Life of the martyred priest Nicolae Cărmănuș

Preamble

In order to understand the destiny of the priest Nicolae Cărmănuș, we must try to decipher his beliefs, his desires and the purpose of his mission as a priest. This purpose, we believe, is revealed in an article in the press of the time, an unsigned article, written, we believe, because of its language, content and reference to the fact that it comes from the circles of the priesthood, belongs to him: “The priest’s vocation is very multilateral. He is not simply a minister whose work is weighed down by a series of paper acts. He is a mentor. He is the spiritual father of his people; he is not only the reader of the Holy Mass, but he is and must be the true helmsman of the shepherds in all areas of life, moral, religious, cultural, economic, social, etc. … The Church does not only aim at future happiness, but in order to reach this goal, she proclaims, perfects and adheres to the Kingdom of God here on earth. There is no area of life from which the priest can withdraw in his vocation to his people… Priests and teachers are the true, and often the only, leaders of the people in our villages. The other scholars usually only listen to the needs of the people when they need it… It can happen that, in the absence of the priest, some unprincipled fool poisons the soul of our peasants with all sorts of mischief and impossibilities. . the people are confused… in most cases they can go to the next door… And why should the priest allow his flock to be poisoned by the unholy? It is his duty to prevent such misfortunes”[1].

Life and works

Nicolae Cărmănuș was born on 1 December 1893, the only child of Gheorghe and Versalia[2], in Sălciva, in what is now Hunedoara County[3]. He attended primary school in his native commune and then four classes at the “Avram Iancu” Gymnasium in Brad. He completed his education at the Pedagogical-Theological Institute of Arad, graduating in 1914.

During the First World War, “for my national behaviour, as he said in 1942, and for my services to the Romanian army, I was imprisoned for three weeks in 1916 in Hungarian prisons, at the entrance of the Romanian army”[4]. Animated by the national cause, he took part in the Great Assembly of Alba Iulie on 1 December 1918 and in the coronation of King Ferdinand[5]. As a result of this attitude, on 31 May 1926, he was decorated with the Crown of Romania by King Ferdinand[6]. After graduating from the institute, he worked as a teacher for four years[7]. During this period he met and married Emilia Oncioiu, daughter of the priest Ioan Oncioiu. The religious wedding took place in Fundata on 12/25 May 1919, the godparents being Spânu Nicolae and Eugenia (the godmother being Emilia’s sister)[8]. The wife’s ancestors were the priest Ioan Pușcariu from Bran and the priest Moise Ciurea, who served in Fundata[9] and came from one of the most distinguished priestly families in Țara Bârsei[10].

Emilia Oncioiu was introduced to Nicolae Cărmănuș by Silviu Țeposu[11], professor of philology and history, president of the central Sibiu branch of Astra and vice-president of the Association during the inter-war period.

As compensation for a life of public commitment, full of tumult and turmoil, he had a warm, quiet family life. They would have no children, but the Cărmănuș family would at various times be joined by the grandchildren of his wife’s sisters and their husbands: Polixenia, Mircea, Marcel, Mihai. They will establish strong ties, practically of quasi-filiation, with Mircea Enescu and Mihai Enescu, with the latter in the last years of his father’s life[12]. Mircea Enescu, the son of Gheorghe and Maria Enescu, will raise him as a child and support him to enrol in the Andrei Șaguna High School in Brasov, later to attend the University of Bucharest. Mihai Enescu, with the same bloodline, will be practically their son, will live with Emilia Cărmănuș, will take care of her and will establish his family in the Cărmănuș family house.

On 17/30 May and 18/31 May, Nicolae Cărmănuș was ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Ioan Papp of Arad (the Metropolitan of Ardeal) in the parish of Fundata[13]. He was installed in the parish by Ilarion Pușcaru, born in Sohodolul Branului, Vicar of the Archdiocese of Sibiu[14]. Once installed as a priest in Fundata, the father, a vivacious, cultured man, full of initiative, would be totally involved in the life of the community, trying to move it, to bring it together, to push it forward. He had an impressive library with thousands of volumes. This library took up two rooms of the house, and the number of volumes was greater than those to be found in the library that would be set up in our village during the years of the People’s Power[15]. In the darkness of the coming times, under the fear of the people, this library would disappear. It will have the conviction that it must be the true guide of the shepherds in all areas of life, which is sometimes disputed by them, leading to polemics that are not very cordial, even in the local press.

From 1923 until the Second World War, the priest Nicolae Cărmănuș was the one who ensured the operation of a rain gauge station in the courtyard of his house. His observations, which he sent to the Bucharest Meteorological Institute, were not limited to the presentation of dry data, recorded by machines, but described the weather phenomena in a plastic way, presented their consequences, with the detailed intention of observation, of contextualisation, all of which indicates the presence of a lively spirit of the observer: “Overnight a great storm that knocked down some large cattle sheds and overturned fir trees; even the rain gauge flew off the pole at a distance of 5 m. On the 17th there was terrible torrential rain and a great storm, the water washed away and carried away the mountain seedlings, potatoes and oats, then hail the size of walnuts (no exaggeration) bleached the ground”[16].

He took an active part in the question of the water supply of Fundata, he located the water source and, together with some engineers from Brașov, he drew up a plan for the water supply, a plan that was completed much later, in our days[17].

He was one of the architects of a network of roads in the locality and, with the support of the authorities of the time, actively participated in their modern realisation, despite the opposition of the landowners on which these roads passed. We show that at that time there were no roads, and the villages were connected by paths, which obviously hindered progress. In the face of strong opposition, when the land through which the roads were to pass was given up, the priest practically moved and cut the steps where the roads were to be built. On this point he said, “I have cut fences and I will cut again. I have made wide roads so that good people can come here to give us education and enlighten us[18]. Thanks to his sustained efforts, including political ones, the road from Roia to Bratu was completed between 1928 and 1932[19].

A progressive spirit, he introduced radio in the school at his own expense and erected masts for optimal reception of radio waves[20]. He also thanked Princess Ileana in a public speech for the wonderful initiative to popularise skiing by giving ski lessons to children and young boys in the villages of Fundata and Sirnea on the occasion of the first sporting event held in Fundata on 23 February 1930[21]. He supported his parishioners in legal proceedings to defend their rights. As he had a typewriter, he drafted petitions and advised them in these proceedings[22]. He effectively defended in court the old women of the village at the court of Brasov, who were accused of taking wood (but only dry wood) from the forest[23].

Thanks to his efforts, eleven priestesses from the Branului area received a pension after the death of their husbands[24]. She made numerous requests to the authorities of the time to obtain: land for communal use, money for the repair of schools and roads, help for the church and the building of a cultural house[25].

His house would be open to those who visited the Bucegi Mountains or the surrounding area, welcoming tourists, weary travellers, soldiers, officers, regardless of race and religion… offering them shelter[26].

He would become deeply involved in the problem of children’s education. He will help to obtain funds for the repair of the school in Fundățica, where he will be president of the school committee[27]. He taught religion at the school in Fundata and during the war, when some of the teachers were concentrated or engaged in war-related activities, he replaced them and taught the following subjects: geography, history, Romanian. Moreover, those who took part in it vividly remember the additional training he gave to children after school, free of charge, in his home, when about 30 children were guided to deepen the lessons given by their parents at school. This took place twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays[28]. He also gave practical lessons to the children, teaching them the technique of grafting[29].

As for his work as a priest, he would organise a church choir with women and girls from the village[30], he would extend and make extensive repairs to the village cemetery, and he would repair the old church[31]. Together with his wife, he would also donate the land on which the new church would be built[32]. He actively participated in its construction from 1939, but after disagreements with the founder, Moise Găvănescu, he was dismissed from the diocesan centre in Sibiu on 11 June 1942. This happened also as a result of the denunciation of the Legionary activity by the founder[33]. As a simple believer, he took part in the consecration of the new church on 26 October 1943, the parish priest of which was Ioan Giurgi[34]. He never served in the new church[35] and returned as a priest in June 1945, when he was reintegrated into the old church[36].

He was also involved in local religious life, being secretary of the religious circle of the priesthood of Branul de Sus[37] and also secretary of the deanery of Bran[38].

Father Cărmănuș was also an actor in political life, being a member of the National Liberal Party between 1920 and 1921[39]. Also, according to a note in the newspaper Ardealul of 11 March 1928, the people of Bran – Fundata commune reorganised themselves by joining with great enthusiasm the National Liberal Party with many leaders – under the presidency of the priest N. Cărmănuș – 35 new members joined, electing Al. Găvenea and I. Ercuș. It is hoped that in this commune there will be further improvements in the ecclesiastical and educational fields”[40]. In this regard, he would mention that he did not engage in party politics, nor did he benefit from it, and that he only took care of the communal budget[41].

In 1936, he met two legionnaire leaders, a meeting that placed him in the middle of a subversive movement, full of courage and totality. The meeting with the legionary movement was achieved by hosting Vasile Marin and Ion Moța, who were on their way to Piatra Craiului and stayed at his house like any tourist or traveller who had nowhere to stay[42].

Vasile Marin was a legionary commander[43], Ion Moța was a commander of the Order of the Annunciation, a founding member of the Legion of the Archangel Michael, founded in Iași on 24 June 1927[44]. These two leaders would become mythical figures of the Legion through their death on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, on 13 January 1937, in Majadahonda, near Madrid, in battles with Communist troops[45]. The involvement in the Legionary Movement began in 1937[46], with the starting point of this meeting being the death of the two leaders, but with the certainty and circumstances of that time, when radical renewal movements were in full swing. The fact that the Legionaries and the Orthodox Church, apart from their radicalism, to a large extent shared the same code of values, contributed to this closeness[47]. In fact, the spiritual leader of the Legionaries, Nae Ionescu, called the movement “one of salvation” and urged the many altar servers to follow it[48].

Nicolae Cărmănuș’s involvement in the movement consisted mainly in spreading the movement’s ideas, trying to convince the parishioners to join the movement, considering himself a doctrinaire[49]. He would be the head of the nest and garrison of Fundata, being one of the leaders of the Legionaries of Bran and Moeciu[50]. Thanks to his efforts, in 1937, about 57 inhabitants of our village would become followers of this movement[51], organised in seven nests[52]. After the murder of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu by the guard corps on 30 November 1938, during the transfer from Râmnicu-Sărat prison to Jilava prison, the priest Nicolae Cărmănuș defied the regime of Carol II and paid tribute to him at every service, bringing him a coliva[53]. Moreover, the local police authorities considered that he would continue his legionary activity after the ban on political parties. After the assassination of Prime Minister Armand Călinescu by the Legionaries, he was promoted to the rank of prisoner of conscience. As a result, on 12 November 1939, by decision of the Minister of the Internal Affairs, the priest was sent to the Miercurea Ciuc camp for one year, in accordance with Article 39 of the Law for the Defence of State Order[54]. Nicolae Cărmănuș was released from the camp on 18 April 1940, the Security Service “taking measures, in collaboration with the gendarmerie, to keep him under strict and discreet surveillance”[55]. During the period of the legionary government, he was mayor[56] and, as stated in the address of the Fundata gendarmerie post to the Fundata gendarmerie legion, “he did not take part in the uprising of 21 January 1941, nor did he leave the commune during this period[57]. However, in September 1941, the gendarmerie arrested him, investigated him and searched his home because in August he had met the priest Pungoci from the commune of Dâmbovicioara, another legionnaire, who was celebrating mass for the resident Gheorghe Căciulă[58]. During the search, they found, among other things, a hunting rifle with bullets and powder, a hidden passion of the priest[59], a painting by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and several legionary pamphlets[60]. On 14 October 1941, he was condemned by the Brașov Military Tribunal, in verdict no. 1215, to a fine of 4000 lei for keeping ammunition and 1000 lei for keeping prints[61]. It was also planned to intern him in the camp of Târgu Jiu before sentencing, but due to the fact that the father had undergone an operation for otitis, this measure was abandoned and the measure of home surveillance was taken[62]. With regard to the internment, the father, in a note, foreshadowed his conviction that “the current regime does not raise a man with the black van, like the GPU, unhitched and unjudged”[63]. On 29 December, in accordance with Order No. 49.421 of 25 December 1942 of the General Inspectorate of the Gendarmerie, he was again interned in the camp assigned to the priests of the Tismana monastery, “for the accusations made against me in the past”, as he put it in a letter to the Minister of the Interior, after which he was released, like the other clergymen, on 8 April 1943[64].

In the autumn of 1944, together with the priests Zăbava and Lascu, he was contacted by Petre Baicu, as a nationalist, for a possible resistance movement against the Russians and the Communists[65].

According to a personal file drawn up by the Brașov Security Service, after 23 August 1944 the priest Carmănuș “was not proven to be active in the Legionary movement, but he constantly harassed the local authorities, stirred up intrigues, made many unfounded anonymous complaints, constantly defamed the mayor of Fundata, who was also the secretary of the PCR cell. In 1947 he refused to speak in church about the nefarious activities of Iuliu Maniu”[66].

By operational order no. 5 of the Minister of the Internal Affairs, dated 13 May 1948: The arrest of Legionnaires who returned from Germany after 23 August 1944 and of those who were in hiding and who were legalised by the order of 10 December 1945; the arrest of Legionnaires who joined the historical parties after 23 August 1944 and who have carried out activities hostile to the democratic regime from that date to the present; the arrest of legionnaires who, having formed organisations, were discovered after 6 March 1945, sent for investigation and released in December 1945 on the basis of an order from the Ministry of the Internal Affairs; the arrest of persons identified as activists in legionnaire organisations[67]. According to the records of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, there were approximately 48,000 legionnaires, of whom 12,400 held ranks and positions in the organisations[68]. The lists of those targeted were drawn up in January 1948 and included 1,576 people[69]. On the basis of the above-mentioned order, Father Nicolae Cărmănuș was arrested on 15 May 1948 and interned in Brașov prison for three months[70].

It should be noted that, according to the above-mentioned order and the above-mentioned Security Service note, the priest did not fall under any of the categories included in the order. Certainly, his inclusion in the aforementioned lists is the consequence of the difficulties he caused the communist authorities at the time and of his refusal to criticise Iuliu Maniu in the Church.

As a result of this attitude, he was sent from the Brașov prison to the Aiud penitentiary, and in May 1949 Father Cărmănuș was detained in Ocnele Mari[71], a prison where political prisoners were administratively sent without conviction[72]. Emilia Cărmănuș will present a petition for her husband’s release, “signed by about 40-50 inhabitants of the village of Fundata and even by some members of the P.M.R.”.

It is observed in the commune of Fundata that, although there are two Orthodox churches in the commune of Fundata, the majority of the population still goes to the church where the priest Nicolae Cărmănuș served, where they sit in front and comment on his innocence”[73]. The demands of his wife and the support of the parishioners did not lead to the release of the priest Nicolae Cărmănuș, because the Regional Security Service Directorate of Brașov made unfavourable proposals for his previous behaviour[74].

The extermination regime in the prisons weakened him to such an extent that at the end of February he was admitted to the State Hospital in Râmnicu Vâlcea, where it was discovered that he was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. He died in this hospital on 10 March 1950, at 6.30 pm, at the age of 57[75].

Remembrance

Father Nicolae Cărmănuș will remain in our memory as a person who paid for his strong convictions by fighting for them without concessions or prudence. These beliefs were uncomfortable for the popular regime, a regime that felt weak in the face of such people. His imprisonment was carried out in the absence of any criminal conviction, with the sole aim of elimination, of annihilation. In fact, Decree No. 6 of 14 January 1950 set up labour units with the aim of isolating and exploiting through labour citizens who were considered inconvenient to the establishment of popular democracy[76]. Father was considered so dangerous, even after almost two years in prison, that he was sent to the “Canal Labour Unit” for 24 months. Father Nicolae Cărmănuș would die before M.I.A. Decision No. 173/16 November 1950[77] was issued, so that he would not have to suffer this ordeal any longer.

Father will remain in our memory as a person who moved people and things in our village at that time, who was involved in all aspects of its life, who understood the need for modernisation like no other.

Father will remain in the history of our country and our Church as a martyr of the communist regime, and his life and destiny are contained in works that deal with this phenomenon. Therefore, even though more than 60 years have passed since his death, the memory of Father Nicolae Cărmănuș does not fade, but becomes more and more present, so that we can say that his name will be remembered in eternity.

(Adrian Gheorghe Băcioiu – Historii altfel)

[1] Priests and “Politics” Gazeta Transilvaniei no.47 of 10 June 1934

[2] Dorin Dobrincu Death Lists – Political prisoners who died in the Romanian prison system according to security documents, 1945-1948, published by Polirom, Iași, 2008, p.124

[3] Mircea Enescu’s account

[4] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, Cărmănuș Nicolae, Martyrs for Christ, from Romania, during the communist regime, ed. Biblical and Mission Institute of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bucharest 2007, pg.136, with the notes quoted in this work.

[5] ACNSAS Information Fund, file no.375497, Memo of Priest Nicolae Carmanus dated 16.01.1940 addressed to the Minister of the Interior in the Miercurea Ciuc camp, page 240,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Account according to documents held by Ioan Enescu

[9] Nicolae Pepene, Bogdan Florin Popovici Comuna Fundata – O Istorie in Imagini, 2012, pg.27, Fundata Town Hall, apud Sextil Pușcariu Spița unui Neam

[10] Priest Prof. Nicolae Puchianu – Moșoiu Prioți cu Crucea in Frunte, ed. Transilvania Expres, Brașov, 2011, p.170

[11] ibidem

[12]Mircea Enescu, Ioan Enescu – son of Mihai Enescu, Ioan Bășa,

[13] Adrian Nicolae Petcu , op.cit. p 136

[14] Olteanu Marius Ionuț Plaiuri Fundățene no.5, May 2010,

[15] Ioan Enescu

[16] Nicolae Pepene, Bogdan Florin Popovici op.cit pp.7,8

[17] Narrative Mircea Enescu

[18] Ardealul no. 39 of 23 November 1931

[19] Ioan Bășa

[20] Ardealul no.6 of 13 February 1933

[21] Nicolae Pepene, Bogdan Florin Popovici, op.cit pp.63,64

[22] Ioan Bășa

[23] Report Mircea Enescu

[24] ibidem

[25] Ardealul no. 22 of 4 June 1934

[26] ACNSAS Information Fund, file no.375497, memo of Priest Nicolae Carmanus dated 25..11.1939 addressed to the Minister of Public Order in the Miercurea Ciuc camp, file241,

[27] Transylvanian Gazette no.47 of 10 June 1934

[28] Report by Ioan Bășa

[29] Report Mircea Enescu

[30] ibidem

[31] Ioan Bășa

[32] Reports Ioan Enescu, Ioan Bășa

[33] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit, p.139

[34] Transylvanian Gazette no.83 of 30 October 1943

[35] Ioan Bășa

[36] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.139

[37] Ardealul no.46 of 18 November 1928,

[38] Priest Prof. Nicolae Puchianu – Moșoiu, op.cit. p.170,

[39] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.136

[40] Ardealul no.11 of 11 March 1928, note provided by Nicolae Pepene.

[41] Ardealul no.28 of 14 July 1934

[42] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit, p.136,

[42] Ardealul no.11 of 11 March 1928

[43]en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasile_Marin

[44] Chronology of the Legionary Movement published in the “Cuvântul” Almanac of 1941

[45] ibidem

[46] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit, .p..136

[47] Armin Heinen, Legion of the Archangel Michael, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006, p. 295.

 

[48] Ioan Opriș, Annales Universitatis Apulensis. Series Historica, 12/I, 2008, pg. 194

[49] Adrian Nicolae Petcu op.cit..p.139

[50] Ioan Opris, op.cit p.199

[51] ACNSAS Fond Informativ, file no.375497, row 250, Ioan Bășa

[52] ACNSAS Fond Informativ, file no.375497, row 257,

[53] Ioan Bășa, report

[54] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit.p.136

[55] Ibidem p.137

[56] Ioan Opriș, op.cit p.199

[57] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.137

[58] ibidem

[59] Ioan Bășa

[60] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op. cit., p. 137

[61] Ibid, p. 138

[62] Ibid.

[63] ibid.

[64] Ibid, p. 139

[65] Petre Baicu, Alexandru Salcă Rezistenta in munți si città Brașov 1944-1948, Transilvania Expres Publishing House, Brașov 1997, pp.25,26

[66] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.140.

[67] Ilarion Țiu, Istoria Mișcarii legionare 1944-1968, Cetatea de Scaun Publishing House, Târgoviște, 2012, p.138, with the notes quoted above.

[68] Ibidem

[69] Ibidem p.174

[70] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.140

[71] Ibid.

[72] Mircea Stanescu, Re-education in Communist Romania – Targu Ocna, Ocnele mari, the Danube-Black Sea Canal, Polirom Publishing House, 2012, p.109.

[73] ACNSAS Fond Informativ, file no.375497, Address no.2728-8 of 27 June 1948 of the Brasov Gendarmerie Legion, file 116,

[74] ACNSAS Political Fund, file no. 050839, tab 3.

[75] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op.cit. p.140

[76] Ilarion Țiu, op. cit, p. 184

[77] Adrian Nicolae Petcu, op. cit., p. 140

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