an important military function, as one of the main defensive fortifications in the eastern part of the Hungarian Kingdom. In the age of principality the castle erected on the south-Easter side of the Perkő was of major importance. The ruins of the castle, which was built in the first part of the 15th century can still be seen today.
Over the centuries the building was the property of several lords and noble families, today it is known as the Tarnóczy castle, after the Tarnóczy family. The story of the denomination of the castle – a romantic tale of elopement about the widow of Tarnóczy Sebestyén and her daughter – inspired Kemény Zsigmond himself to write one of his most famous works, his novel entitled The widow and her daughter.
At all times the inhabitants of Szentlélek have taken their share of the wars, weather for independence or other purposes. The monuments erected near the roman-catholic church honor the memory o f the glorious dead.
Kézdiszentlélek is the center of the township from 1968, Kiskászon, Kézdikővár and Kézdiszárazpatak pertaining to it. More than 4.700 people live in these villages, 99 percent of them being Hungarian Roman-Catholics. The inhabitants of the area have resisted against the reformation, always holding on to their catholic roots. From ancient times tillage and stock-raising served as their livelihood, primarily the cultivation of potatoes, resulting in several well functioning enterprises that even today ensure workplaces for the locals.
Kézdiszentlélek is renown mostly for its beautiful church, the medieval pile is considered a monument. The building was erected on the North-Eastern rise of the village, the wall ambient to the presbytery, with its peculiar delineation is unique amongst the similar edifices of Háromszék.
Although, according to the inscription on its South-Western heel the church was built in 1401, most probably it had been erected in the second half of the 15th century rebuilding and expanding the forbearing building. During the next century the gothic style church went through several changes, although some of the ancient buildings entrails, such as the door-frames, the windows and the tabernacle-booth still remain. The interior’s baroque style originates from the 18th century. The church’s adornment is the high altar built in 1685.
The stone missal-table was carved by local craftsmen.
The choir-organ was made in 1902. The presbytery was expanded on both sides in 1980, and recently restored.
The tower, rising to 28 meters gained its current form in the 1770s. According to professionals the castle-wall surrounding the church, with its manikin corner-fortifiers was erected around the end of the 17th century, at the beginning of the 18th. One of the towers houses a permanent exhibition of the parish.
The paintings and photos on display illustrate the past and present of the community. The antique missal-robes are the most interesting pieces of the exhibition, one being around 100 years old.
Some of the most significant events in the life of the parish are With Monday and Saint Steven’s day. It’s an ancient custom for the pilgrims of the Csíksomlyó saint’s day to bait and pray at Szentlélek.
The most significant event in the life of the community is Saint Steven’s day, on august the 20, also being the greatest festivity of the folk of upper-Háromszék. Many thousands of people attend the time-honored tradition at the Saint Steven chapel on Perkő mountain, to sing and pray together. The chapel built in honor of the founding father of the nation is not only a monument, but a priceless treasure rising as a sentry above the Háromszék basin. The chapel, with its delineation in the shape of a four leaved clover and the square bell are one of the region’s most scenic monuments.
The exact date of the raising of the chapel is unknown, supposedly its foundations were built in medieval times. The Kálnoky, Apor and Mikes families, who commissioned the erection of the chapel had declared it a place of worship early in the 18th century, and had its walls decorated with murals depicting the sanctified kings of the Árpád-house and those of the bishops of the nation. Recently a fraction of said murals has been uncovered.
Also mentionable is the chapel’s extraordinarily beautiful carved-wood door-frame, made in the 17th century. The Saint Steven’s day was the closing event of the Word wide reunion of the Hunagrians from Háromszék in 2007. The pilgrims, holding parochial flags and singing Saint Steven’s songs commenced from the church heading up the Perkő mountain.
In Háromszék it is a time-honored custom to set sekler-posts on display at the town or village plazas. Accordingly, Szentlélek had its own sekler-post inaugurated on the path leading up the mountain.
The chapel and the out-door altar, in keep with tradition were decorated with the aid of youngsters from Kiskászon. During the high mass volunteers stood guard.
Kézdiszntlélek’s annual festivities, lasting three days are held on Saint Steven’s day. In 2010 round-the-clock festive events were organized: starting with the mass on the Perkő mountain, there were folk-dance performances, a campfire was built, ending with the concert of Kormorán.
During the festivities the refurbished communal house was inaugurated with over 300 local and foreign guests attending. The feast continued with a cultural line-up.
The communal house – built in the first half of the 50s – was denominated after the poet Petőfi Sándor on the 18th of august, 2007. The both indoor and outdoor restoration of the building started in 2009.
The communal building houses several programs: the cultural groups of the village meet here, and the local school and kindergarten use it during the holidays and for festive events. The upper level will be restored to, with the addition of a conference- and several guestrooms.
On the last day of the annual festivities a children’s beauty contest was held. The grounds behind the school were crowded with on-lookers as the gorgeous girls performed onstage. In the evening folk-dance performances were part of the program, the Perkő and Borsika dance-companies entertained the guests.
The village erected a statue in honor of Saint Steven in the town square, this being the only full-figure sculpture of the patron saint in the whole of Kovászna county. The statue was unveiled on the 20th of august, 2009. The 2,4 meter stone figure is the work of the sculptor Zavaczki Walter from Székelyudvarhely.
The man-made and natural treasures are what attract tourists to this region. The monumental building of the parish rightly demands attention. One of the oldest buildings is the Könczey-Pál manor-house erected in 1608. Also imposing is the roman-catholic presbytery, built in 1821, in accordance to the structural norms of the mansions from Háromszék.
Also interesting are the stone gate-frames and carved tomb-stones seen throughout the village and in the local cemetery.
Due to the many useable natural resources the region offers, whole dynasties of stone-carvers have settled here, enriching the village’s cultural heritage with their work. Throughout the generation fathers taught their sons the craftsmanship in the Bartalis family, and not much has changed today. Often they use vernacular motifs in their work.
Culture and education have always had a primary importance in the lives of the inhabitants of Szentlélek. The local library, that took the name of writer Kemény Zsigmond in 2006, has been functioning for over 50 years now. After joining the Biblionet program in 2010 the library has been refurbished, its range of services expanded. During the nation-wide expansion campaign targeting libraries the institution received four computers and other incumbent equipment. The library offers some 10.000 volumes, lending around 2300 book to the local readers annually, their programs being frequented by 2000 people each year. The institution has published two volumes in the last two years: the first, a comprehensive anthology in 2009, the other a photo-album about the village itself.
The institution is housed at the mayor’s office. The building was modernized using local funds in 2009: a new roof was built, new offices, a conference and a festivities hall were added to the insides following the guide-lines of an up-to-date infrastructure.
The Gathering of cavalrymen of Háromszék was first organized 2010, the event taking place at the Porond from Kézdiszentlélek after the mayor, Balogh Tibor formally granted the right to do so. The attending cavalrymen took the oath in the presence of numerous guests, then proceeded to the school’s courtyard.
Amongst the village’s customary festivities is the Children’s Folk-dance summit, held annually from 2005. The number of participants is higher each year, both local and foreign dance-groups gracing the stage. The several hundred participants attending usually depart with fond memories and new friends.
Many participate in the cultural activities organized by the community, the younger generations learn, then pass down the customs of the area. The Perkő Folk-Dance Company was founded over 30 years ago, in 1976 by educator Gergely Zoltán. The company currently has a repertoire of twelve dances , which they perform regularly at certain festivities and on holidays.
At the present the company is made up of sixty dancers together with those from the rising generation.
The local school is renowned not for its past, but its current accomplishments: more than 200 pupils attend here. The institution was denominated after Apor István in 1998.
The school’s park is worth mentioning too, being restored in 2009 it consists of a small lake, several benches and gorgeous, well kept shrubbery.
The sports lovers can frequent the full- size soccer-field or the sports-court. The gymnasium was commissioned by the local government and finished in 2007.
The sports-field was renewed in 2010: the modernization included new fencing and the addition of a roofed grandstand, also the development of a mini-soccer field is in progress.
Soccer is very popular amongst the locals, their team, functioning under the authority of the Perkő Sports Association of Kézdiszentlélek is over half a century old. The team, wearing red and white jerseys has been the champion of the county several times, also being a onetime the Romanian Cup winner. They achieved their greatest victory in 2002, when they promoted to the Romanian third soccer league.
The youngest of the community can enjoy the orderly playground situated amongst the pleasant surroundings.
The settlement has its own kindergarten and day-boarding facility. The institution called Pittypang, with its modern infrastructure was built from funds gained through tendering operations. More than 100 youngsters occupy the institution’s creative, fairy-world like classrooms. They organize their own festivities such as the annual carnival, Women’s Day and the kindergarten-fest.
At Kézdiszentlélek the elderly are treated with the utmost respect and exemplary devotion. The institution founded here called Saint Clara is unique in the county. The building was bought by the local catholic clergy and then handed to the care of the Caritas organization from Gyulafehérvár, which, after equipping it for the purpose, opened the facility in 1995. With the aid of the grey friars and nuns, the establishment currently houses 18 people in pleasant surroundings and a familial environment.
Kézdiszentlélek is a continuously developing settlement, its façade reflecting the aesthetical sensibility of the locals, its renovated institutions and orderly streets awaiting visitors.
Only a kilometer from the village’s center, to the North lies Kiskászon, at the foot of the Perkő mountain. Its first mentioning originates from 1567. The village used to belong to the late Upper-Fehér county, it was officially attached to Háromszék comitatus in 1877. Being part of the regal county it was the village of the Apor-realms border-lands. During the line-up of the sekler border-patrol its strategic importance had increased, because the highway heading to Kászonszék and Csíkszék lead through here. The settlement currently registering 300 inhabitants was home to 1200 locals 100 years earlier. In spite of the low headcount, the village has its own school and kindergarten, pupils can even attend elementary school here. The population is Roman-Catholic, their church was erected in 1985 in honor of Saint Margit of the Árpád-house. The village’s main tourist attraction is the Pilgrims Commemorative House. The building itself, with its traditional sekler outlook is interesting, the permanent exhibition housed inside displays the material of the pilgrimages: flags, bells, smaller object, prayer-transcriptions, song and prayer-books. The most valuable pieces of the exhibition are a wooden Holy Mary statue from the second half of the 18th century and a wooden crucifix originating from the beginning of the 19th century.
Near the Commemorative House, taking the dirt-road the bridge of the Perkő mountain can be reached, most of the pilgrims themselves preferring this path leading to the Saint Steven’s chapel.
Kiskászon is renowned for its mineral-water springs, the tasty water is widely consumed. In former times the pilgrims used to stop here to ease their thirst, it was believed that the waters had extraordinary powers.
In the right-side lateral valley of the Kászon-stream, 8 km from Szentlélek lies Kézdiszárazpatak. The road entering the village leads through an enormous wooden sekler-post.
In writing the village was first mentioned in 1311. At that time the settlement was inhabited by free nomads who had fought together with the seklers later becoming the serfs of the Apor family. The village pertained to the Upper-Fahér comitatus until 1876, when it was attached to Háromszék. The inhabitants of the village are Roman-Catholic, they had built their modern church in the room of the medieval one in 1798, naming it after Saint Bertalan. The building peculiarity is the stone wall erected around the sanctuary. On the square before the church stands the Monument of the Heroes, which honors the memory of those lost in the war of independence and the two World Wars.
It was around the middle of the 18th century that the first school began its activity at Szárazpatak. Even before the reforming of the educational system – commenced by Mary Terezia in 1777 – an educational system, in an institutionalized manner had been working in the village. The building currently used by the school was finished in 1967, and took the name of the great son of Szárazpatak, that of Ópra Benedek in 2001.
Near the school, in the foreground of the communal home a statue had been erected in 2006 in honor of bishop Márton Áron. The past of the village is closely linked to that of the Pótsa family, many of the family members being patrons of the settlement throughout the ages. Their former home is the lions of the area, their present tenants have maintained the building’s original form. The mansion built in late-classical style is situated on the lower side of the village.
The traditionally the structures are built of wood in the friendly, simplistic sekler settlement. Their houses with porches, simple shingle roofed gates, are bare of any traditional motifs, as opposed to other sekler settlements. The village’s water-mill had been built in the 19th century, the building being declared a monument 50 years ago, consequently today it can been seen in its original form.
About 2 km from Szentlélek, on the banks of the Peselnek stream lies Kézdikővár. The village , supposedly established by nomad folk has had the name of Peselnek until the end of the 19th century.
Because the girls of the Pótsa family disliked the ridiculous name, in 1905 it was renamed Kővár after its stone-hedges. Originally the village was situated a little farther South, near the Céklás stream, that locations is called Faluhely today. The oldest church of Háromszék can be found here, archeological excavations have shown that the building was erected around the 12th century. The former location of the settlement has been marked by a crucifix set there by the locals.
The first written document pointing to the village’s existence originates from 1332. The settlement belonged to the torjai Apor- realms till the 19th century, for not until 1876 was the Upper-fehér comitatus attached to Háromszék. The roman-catholic village, with a headcount of more than 900 inhabitants has its own hillside church surrounded by a stone wall. The fortified church had been built in 1825 in honor of Saint Lőrincz.
In memory of the martyr a statue had been erected in 2009. The stone figure is the work of sculpter Winkler Imre, the pedestal it stands on was made by Bartalis Béla from Kézdiszentlélek.
For a long time a denominational school had functioned in the village, today youngsters attend elementary school here.
Most of Kővár’s architectural remembrances are in connection with the name Pótsa, as their mansion had been built around the same time the local church was. Little can be seen of the original structure of the family mansion today, mainly at the back of the building.
The stone-hedge surrounding it makes the village unique, as several houses and barnyard buildings were surrounded with high stone walls, creating the illusion of small castles. Here and there beautiful sekler-posts were placed.
Kézdiszentlélek is one of the places of pilgrimage for the catholics, year after year many visit it. The hospitable locals welcome the guests and their friends not only on these occasions, but all year round.