The flag of the Lupsa delegation at the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia

Modern History
Wool, colours
Sewing, weaving, dyeing

    The flag of the Lupsa delegation  at the Great National Assembly in Alba Iuli

    Text: Mădălina-Corina Diaconu, Cornel-Constantin Ilie / photo: Marius Amarie.

    The flag (inv. no.: 66460; Length = 190 cm; Width = 120 cm) is rectangular, the colours being oriented horizontally, with the blue on top, the yellow in the middle and the red at the bottom. Each of the colours the cloth is made up of ends with a tassel of the same colour. The painted wooden flag pole had at its top a bunch of basil; a tri-colour narrow scarf was tied to the same flag pole, its ends displaying tassels as well. 

    The delegation from Lupşa commune, Alba County, took part in the Great National Assembly at Alba-Iulia on 1 December 1918. The tri-colour cloth of the flag was made of wool by the women of Lupşa, during the course of one day and one night. After the Lupşa delegation returned, the flag was kept in the house of Sebastian Ciapă, priest and primary school teacher, one of the participants to the assembly, from where it was given to the founder of the Lupşa Ethnography Museum, Albu Pamfilie. In 1971, the flag became part of the patrimony of the Romanian National Museum of History.


    the Great National Assembly in Alba Iulia

    On 7/20 November 1918, the Romanian National Council in Transylvania decided that a National Assembly should be called, either in Blaj, the symbol of the freedom of the Romanians, in Sibiu, an important cultural centre, or in Alba Iulia, a symbol of the unification during the time of Michael the Brave. Following talks, Alba Iulia was chosen, where the Romanians were called for a Great National Assembly, which would decide the fate of Transylvania and of the other regions inhabited by Romanians, formerly under Austro-Hungarian rule. 

    The Romanian National Councils formed and legitimized by popular vote went on to name the delegates for the Great Assembly in Alba Iulia. The members of each community had a popular assembly during which the representatives of every social category were democratically appointed: teachers, primary school teachers, priests, peasants, clerks, lawyers, students and servicemen, who would go to Alba Iulia and express their desire for unification. Out of hundreds of localities in Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș, the representatives of the political, religious, feminine, cultural and professional organisations were delegated to represent their localities, actually the Romanian people, in Alba Iulia. 

    By being given credentials, local representatives were delegated in each locality, ”thus the previously-mentioned delegates have hereby the right to take part with decisive vote in the Great Romanian National Assembly that will be convoked by means of the Central Romanian National Council, on behalf of all the Romanians from this electoral circle and in other Great Romanian National Assemblies, which might be convoked during this year or in the years to come, and will contribute with their vote to the decision regarding the future fate of the Romanian people in Transylvania, Hungary and the Banat of Temeswar”.

    The assemblies preceding the Great Assembly adopted motions signed by thousands of Romanians. The peasants were highly active and both the wide national involvement and the popular enthusiasm transformed this period into one of the most effervescent and beneficial for the Romanian nation in the provinces dominated for so long by the Great Powers. 

    The enthusiasm of freedom, the gathering of the intellectuals and personalities from each community led to this local and central quasi-institutional structuring of all the Romanians. The elections took place without serious incidents, the only incidents being provoked by the opposition of the people from the former Austro-Hungarian administration, otherwise there being no manifestations of pride or political orientation. Each locality assigned its representatives, who understood the importance of honouring through their own behaviour the national ideals that had been oppressed for centuries. 

    The thousands of documents written during the organisation of the union of the Romanians from Transylvania, Hungary, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș are proof of their desire for freedom and union.   

    100000 people arrived at Alba Iulia from all the regions of Transylvania, Hungary, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș. 1.228 people were delegated and mandated – intellectuals, officers, peasants, merchants, women and soldiers. All the Romanian bishops from those provinces also came, regardless of the cult they belonged to.  

    Among those that joined the national cause enthusiastically were the people living in the commune Lupșa, in the Alba Iulia county. 



    The Revolution of Lupșa

    In the fall of 1918, the Central Powers were defeated, therefore they asked for peace, which was disastrous for them (Germany and Austro-Hungary).

    The soldiers returning from different warfronts brought their equipment, especially their guns, bullets, grenades, etc. which they terrorised the world with.

    Because after the borders were crossed, the gendarmes had received orders to take the shortest route to show up for the legion in Cluj, which included our gendarmes, one night they escaped over the big mountain towards Cluj. They did it hoping as well that, by depriving the villages of their guards, chaos would more easily ensue. And so it did, for, just like any forest has its rotten trees, there are many people lacking in morals, who have no fear of God, nor shame towards good people. There were 5-6 hooligans who, after breaking into the notary’s chancellery, came across a barrel of alcohol and, after getting drunk, they started roaming around the village causing havoc. Their first target was the communal house, which belonged to Ion Pascu the collector, where they found both the communal money and the money belonging to the Greek-Orthodox church. So, they went to a pub and since they couldn’t figure out how to divide the money, most of it was thrown on the floor, being picked up by everyone who was in the pub; thus, the saying “easy come, easy go” came true. 

    I know that one of the godless hid a stack of bills in the pantry of the village mill, but when he was about to count his blessings, he found he had only ripped papers, since the rats had found the money and had torn it to pieces. 

    I heard the people telling the story and they were laughing saying “Food for dogs, dogs eat it”.       

    They left the pub heading straight for father V. (,,,) to rob him of his money, too, but since the people had started gathering, they were thrown out of the yard rather without their permission, and seeing that the peace-loving crowd had begun thickening their ranks around them, they started running. 

    Since the next day father Sabău Petru from Hădăran came with 20 men, they went along the Vale (…) and they caught and disarmed the attackers in front of the town hall, next to the cross, where they were tried and (formally) sentenced to death, but with father Șpan drawing on the commandments of the Holy Scriptures, namely that the ones who decide to do good should be forgiven 70 times seven, they were forgiven after they promised that, from then on, they would be good people. In order for the people to be frightened,” Forks” were raised so that the second someone did something unlawful, they should be hanged, but that did not happen. However, the ones that felt guilty about something were afraid. Afterwards, a national guard was set up to maintain order, which also ran the station since the station manager had run to the Szeklers on the first train, and therefore the guard also had to receive the trains, to get the mail and to deliver it. On this occasion it so happened that there were conflicts with the gendarmes that had been directed towards Câmpeni to maintain order, but the people from Câmpeni urged them to get back on the train (…) and to leave, otherwise they would suffer and the national guard would not be protecting their hides. And gone they were.

         Shortly, there was order in the commune, for the sub-notary Hățăgan came back from the warfront and now he was a notary, since the former Hungarian notary Bihari Zoltan had run away with is entire family during one rainy night, heading for Turda and further on, since he was told that he no longer had any business in Lupșa; that is, Hățăgan sets up an interim town hall and so everyone quietened down. .

    Here I must mention the nationalism of the women, who, the second they found out we were free from the Hungarian rule, gathered wool, spun it, wove it, coloured it in red, yellow and dark blue and, after it was dry, sewed it and the flag was raised in the tower of the church, by the road. This was done in 3 days, so when lawyer Emil Dandea arrived in Tg. Mureș, accompanied by a Romanian officer in a car decorated with three colours, wanting to tell us that from then on, we would be part of Great Romania, they were extremely surprised to see the Romanian flag waving on the church, and at the same time they praised the industry and nationalism of the women from Lupșa. They also told us that we would shortly have soldiers to maintain order and gather the weapons and ammunition, and that a delegation should be formed on 5 December 1918 in order to welcome in Turda the Moldavian 15th Infantry battalion. I was part of that delegation.

    It is obvious that after the official reception, we started a large ring dance, as large as Turda. There followed a party, with many raising their glasses to honour Great R(omania). Towards the end, a man as large as a mountain stands up and he says: Brothers peasants! Someone is complaining that we are not peasants. The father of the battalion, seeing that, asks us: which one of you is a Hungarian count, a baron or at least a noble? No answer. So, you see, my dear, you are all peasant brothers, but educated etc.

    I had forgotten to say that today that woollen flag is proudly part of the Lupșa museum as a priceless antique. You should have seen the joy of the people from Lupșa when they saw the Romanian soldiers dancing in front of the town hall. 

    After they carried out their mission, they went back leaving many regrets behind. 

    The school year, however, started with many obstacles and delays, for the school had not been cleaned, nor was there wood, so only after snow fell there could be proper schooling. Thus, seeing that they studied only in their own language, the children urged each other to go to school, for the people had harvested their crops.

    The Assembly in Alba-Iulia in 1918

    In order for us, the people from Lupșa, to celebrate as well, the following set off in three carts on 29 November, the weather being rather oppressive, as there was rain mixed with snow and a lot of mud:

    1. Vasile Șpan Orthodox priest in the village of Lupșa

    2. George Giurgiul Greek-Catholic primary school teacher

    3. Alexandru Hățăgan notary

    4. Aurel Goșa (who was a law student) was sub-notary in Lupșa

    5. Octavian Goșa writer in the notary chancellary 

    6. Nicolae Sabău merchant in the village of Lupșa

    7. Nicolae Goșa, worthy peasant in the village of Lupșa

    8. Vasile Coc worthy peasant in Lupșa-Hădăran

    9. Nicolae Ciapă (...)

    10. Victor Bârsan Greek-Orthodox primary school teacher in Sașa Lupșii

    11. Emil Petruța second lieutenant in Mușca and

    12. Sebastian Ciapă Greek-Orthodox primary school teacher in the village of Lupșa

    Upon arriving in the evening of 30 Nov. at Ampoița, we spent the night here. As he became sick with the flu that was making ravages at the time, father Șpan left in a cart together with Nicolae Ciapa, and upon arriving home, he lay in bed for a few weeks, almost on the brink of dying. In the morning of 1 Dec., the remaining 10 went to Alba Iulia in the remaining 2 carts. When approaching the city, one’s heart beat faster upon seeing the national flags waving on top of every building. Between lines of armed peasants, we reached the plateau that spans above the fortress, where we waited for the arrival of the national committee among hundreds and hundreds of flags.

    Around noon, there they came. The first one to speak was Miron Cristea the Bishop of Caransebeș, who had on his ___ a tricolour in the shape of a cross, saying: Brothers! Soon there will have been 2,000 years since the emperor Trajan left us on this realm as masters, not slaves, as we were until the day before yesterday. Today, with God’s help – we are free masters in the free country that we call “Great Romania”. Endless cheering etc. etc. etc. There followed the Bishop I. Hossu from Gherla, who read the document about uniting – forever – with the old Romania, the mother country. etc. etc. etc.

    We returned – as Bishop Hossu said: “with seven lives in our copper chest”, so that everyone would do their duty to support the formation of our beloved new country. Upon arriving home, we told the gathered crowd – and there were many – what we had seen and heard at the assembly.

    This having been done as well, some national songs were sung, there following a ring dance and other dances, especially the Lupșa spinning dance

    In Alba Iulia, everyone had requested that, since God had been on our side and had helped all the Romanians come together, we should also assemble in church, but there was no more talk of this thing.

     And now, tearfully, I communicate that, from the 12 people that went to the great assembly at A-Iulia, I am the only one left, lonely as a cloud.

    Lupșa at 24 February 1954 (the Dragobete day)

    Sebastian Ciapa

    retired primary school teacher 

    and priest without people

    With the events told here, we stopped living in the sad age of the exploiters who, (...) wanted to turn us into Hungarians.

    However, we put our hopes in the Good Lord, who had delivered us from evil with his great mercy.



    The flag of the people from Lupșa remained in the possession of the priest Sebastian Ciapa, until he died. He was followed by the primary school teacher in Lupșa, Albu Pamfilie.  Here is his story:

    “In 1937 Pamfil made a stone museum for the woollen tricolour. A real museum: a cultural refuge and a deposit of civilisation and education that the invaders rarely have the courage to come close to. Here, in the museum, one can admire freely and ecstatically over 6,000 exhibits, for the greater pleasure of one’s heart and mind, in a silent dialogue with the past. It is the heritage for the future: from the adorned spindles, alpenhorns, shepherd’s bats, long shepherd’s pipes, pipes, two-handed tubs, large and small wooden pails, jugs, woven cloth, sewed cloth, shirts and sheepskin coats, icons painted on glass and wood, wooden peasant’s shoes, spoons and bowls and embroidered peasant’s blouses, to stone axes, metallic tips of nomads’ arrows and Roman dishes, objects from Cândeşti, the table where Avram Iancu used to sit... And the tricolour, which is their soul, laid gently on a table in the highest and brightest upstairs room. Pamfil Albu kissed its folds, succumbing to memories, year by year, on the golden day, 1 December, and spoke to the ones that came to see him about the tradition and the symbol of our permanent speech, of the feelings and sentience triggered by the national unification, symbol that this flag would carry to the endlessness of the history of our people.

    Pamfil Albu smiles to us with an inner pain that he tries to hide, because he knows very well that the separation from this flag was necessary for the country and all the ones who want to learn by heart the History lesson on 1 December 1918. 

    He smiles gently to us, he is wearing peasant’s pants and a vest. But what is the meaning of the separation from the flag? We shall find out directly from Pamfil, the elderly primary school teacher.

    ”You see, nephew... That’s why it hurt... and it didn’t hurt when I parted from the flag. I thought and I felt better instantly knowing it was displayed in a place of honour in the National Museum, in the Capital of our Romania. Thousands and millions of visitors will come by to see it and everyone shall know its story, written with the tears of mothers, babies and soldiers. The place sheltering it is sacred... [...]”

    Among the stories about the tricolour (hundreds, maybe thousands and tens of thousands), I chose this one: 

    of the woollen tricolour, woven by the women and girls of Lupşa in the Apuseni mountains and carried by the men of the village, young and old, to the centre of the National Assembly; we believe it is also similar to a chronicle of the future generations.

    The child of 1918, Albu Pamfilie, who could only accompany the flag then by running away from home (he was only 11) became the keeper of this flag. An apotheotic flag. Testimony and symbol; a flag forever young like the love of one’s country, alive and flaming like the love for one’s country. A flag filled with glory like the people who created it and owned it by means of one type of knowledge: the one that they have seen and felt since forever. This flag is kept in the golden chest of the national history, to keep its memory alive. It is a calling that became an echo and heritage for the future. This tricolour ended up in the National Museum of Romanian History by a joyful unification with the history of our times.

    We did nothing much except for taking the trouble to write down its history for the praising and honouring of those who crafted it and took it to Alba Iulia and of those who were and are and will be: Romanian craftsmen and carriers of the tricolour on this land up until their death in one unified, national and independent state”.


    Special thanks to Mrs. Monica Rotaru, the granddaughter of the primary school teacher Sebastian Ciapă and the daughter of Pamfilie Albu, who carried on the work of her father with much love and dedication and who generously offered to us the memoirs of her grandfather and the wonderful family photos that you can admire here.