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The wooden sculpture of Saint Cristof

The Slovak community was and is Christian, of Roman-Catholic faith. The church was one of the important elements in people’s lives, and even more so a uniting factor, around which the most important events in their lives took place: weddings, baptisms, important holidays, the celebration of the church’s patron saint, and others.

As a result, the placing of objects with profound religious significance on a path of reconstituting the culture and spirituality of the Slovaks was self-evident. The wooden sculpture of Saint Christopher (slov. Sveti Kristofor), the second objective on the ecotouristic route, was created in 2019, by Martin Kalman. Celebrated in the catholic faith on July 25th, Saint Cristofor was the patron saint of travelers, of pilgrims; in modern ages, he is also considered the patron saint of drivers. Before the Second Vatican Council, Saint Cristofor also belonged to the so-called 14 Holy Helpers. In the Slovak community it is said that, along the cumbersome road they made, the settlers were protected by this saint.

According to the legend, he was the son of a pagan king (in Canaan or Arabia), married to a Christian woman. Thanks to her prayers, a baby was born, that the king named Offerus (Offro, Adokimus, or Reprebus) and dedicated him to the pagan kings Apollo and Machmet. Offerus was very strong and big. When he grew up, he wanted to serve only the strongest person he ever met. Therefore, he served a powerful king, and then Satan. However, after a while, he discovered that even Satan was afraid of something: he was trembling in front of the  ross. He thus searched further and found an anchorite; he told him about God and taught him the basic truths of the faith. He chose to join Christianity, and following the baptism, received the name of Cristopher. In adulthood, he became a “carrier”, carrying across a very large and deep river, believing that was his God-given purpose. One day, one of those wishing to cross the river was a small child. He took him onto his back and started crossing, but with every step, Christopher felt on his shoulders such a great weight, that he feared falling into the river and drowning. After they crossed the river, the child presented himself as being the Redeemer of the entire world, the immense weight the carrier felt being, in fact, the weight of the world that He carried on his shoulders. Then, he told him to stick his staff into the ground on the riverbank: “You carry the one who created the sky and the earth. I am Jesus Christ. Stick your staff into the ground and it will turn green. Then, you will realize you truly carried me”. Christopher did so, and the next day, the staff had taken roots and transformed into a green tree. Many people converted after this miracle. Upset, the king ordered the saint to be decapitated.

The sculpture of Saint Christopher from the Huta Slavia complex is full of meanings for the Slovaks in the area. In the 17th century, the situation of Slovak serfs had deteriorated compared to the previous century. The tributes had reached unprecedented proportions, the freedom of movement was practically eliminated, and the corvée doubled. The rural population was abandoning their native settlements en masse and seeking refuge in other regions. Thus, a first wave of Slovak migration took place in the first decades of the 18th century; the Slovaks fled the northern counties of Hungary (present-day Slovakia) and settled in Estergom, Komarom, Nograd, and Pesta counties. In the region of the Plopiș Mountains, the Slovaks arrived from the end of the 18th century, first in the lower-lying areas at the foot of the mountains, laying the foundations for the first valley settlements of Budoi and Vărzari. At the beginning of the 19th century, the colonization of the Plopiş Mountains plateau took place. The foundations for the mountain settlements are thus laid, of scattered type: Huta Voivozi, Valea Târnei, Socet, Făgetu, Șinteu.

Initially, when the first colonists settled in the area, about 50 families came. In 1838, there were 512 Slovaks and Czechs in Şinteu. In 1880, in the Roman Catholic parish of Şinteu there were 2942, and at the 1930 census, 1245 people of Slovak or Czech ethnicity were registered in Şinteu. In 1941 they reached the demographic peak, a number of 7096 ethnic Slovaks being registered (Şinteu commune – 4219 Slovaks, Plopiş commune – 2877 Slovaks). Over the years, due to the socio-economic and political conditions, the population underwent fluctuations. Consequently, at the 2011 census, the population of the Şinteu village comprised 458 Slovaks. Presently, the Slovak population in the Şinteu area counts 1754 Slovaks (Şinteu commune – 984 Slovaks, Plopiş commune – 770 Slovaks).

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