The Underwater Church

Close to Cluj, in the village of Belis, the traveler can encounter an unusual kind of church: an underwater one. The Urmanczy church can be seen especially during extremely dry summers as it emerges out of Belis-Fantanele lake, which flooded it in 1972-1973.

The church was built in 1913 by count Ioan Urmanczy and is one of the few remains of the Belis village in its original site. In between 1972 and 1973 the course of the river Somesul Cald was diverged to create the Fantanele dam as part of the works to build the Somes hydro-power plant. The new course of the river ran through an 8,475 meters long underground gallery, powering the plant. In order for the project to take shape, the villages of Belis and Giucuta de Jos, both sitting at the time on the bank of the river Somer, were moved or they would have ended up being flooded by the waters of the accumulation lake.

By 1974 new houses were constructed at a new location but the church remained at its old site. What was taken from it with the move was the rooftop and the steeple. Today, the foundation of the church sits 30 meters deep underwater. Despite its water location, the paintings on the church’s walls, representing angels and biblical scenes, are still visible.

How to get there:

The E60 on the Oradea-Cluj-Brasov route leads to the site. Once at Huedin, you can take the DJ101 to Belis village.

Several other tourist sites can be found in the area: the fortified church in Valeni, the Radesei fortifications, the Scarisoara glacier or the Ursilor cave.

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