Zăbala lies at the foot of the Vrancei Mountains (Háromszéki Havasok), at 14 kilometres from Târgu Secuiesc (Kézdivásárhely) and 5 kilometres from Covasna (Kovászna). It is divided into four parts: Alszeg (the lower part of the village), Felszeg (the upper part of the village), Páva and Hegymege. The area of the settlement has been populated from time immemorial, on the nearby mountain (Movila Tătarilor - Tatárdomb) a cemetery was excavated which dates from the time of the Hungarian Conquest.
The first written mention of the settlement dates from 1466. It is said that it got its name from its “oil”, or from the castle of the thieves living on the border. The village played an important role in the life of the Szekler community. In 1466 the Szekler National Meeting was held here. The history of Zăbala is closely connected to the history of the Mikes family, the members of which were very talented politicians and soldiers.
Thanks to its advantageous location it has a well-built infrastructure, the traffic roads meet inside the village. It can be approached by train as well since the Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy) – Brețcu (Bereck) railway line passes through the village.
The Mikes Castle lies in the upper part of the village. The exact building date is not known; most probably it was built in the 15th century. During the centuries it was rebuilt for several times. It obtained its present form after 1867 when count Mikes Benedek had it rebuilt. Lots of famous personalities visited the Castle during it existence: Bethlen Gábor, the Prince of Transylvania, participated with his wife at the wedding of Apor Lázár and Imecs Judit. Count Mikó Imre (1805-1876, statesman, scientist, writer, founder of the Transylvanian Museum Society and of the Székely Mikó Calvinist College) and count Mikes Kelemen (1820-1849, colonel during the 1848 Hungarian War of Independence; died in the army of General Jozef Bem) were born here.
The castle is surrounded by a large arboretum-like park, where years ago used to be a lake as well. Some of its rare species are the Abies grandis ( a coastal fir of North-American origin), the Tsuga Canadensis (also known as Eastern hemlock), the Picea omorika (Serbian Spruce, native to Bosnia-Herzegovina), the Juglans nigra (the black walnut which is frequent in the United States of America), etc.
The Roman Catholic Church was built in 1860 in honour of the Holy Cross. Until then the congregation used the chapel near the Mikes Castle. The church was built by Mikes Benedek, who made use of the stone material of the former chapel, which was standing in the garden of the Mikes Castle. In the garden of the parson there is a monument which pays tribute to the Mille-centenary of the Hungarian Conquest and to the hundredth anniversary of Márton Áron’s (1896-1980, martyr bishop) birth.
The Csángó Ethnographical Museum was founded in 1974 by Dr Pozsony Ferenc and in the beginning it functioned as a house of folk arts. The visitors of the museum can make themselves familiar with the historic-cultural monuments of the village, with pictures, objects and documents connected to the lives of the Basa and Mikes families. Those interested can also see a 15th-19th century tile collection, the folk wear of the 20th century, tool-kits of the folk craftsmanship, old household utensils, and war-time souvenirs. The museum also presents the so called “clean room” (representational living room) of a local smallholder family, which shows the interior design and furnishings of the 1930s.
In 2003 on the initiative of the Kriza János Ethnographic Society a permanent exhibition was opened, which presented the traditional folk art of the Mutoldavian Csángós. At present the house of folk arts and the csángó collection is owned and managed by the Pro Museum Association, registered in 2004. On the first floor visitors can see the interior of houses from Oituz (Gorzfalva), Pustiana (Pusztina) and Lespezi (Lészped), the typical earthenware products of Oituz, and the original equipment and sets of tools of a pottery. The second-floor gallery presents utensils of use and folk wear from the valley of Ghimeș (Gyimes), and the religious and secular life of the Csángó-Hungarians of Moldova from birth to death. (Pozsony Ferenc)
A famous son of the village is count Mikó Imre (1805-1876), statesman, politician, and historian. He was a determining, progressive intelligentsia of the 19th century Transylvanian political life. He worked indefatigably in the field of public life and general education for the economical, cultural and scientific rise of his country that is why he is also called “the Széchenyi of Transylvania”. He is the founder of the Transylvanian Museum Society (Erdélyi Múzeum Egyesület - 1859) and of the Transylvanian Economic Association (Erdélyi Gazdasági Egyesület - 1854). He also played an important role in the establishment of the University from Cluj Napoca (Tudományegyetem - 1872), he helped the National Theatre from Cluj Napoca, he encouraged the development of an up-to-date public education and agriculture, and he was actively involved in the public affairs of the Transylvanian Reformed Church District. In 1991 the community put up a bust in his honour in the foreground of the Calvinist fortified church. The bust was made by Petrovits István.
“I am convinced that nowadays the Hungarian nation has two useful, working classes: one, which cultivates its literature, and the other which cultivates its lands. The former strengthens our wavering nation intellectually, whereas the latter strengthens it financially.” (Mikó Imre, 1855)
“If we have a museum the talented youth, the priest, the teacher, the journalist, the man of literature, the friends of science and art will find there a source to enrich their knowledge, the tools with the help of which they can develop their talent and the space to earn distinction.” (Mikó Imre, 1856)
On the Eastern edge of the village there is a small Greek-Catholic church. It was built in 1832 and valuable icons can be found there. The patron saint of the church is Saint Elias. The church is rarely used, because in 1939 the orthodoxcommunity built a new church in honour of the Assumption of Virgin Mary.
The mansion of Basa Tamás (councillor, commissioner of the region of Trei Scaune) stood here. It was a remarkable mansion of Transylvania, built in Late Renaissance style. After the 1848 Hungarian War of Independence Orbán Balázs recorded it in a ruined condition. It does not exist today.
The part of the village called Páva only belongs to Zăbala since 1966, until then it was an independent settlement. According to the oral tradition a lot of peacocks used to live on the outskirts of the village, and that is where the settlement got its name from. It is a fact that in 1635 nineteen falconer families were registered in the settlement. One of its sights is its Calvinist Church, which stands on a hill. It is an imposing monument from the 14th century. Its stone-made pulpit dates from 1763. The tower of the church is equipped with two special church bells made of steel. The 18th century escutcheoned tombstone of the Marti family is built in the walls of the church.