Transylvanian Carved Gates – Székelykapuk

Top: Esztelnek; entrance to path leading to Csíkkarcfalva church; Center: Korond; Illyefalva; Bottom: Szejkefürdő, Orbán Balázs memorial; Fehéregyháza, entrance to Petőfi Sándor memorial

Transylvanian Carved Gates – Székelykapuk


They are found all over Transylvania – as gates in house enclosures, at the entrance of villages, as memorials.  They consist entirely of wood, including the pegs and nails, and are always hand-carved. 

A székelykapu consists of a smaller walk-in gate – or kiskapu – for use by people, and a wide and latticed high gate – or nagykapu – that will admit wagons piled high with hay. A dovecote always runs atop the entire length of the nagykapu, and is sometimes found even over the kiskapu.  Next to the walk-in gate there is often a small bench (sometimes called a szakállszárító – ”beard drier”) with an overhang, where the owner or his wife would sit on a Sunday afternoon and chat with neighbors.

In the Catholic areas of Transylvania, many székelykapu have two small metal crosses on top, one on each end, as do the houses.

In olden times, restrictions were placed on who might be allowed to erect a székelykapu. First of all, only a székely (Hungarian) was allowed to do so, and only a privileged székely might erect a large gate;  serfs (jobbágyok) and landless people (zsellérek) were permitted to have only a walk-in gate.

Carving a székelykapu is the work of an artist. The vertical posts as well as the top of the small gate are the surfaces to be covered.  The body of the gate itself is not carved.  Roses or a string of leaves are popular motifs for the posts, while tulips, stars, palmettes and other flowers are used on the frame. Older gates may have small round openings above the small gate, or even in the posts (see the one taken in Illyefalva, in the collage). 

Decorative motifs for the area above the small gate include the sun and moon (motifs of Székely identity), as well as birds, flowers, and the Hungarian or Transylvanian coat of arms. 

Sometimes one may see painted carved gates.  Red, white, green and blue were used on gates dating back to the 18th century.  Other colors came into use later.  At times, the painted surface is covered with white dots. 

They may be similar, but no two carved gates are the same, having been individually designed and executed.   Often the name of the owner and his wife will be mentioned, as having erected this gate ”with the help of God” on such and such a date.  There is often also a good wish or message for those about to enter, such as „Béke a bejövőre, áldás a kimenőre” (Peace to the one who enters, blessing to the one who leaves).

The job of putting up such a gate is a community effort, taking 10 or 12 men to erect.  It is also a significant event in the life of a family.  One reason for putting up a new carved gate is a wedding, when a young man marries outside the community.  And the gate becomes a part of the family, sharing their joys and sorrows.

As mentioned above, székelykapuk are now beginning to appear in Hungary proper, a part of our common heritage. 


Source: „A székelykapuk” – Egri HVIM - Tanulmányok