Armenopolis – Gherla


  1. Home
  2. /
  3. Interesting Facts – Armenia
  4. /
  5. Armenopolis – Gherla

Unforgettable Armenopolis - Հայաքաղաք

Brief History

From the end of the 17th century until the 20s of the 20th century, the modern Romanian city of Gherla was called Armenopolis (in medieval Latin and Greek) and Հայաքաղաք (Hayakaghak) in Armenian accordingly.  In German sources, the city was called Armenierstadt and in Hungarian – Szamosújvár, Örményváros.

Armenopolis  was built in the early 18th century by Armenians (about 3,000 families) from City of Ani and the Cilician Armenian Kingdom, who originally settled in Crimea and Moldova, and in the 1672 moved to Transylvania. 

City of Ani (Armenian: Անի) was the Medieval Capital of Armenia in 961 – 1045. In many resources Ani was named “The City of a Thousand Churches”. At present, the ruins of the ancient Silk Road city of Ani are located in the far east of Turkey. Designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cilician Armenian Kingdom  (Armenian: Կիլիկիայի Հայկական Թագավորություն) – an Armenian state existed from  1080 to 1375 (1424) in the southeastern region of Asia Minor off the Mediterranean coast. 

Armenian Bishop

Oxendius Vărzărescu (Latin: Oxendius Verzellescus, Armenian: Օշենտիոս Վըրզարեան/Վրզարեան, Hungarian: Verzár Oxendius, Auxentius Verzereskul) (1655 – 1715), an Armenian Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, played an invaluable role in obtaining permission to build the city, also guided and supported his compatriots. In 1686, the Armenians of Transylvania, who belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church and were headed by Bishop Oxendius Vărzărescu, were placed under indirect Roman Catholic jurisdiction as part of the Armenian Catholic Church.

In 1700, Transylvanian Armenians with bishop Vărzărescu were awarded by the Austrian Emperor Leopold I (in exchange of 25,000 florins) the right to build Armenian town on the Somes river, near a small Romanian village Gherla.

He pastored for over 12 years in Armenopolis and made a great contribution to the development of the community.

Royal Free City


The Coat of Arms and The seal of the Armenopolis 

Sign on the seal: *”Free Royal City of Szamosújvár. 1838.”

*Szamosújvár – Armenopolis in Hungarian, means “the new town on the Someș”.


The construction of Armenopolis lasted about 15 years. It was the only city in the country built according to a specially developed and approved plan with very practical urban and architectural design. The design project for the city was carried out by an Armenian origin architect Alexa, who was invited from Rome for this purpose.

The authentic Baroque style of Armenopolis was rich in forms, ornaments and elements, that’s why sometimes it was  called as “Armenian Baroque”. If before the arrival of the Armenians the settlement consisted of about 100 households, then by the beginning of the 19th century there were about 1000 of them. Each family was provided with: land for a house, a garden plot, as well as a plot outside the city, which was used for raising livestock.

Armenian Catholic Churches

At the same time with civil buildings, religious buildings were also erected. There were built 2 Churches in Baroque style: in 1723-1724 – Armenian Catholic Solomon (Salamon) Church, and in  1748 – Armenian Holy Trinity Cathedral. 

Armenian Catholic Solomon (Salamon) Church

Armenian Holy Trinity Cathedral

Rubens' "Descent from the Cross" in Armenian Holy Trinity Cathedral

Descent from the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens

According to Lucian Nastasa-Kovacs (the Director of the Cluj Napoca Art Museum, professor and scientific research at Romanian Academy), the wealth of the community was generated by trade and multi-craft enterprises: “That brought them (*Armenians) a lot of wealth and prosperity, so much that, in time they ended up loaning money to the Court in Vienna.

Although the Court, when supposed to return the loans, would suddenly become short of money and reluctant to pay back. Eventually, an Armenian delegation from Gherla, arriving in Vienna exactly when a big cathedral (*Armenian Holy Trinity Cathedral, 1748) was being erected in the town, came with an answer to the question: ‘What can the Emperor offer you in exchange for the loaned money?’.

This story explains why an impressive panting by Rubens, titled ‘Descent from the Cross’, became property of the Armenian community. The painting is still hosted by the cathedral in Gherla. The paining was rather small and it did not fit the size of the cathedral, so it could not be displayed behind the altar. However, it was placed in a chapel of its own, and nowadays it’s probably the only painting by Rubens that can be admired free of charge. “

Cyrill Demian - Inventor of Accordeon

Cyrill Demian of Armenian origin was born in Transylvanian city of Armenopolis in 1772. Later, his family moved to Vienna (Mariahilfer Straße No. 43), Austria.
On May 23, 1829, Kirill Demian (1772-1849) and his sons Karl (*July 6, 1807, Vienna) and Guido (*November 24, 1811, Vienna) were granted a privilege (patent) for the invention of the accordion.

Nowadays, Cyrill Demian & Sons invention demonstrated in the “Historical Accordion 1830-1945” museum, Switzerland.

*As a unique museum in Switzerland, the “Historical Accordion 1830-1945” collection presents instruments from all over the world – from the beginnings to the present day. About 500 instruments document the 125-year history of development and culture. Visitors have the opportunity to play the instruments.

Hotel Armenopolis

Address: Strada Mihai Viteazu 15, Gherla 405300, Romania

Strada Armenească Armenian Street, Gherla

6 Strada Armenească, Gherla

Armenopolis - Gherla on the map