The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and a Story

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov dates from 1450, a time when Vlad Tepes was a lad of only 19 years old and already an ex-prince (3 month Voievode of Wallachia at the age of 17), and now a political fugitive, a nomad in Moldavia where he was consolidating his friendship with his maternal cousin, future Stephen the Great.

There are seven points of entrance into the Black Church of Brasov. Starting west, in clock wise motion, they are the West Portal and also the main entrance, the Sacrificial Portal and the Golden Gate Portal (1450) on the North side, and on the South side the door to the vestry and a small access door followed by the South Portal (1467), and the Confessional Door.

For over five hundred years have the bells of Black Church (which began to raise at the end of the 14th century on the grounds of a Catholic nunnery belonging to the Order of Prémontré) called the worshipers to service, or punctuated important events. The bells were first mentioned in 1476 when the inhabitants of Brasov (Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German) were urged to celebrate the crowning of Vlad Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, as ruler, voievode of Wallachia.

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov
The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov (one of the two North portals, dating from 1450). Source, Pat Furstenberg

It is easy to recognize the Gothic architectural of Black Church. Know that it was modeled after the magnificent Saint Sebaldus Church in Nürnberg due to the flourishing commercial and handcraft relations between Brașov and the imperial city of Nürnberg.

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church faces a rather narrow passage. Only five meters separate the Black Church from the high brick wall of its neighbors, the people of Brasov. Thus, even with your back against this wall one would struggle to see the roof top placed at a height of approximately 65 meters. And the strange statues atop…

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church ~WIP extract~

She met the church at its north-west corner, the bell tower profiling ahead, aiming to touch the heavens.

The church was not black, but it shot upwards as a body of stones in as many shades of gray as the souls who prayed inside; some dark, some uncertain, and, in between, a few almost pure.

Her steps took her straight ahead, past the west portal with its main entrance, and around the solitary bell tower. Waiting for her as she turned the corner was a man dressed in an ankle-length overrobe with a brimless cap balancing his opulent beard. From the height of his pedestal, he was pointing away with an extended right finger, while in his left hand he held an open book.  What was he pointing at?

She hurried past the statue, past the inconspicuous door of the confessional with strange vertical markings in its stony pillars, past a double-door portal, her steps lost in a crisscrossing of fresh marks, her mind chasing one thought after the other. Then around she turned, following the church’s east arc inside which the altar with its numerous lacet windows was sheltered, each one guarded by effigies staring down.

A couple walked past, arm in arm, their unison stride yielding a sole crunching noise on the icy snow underfoot.
If Drachen doesn’t show up I’m on my own.
The pair’s synchronized dance singled her out.
Nice one, Kate. You got yourself to trust a stranger again, she admonished herself.

By the time she reached the north facade, the silence reigned as the snow, fresher here, swallowed and hushed her footsteps. She saw her breath leaving her mouth in small puffs, lonely signs of life, and wondered, if her soul would leave her body that very instant, would she tell the difference?

Get a grip, Kate!

She dug her feet into the snow eager to make a noise where none prevailed, but her legs slowed down as she neared the Golden Gate Portal. Not because it was the famous north portal of the Black Church, but because ahead there were no footprints, the snow as untainted as a paper not even touched by thought. Kate held her breath and urged her heart so slow down, to slow down the hammering she heard in her ears. Or were those footprints? She spun, expecting to find someone behind. No one in sight. She stood alone between the gray walls of the Black Church to her left, massive in their silence, and the brick wall of an adjacent property to her right, a sinuous line stretching ahead.

And again, the feeling that a strange pair of eyes were upon her. Was there someone on the church’s lofty roof? With her back pressed against the brick wall to maximize her view, Kate scrutinized the temple’s rooftop.

the statue of a child peering down atop the roof near the Golden Portal, Black Church, Brasov
The statue of a child peering down atop the roof near the Golden Portal, Black Church, Brasov (source Wikimedia)

Was it? Her eyes caught a human shape. Yes, there! On the roof, to the left side of the portal, it looked like a child was peering down. Could he see her? Her hands flew to her mouth. Was he scared? He must be, so precariously balancing towards the abyss. What was he doing there? Was he reaching towards her? She opened her mouth to call but stopped, aware of the stillness in the air. Even the snowflakes seemed suspended, frozen in the past, the height of the church protecting the narrow alley against any harsh weather. Here, where she stood, it was as if there was no climate at all. She looked right, along the length of the path. She looked left. No one. Whom could she call for help? She searched the roof again. She’ll signal the child to wait. She’ll help. But the boy had vanished.

Kate strode forward. Find someone. Wrestling the fresh snow, she glanced up, over her shoulder. Help that boy. Her feet zigzagged out of balance, all reservations of spoiling the pristine canvas snowballed into concern. Rescue him. But where is he now?

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and the window above it. Source, Pat Furstenberg
The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and the window above it. Source, Pat Furstenberg

The more concerned she got, the wider her stride became. The wider her stride, the more she struggled. The more she struggled, the more determined she was to reached the end of that narrow path, the unblemished path over which a sentence hanged. And she did not want to be the one to carry it out. On she pushed, bursting into the safety of the market’s open space, of bustling civilization. Yes, she’d heard the clanking of a truck. She’ll go inside the church and ask for help. Look! By the church’s main portal there was a priest, she recognized him by his long, black cassock.

‘Wait,’ Kate called. ‘Parinte,’ Father, in the local language, the appellative for a priest.

But the man in the black cassock did not hear her and he did not enter the church either but turned sharply left, along its southern facade.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Black Church Golden Portal, gothic style, focus on tympanum and archivolts
Black Church Golden Portal, gothic style, focus on tympanum and archivolts. Source, Pat Furstenberg
The carved doors of Black Church Golden Portal
The carved doors of Black Church Golden Portal. Source, Pat Furstenberg

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31 Replies to “The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and a Story”

  1. Thank you so much, Phil! I do appreciate the support.

    It felt like I needed some fresh air. I’m 100 000 words into my WIP and the end is still far.

  2. What a wonderful story, from the time and region of some of my possible ancestors. 😉 When portals would be able to talk, what would we can hear? Thank you for a great story, Patricia. Enjoy a wonderful weekend! Michael

  3. Vielen dank, Michael 🙂
    Hast du Brasov besuchen, vielleicht?

    Portals might speak, but are we prepared to hear everything they have to share? 😉

  4. I need to remark upon your writing skills as well. I stand in awe of the second paragraph of the WIP extract. The parallel between the souls praying and the nuances of the stone is outstanding. I have one question. Why Kate? Is her name Catalina and you translated it or she’s not a Romanian? 🙂 “… if her soul would leave her body that very instant, would she tell the difference?” I liked that, too. 🙂

    1. Jo, my manuscript is in English so her name is not translated. I don’t write fiction in Romanian anymore. xx

      1. A wise choice. Romanians can read English (and appreciate your talent), nobody else understands Romanian. I’m still a bit puzzled about the girl’s name, but I’ll wait to read about her background before I scold you for not using a Romanian name. 🙂

  5. You think? Ah, thank you, Jo!! 🙂 It’s still a long way ahead and sometimes I lose steam, so your kind support means a lot. Imagine pushing a car and it’s only you. You push, but you also need to steer it.

    Well, Kate, she’s of Romanian descendants 🙂

    1. I wouldn’t know, I’m not a writer, but I can imagine it can be hard sometimes. ❤️ But you’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work. I’m interested in what’s before and after this fragment.

  6. Pat, Beautiful photos of the Golden Portal and its doors. The Gothic design adds to the mystery of your story. Thank you for sharing this post with us. #ThursdayDoors

  7. Hi Pat, I initially Googled Brasov to find out where it is located and today’s population. Always interesting and fun to learn something new. I am in awe how you saw the Golden Gate Portal first hand and took that amazing photo. A scary thought, whether she would notice her soul leave her body? I am one big goosebump as I get to the end of your post. Your words and images have taken me right there. I am curious what lies ahead?

  8. Hi Erica, your comments are always so supportive and insightful 🙂
    Yes, Brasov is one of the largest cities of Romania and a major cultural and economical knot. Most tourist visit the old town, and the nearby winter sky resort, Poiana Brasov. We’ve been extremely lucky to visit it a few times throughout the years, summers and winters 🙂 Winters in Brasov are picture-perfect.

    I am so thrilled that you enjoyed my WIP extract, Erica 🙂

    1. See, I’m not the only one who appreciated Kate’s scary thought about the last breath. But Erica put it better.

  9. sa fiu sincera pentru mine e o zona unde pot fi absorbita de peisaj, dar si Cosmopolita (cu atatea cafenele faine in zona)…

    dar sa stii ca o sa ma uit mai atent data viitoare la acea statuie cu copil..nu o observasem asa (The statue of a child peering down atop the roof near the Golden Portal, Black Church, Brasov (source Wikimedia))

    1. Cred ca de asta imi place si mie, Gia. Poti urca pe Tampa (sau pe Schei) in solitudine, sau te poti zgai la pietoni dintr-o cafenea sau o librarie 🙂 Iar unele cafenele sunt chiar haioase si originale. 🙂
      Mersi frumos ca ti-ai impartasit gandurile cu mine.

    1. Oh, you are sharp, Liz 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words. Sorry for the late reply – somehow WP placed your comment in the Spam folder.

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