G.M.G.K.- An independent Hungarian school at Alba Iulia

A historical look back on the school from Alba Iulia


            In Alba Iulia, as the centre of the diocese, there was a school throughout the Middle Ages. It is the proof of the basics of the church and the teacher’s vocation. The church has always considered school a very important element and it always and everywhere looked after it.

            For the predecessor of the Transylvanian Catholic Status- which can be regarded as the oldest school in Transylvania – we have to look at the chapter made by the prebendal. This was the institution where all the youth from the city and around it could come to prepare itself for a church career.

            In the late 1600s Transylvania became the centre of the Hungarian spiritual life. In this era Transylvania opened its gates not only the Reformation, but the European architecture and culture. This was the moment when the castles from Oradea, Satu Mare and Făgăraş have been rebuilt after European models. The Court of Alba Iulia became the court of renaissance and culture.

            The first ruler of Transylvania from the Báthory Family – Báthory István (1571-1576) – did not give much interest of the church. A great turning point in the life of the school of Alba Iuliawas when Pope Gregory XIIIsummons the monarch to do things in the church’s favor too. The hard work of the Jesuit Possevino Antal had brought its results by bringing here the first ten Jesuits an the 1-st of October 1579, fulfilling Báthory István’s twelve years old wish. This moment can be considered as the reanaissance of the Catholic teaching in Alba Iulia. The begetter of the Jesuitical School in Alba Iulia was Leleszi János, whom was fragile and ill but had a strong Hungarian Jesuitical spirit.

            Betwen the years 1579-1607 the leading of the school from Alba Iulia was on Jesuitical hands. At the end of the XVII century there already existed the boys preceptor, of which we have written evidence from the year 1694. In the same time the situation of the Secondary School made som steps forward.

            The begininig of this school as we know it now can be placed at the beginig of the XVIII century. In 1712, when Charles III named the baron Mártonffy Ghörgy to be the Transylvanian bishop, the catholic bishopric regained its place after 160 yearsof ban. There are suppositions that the school exists since 1714 but it is sure since 1716 when the director Pecz Lőrinc was the „residentia – superiora” and on front of the school, asked Charles III, in the years mentioned above, to return the Jesuit’s goods and to pay for those areas which have been taken away from them when the fortress was built.

            It seems that this request had no results in 1716 because in 1749 the director Meltz Zsigmond was under the necessity to demand from Mária Terézia (1740-1780) the goods of the Jesuits. This petition had had some results. In the same time a result of Meltz Zsigmond’s hard work, the new building of the Secondary School was built in 1753, which had served the education for about 100 years, till the War of Independence between the years 1848-1849. Beside the Primary School, there were 3 classes of grammar school in this unit.

            In 1762 the Transylvanian bishop, Bajtay Antal had summoned the Jesuits to make a presentation on the school’s situation. They say that their goal is to provide religious and moral education for the youth and to teach them how to write and read in Latin because this language had been a common language in Hungary since the foundation of the kingdom. Their concern was to educate such youth whom would live in God’s will, the Ruler’s will and the mother country’s soul. Their school was made up of the Primary School and the three classes of grammar school. Beside Latin, they were learning Greek and history, mostly in the form of poems.

            At the time the number of students was 100. In what concerns their social background, a lot of them came from wealthy families, some from towns, some from villages, but most of them were very poor, so that for the 26 places of scholarship there were 50 candidates.

            By the abolition of the Jesuitical religion the school from Alba Iulia was close to end. Queen Mária Terézia ordered the school members to move to Cluj Napoca at the end of the school year, and there to practice as priests or to teach humanist classes. This order came as bad news for the intelligent people of the city whom started some movements for the benefit of the school. The officers of the mint submitted a request to the chapter in which they asked not only not to remove the school from Alba Iulia, but to be added the humanistic classes too. This was a success. Queen Mária Terézia gave her consent to the chapter and the city, and she had left the Middle School and the Seminary so that Alba Iulia and its surroundings would dot remain without Catholic education. The Jesuits also remained in Alba Iulia – after the abolition too – and they could continue teaching wearing white clergy clothes.

            In 1777 Queen Mária Terézia had published the “Ratio Educationis”, but in Transylvania this school reform was not realizable. Transylvania had a proper (specific) social – religious situation for which the Ratio could not be applied. After realizing this the queen had revised the Ratio with Transylvanian specialists and made it applicable for Transylvanian footing.

             This new school norm was published by Joseph II in 1781 and it was called “Norma Regia”. At the school from Alba Iulia the application of the Norma started at the beginning of November 1781 – when the school was “Gymnasium Regium”. According to this regulation the learning process was 5 years long and in Latin, but from 1786 they started to use German language too. At that moment there were five teachers in the school and in each class one teacher was teaching all the subjects.

            Joseph II had visited the 200 years old school and examined it in 1783, but this boy school was not on his heart because two years later (on the 20-th of September 1785) he erased it with other boarding houses. He also closed all the Seminaries and other this kind of boarding schools.

            In the autumn of 1792, Bishop Batthyány Ignácinstalled the present priest educator and the Seminary got back its accommodation. The number of students was variable, so was their age, from 15 years old to 22 years old boys attended the same classes. As concerning their ethnic groups, there were Hungarians, Germans (Saxons) and Romanians, what can be explained with the surrounding landscape. From the point of view of religions, in the XIX century there started to be more and more eastern Greeks, while the Protestants were quite rare, since they were attending the College from Aiud.

            Until 1848 the director of the school was the (praefectus) the local canon and parish priest. In 1817 the school has received once again royal guests when King Francis I and his wife visited the Gymnasium and the boy boarding school. As a bishop decree, from 1842 the Hungarian language became an official school subject. During the War of Independence, from the 21-st of October 1848, the Gymnasium had been closed and the building was destroyed by fire on the 24-th of June 1849. After a five years long pause – with the help and support of bishop Haynald Lajos – the School was reopened in 1853. It had 8 classes and 12 teachers. During the years of oppression beside German language, many subjects were taught in Hungarian and they had been also cherishing the patriotic spirit. Also as the initiative of bishop Haynald, in this institute the Romanian language teaching was present for decades (1857-1886) and at the teachers submission it became a compulsory subject.

            By 1900 the old building of the Gymnasium was destroyed and the school was working in the recent built castle – from 1922 under the mane of Majláth Grammar School – until the Transylvanian educational reform from 1948, as in other places, specified the new rules of the Hungarian Middle Schools.

            The communist realm had confiscated the catholic Gymnasium, which had been the Alma Mater of thousands of students around Transylvania and in which was working the Cantor School under the name of the Catholic Seminary.

            In 1953 within the Theological Institute it was created the Cantor School, with the posteriorly agreement of the bishop Márton Áron, and it worked as it until 1990.

            When on the 24-th of March 1955, the bishop Márton Áron was released the sturdents have gladly greeted him. In a petition the bishop had demanded the communist leaders – more specificcally from Petru Groza – a building for the Cantor School, the former boarding school of Majláth Gymnazium, which building was the Catholic Church’s good. This letter has remained without ani answer. Only after the changes from 1989 had they received the building, in 2002 in a very bad condition, ruined.

            From 1990 the Cantor School’s graduation diploma (Bacalaureat) had been acknowledged and it had changed its name into Catholic Seminary High School. This name was used until 2006 when the school received a new name „Gróf Majláth Gusztáv Károly” (GMGK) Catholic Theological High School.


An Independent Hungarian High School at Alba Iulia


Before 2007 in Alba Iulia the Hungarian children from grades 1stto 8thwere able to learn in Hungarian (their native language) at the Vasile GoldișPrimary School. Because of the small amount of children, the Hungarian classes were put together, and the grades 1stto 4thwere taught simultaneously, also grades 5thto 6thand 7thto 8thwere simultaneous. This of course was a negative influence in the quality of teaching and learning process. In the same time became more and more worrisome the situation of the Hungarian School.

            In Alba Iulia the Independent Hungarian School was represented by the “G.M.G.K.” Catholic Theological High School. As a consequence of the attachment to Europe, the laws of education have changed and this made it possible to increase the number of children and teachers at our institution.

            As a result the kindergarten was created. The private Caritas kindergarten became a part of our school, which had been made for the request of Hungarian parents whose first headcount was around 10 and then arose to 30, providing a job for two preschool teachers. In the meantime our kindergarten became one of a length program. Today (2008) there are 2 groups of children and two preschool teachers and a children’s nurse who are teaching the Hungarian children.

            From the 2007/2008 school year the head board of “G.M.G.K.” applied at the School-Inspectorate for the startup of the 1stgrade due to the 10 kindergarten graduate children. As a response the School-Inspectorate gave its approval for the Primary School (1stto 4thgrade) and the relocation of the Secondary School (5thto 8thgrade) from the Vasile GoldișPrimary School.

            So from the 2007/2008 school year the so called Hungarian Primary School became part of the “G.M.G.K.” Catholic Theological High School. From that moment the children wishing to learn in Hungarian, have had the chance to start school in a modernized building offered by the Catholic Archdiocese and supported by Major’s office of Alba Iulia.

            It represented a great help the fact that the “Szent Ferenc” Foundation set up a house in Alba Iulia, so the number of children’s             rose from year to year. This made possible for the Hungarian children around us to learn on their native language (mother tongue).

             Each school year in or institution we provide native language learning possibility for about 30-35 children in the kindergarten, 30-35 in the Elementary School, 30-35 in the Primary School and 70-80 in the High School. The children from the elementary and primary schools, who live in Oiejdea and Vințu de Jos, benefit of the school bus each and every day. Also the small ones from the city are going by bus to the kindergarten. About 10 children are living at the “Szent Ferenc” Foundation. This means full accommodation for these children (a place to live, food, clothes, health care).

            Children from the kindergarten and the elementary school take part in a program called “school after school”.

            The High School is a different unit. This is a boy boarding school, so the boys live here during the school year. Most of the costs of the boarding school are being sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese from Alba Iulia. So this might mean that the “G.M.G.K.” boarding school is the cheapest in Transylvania.

            Being a diaspora school we get support from different native and mother country forums (Confessio Alapítvány, Pro Diaspora Egyesület, Bethlen Gábor Alap, Nemzeti Erőforrás Minisztériuma, ELTE-MÁSzand the Bécsi Szent István Egylet).

            During these 10 years of evolution. From the professional point of view we gained some good and very good results. For example at annual competitions on various school subjects; our students have had the opportunity to take part in the ACES program for several years, so they had intercultural experiences in Hungary, Austria and Slovakia. Due to the good quality teaching, in our school the number of our students is quite stabile.

            We are not happy at all that as a decision of the Ministry of Education more and more schools, from the territory, are closed or accumulated with larger schools. In this case – if we can’t save the Hungarian language in any other way here in the South of Transylvania- we would like you to learn about us; as the fortress of the Hungarian language and of those who do not give up their identity and their most precious value: the Hungarian language. We are here and we are waiting for the new students to be, without any religious aspect.


Alba Iulia

The 10thof October 2018

Dr.Gál László – director



(In English by Zsiga Emese-Imola)

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