Cârţa Monastery is a former Cistercian monastery in the Ţara Făgăraşului region in southern Transylvania in Romania, currently a Lutheran Evangelical church belonging to the local Saxon community. It lies on the left bank of the Olt River, between the cities of Sibiu and Făgăraş, close to the villages of Cârţa (German Kerz, Hungarian: Kerc) and Cârţişoara (German: Kleinkerz). The monastery was founded in 1205-1206 by King Andrew II of Hungary, and was disbanded 27 February 1474 by King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. The Cistercian monastery introduced and helped develop Gothic art in the region.
The exact founding date of the Cârţa Monastery (Latin: monasterium beatae Mariae virginis in Candelis de Kerch) is unknown. A document from Konstanz, dated 17 April 1418, issued by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor states vaguely that the monastery was founded, built, and awarded rights and privileges by his predecessors. The statute of royal establishment is also pointed out in the act disbanding the monastery 27 February 1474, and was made ex auctoritate juris patronatus regii Matthias Corvinus. Cistercian documents from the 13th till 15th century gathered and analyzed by Leopold Janauschek mention the founding year of the monastery as being somewhere around 1202-1203.
The best approximation of the monastery's date of foundation can be obtained from a document issued by the royal Hungarian chancelry in 1223. This document states that the territory on which the monastery was built - delimited by the Olt River at the north side and its tributaries the Arpaşu River at the east, the Cârţişoara River at the west and the Făgăraş Mountains at the south - was awarded by King Andrew II of Hungary, for the blessing of his soul, through the Transylvanian voivod Benedict (pro remedio animae nostre per fidelem ac dilectum nostrum Benedictum tunc temporis vaivodam assignari facientes). It is known that Benedict was Transylvanian voivod between 1202-1206 and 1208-1209. This means that the founding date must fall between 1202 and 1209. An additional document, the General Chapter of the Cistercian Order from 1206, further narrows the date of founding. This document mentions the presence of a Cistercian monk from Transylvania, most probably from Cârţa (abbas ultra Sylvas in Hungaria, filius abbatis de Egris), at the Citeaux Abbey, in Burgundy, the main abbey of the Cistercian order. Summing up this historical data, the date of the monastery's founding by the King Andrew II of Hungary can be established as occurring between 29 May 1205 and 14 September 1206. 29 May 1205 is when Andrew II became king of Hungary and 14 September 1206 is the day when the works of the Cistercian Order's General Chapter began, when the existence of the first monk of Cârţa is documented. The colonising convent was most probably the mother abbey in Igriş (Latin Egris, Hungarian Egres), in the Banat plain, today located in Timiş County, Romania. Filiation reports between the two monasteries can be dated from 1206, 1368 and 1430.
The first buildings of the monastery were built, according to Cistercian customs, using perishable materials, most probably wood. These can be dated relatively confidently as having been built in the founding period (1205-1206). A few years later, approximately 1210-1215, a stone chapel, the oratorium, was built close to the original wood buildings. The foundations of this chapel of small dimension (around 8-10 m) and massive walls, were rediscovered in the spring of 1927, by the Transylvanian Saxon art historian and archeologist Victor Roth. Also, subsequent researches were carried out in the period 1983-1985 to better study these remains. The construction of the main stone edifice started a little bit later, most probably between 1220 and 1230. The construction occurred in two stages, separated by the Great Mongol invasion of 1241. In the first stage of construction, the main elements are of Romanesque influence. The general plan was traced and the walls were erected up to aa height of about 3-4 m. In 1260 the works were restarted under a new architect trained in the mature Gothic architecture, and with the help of a new masons' workshop. During this period, the old stone oratorium was dismantled and on its foundations was built a part of the north wing of the transept and a part of the choir with the polygonal apse. At around 1300, the church and the east wing of the Cărţa Monastery were already finished and the works on the south side will continue for about two decades.
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