The town of Dumbrăveni, which has about 10,000 inhabitants, is located 18 km east of Mediaş, on national road DN14, on the right bank of Târnava Mare river. Archaeological discoveries attest that the site of the town has been inhabited since the Hallstatt, La Tène and Daco-Roman periods. There was discovered a small deposit of bronze objects, which are kept at the Museum of Art History in Vienna. Moreover, a bar and a Macedonian coin, both made of gold, were discovered in the 19th century, which are now exhibited at the History Museum of Romania. The archaeological diggings made in 1989 and 1990 under the coordination of P. Beşliu identified the ruins of a Gothic church-hall dating from the 15th century. The church observed the style of the churches in the Târnave area, its nave and choir being strengthened with buttresses, while the western part of the nave revealed the remnants of a stand. Anna Apafi’s will of 1448 refers to a church dedicated to Saint George, probably the aforementioned one.
The settlement was attested in documents in 1332, when mention was made of Henricus sacerdos de Ebes. Subsequently, it appeared as poss. Ebesfalwa in 1367 and 1368, as Ebesffalwa in 1374, as Ibasfalva in 1750, as Ebesdorff in 1805, and the name of Ibaşfalău appeared in 1854.
Hungarian kings planned to develop a powerful urban centre between the two then-Saxon towns Mediaş and Sighişoara. During the Middle Age the rural settlement was an estate belonging to the Apafi family. After 1671, Prince Mihai Apafi I colonized in that area Armenians (natives of Moldavia), who in time were assimilated into the Hungarian society and converted to Catholicism.
Due to the trading skills of its inhabitants, Dumbrăveni has had an intense development since the 18th century, the period of the most important monuments in the town.
The main tourist attraction of the town is the Armenian Catholic church. The Gothic style had long declined, so architects designed the Armenian church in the baroque and neo-classical style, a style adopted for all public constructions in Transylvania.
The impressive size of the choir, the height of the nave vault, the perfection of the baroque altars, the large sacristy and the numerous decorations overwhelm an unprepared visitor. In fact, it is enough to see the western façade of the church, the decorating statues, the grandeur of the two towers (the helmet of one of them fell down during a storm in the first decade of the 20th century and the then improvisation is still in place) in order to realise the monumentality of the construction.
The Apafi Castle was constructed in 1563 by the members of the noble family Apafi. The chronicler mentions: “After long considerations, they said that there would be a person belonging to an old noble family, called Mihail Apafi, who lives in the castle in Dumbrăveni. Besides being from an old family, he would be a pious, peaceful and God-fearing man, of a young age.” It was about the proposal made to Mihai Apafi to become the Prince of Transylvania (1681-1690). The castle has two L-shaped storeys, it was strengthened with circular or polygonal bastions, of which only one still exists besides a very derelict wall fragment. The building suffered numerous interventions (it was a learning unit for many years, adapted to such a purpose) and now it is practically abandoned.
The layout remained unaltered but a series of decorations were lost, among which the arch friezes at the first storey, from above the gate. The exterior mural paintings and the paintings in the great room of the castle (the latter made by Sibiu painter Johann Hermann around 1670, upon the wish of Prince Mihail Apafi’s wife) were irretrievably destroyed. The castle has vaulted rooms, some of them decorated with small niches of Moldavian or Walachian influence. Prince Apafi had embellished one of the castle rooms with a large Vienna tapestry, now disappeared. There is information from the 17th century about the park surrounding the castle, arranged by gardener Peter Haji. The park was partially destroyed in order to back the development of the town.
The Roman Catholic Church was purchased by Catholics in 1913 from the Armenian Order of Mechitarists (belonging to Rome). It is a church-hall with a single tower constructed on the western façade, on the nave axis. The nave has a simple ceiling, but the vaulted choir is richly decorated with baroque sculptures. The construction of the building can be estimated as having taken place between 1795 (the year carved on the triumph arch) and 1798, and it was executed by master constructor Anton Türk (1750-1798), citizen of Târgu-Mureş but, allegedly, a native of Vienna. The main altar was made in 1787 by sculptor Simon Hofmeyer and painted by Franz Neuhauser of Sibiu, who is also the author of other there secondary altars (1798). Nowadays the church needs urgent repairs because the water infiltrated through the broken roof causes serious and maybe irremediable damage.
Maybe I should mention the existence of a modest Evangelic church, a former private chapel constructed in 1777 by Theodor Török and purchased by the Saxon population at the beginning of the 20th century from the Armenian community of the town.
The High School building dates from 1896, being the first high school in Dumbrăveni. In 1919 it became a state high school bearing the name of Timotei Cipariu, who is mentioned on the memorial plaque as “the father of the Romanian philology”. Over the last decades the learning activity has focused on the tuition of wine experts, viticulture being of foremost importance in the economy of the region. I point out that a secondary school had functioned in Dumbrăveni still since 1843, which was set up by Alexandru Raphael, an Armenian-origin British born in Madras, India.