The Saxon fortified churches of Transylvania are religious and military assemblies, exquisite architectural masterpieces built in Gothic style. They are situated in the central and southern parts of Transylvania, especially in the surroundings of Sibiu and Sighișoara.
The originality of the system used for building the fortified churches demonstrates their real function, that of providing refuge, defence and resistance against the frequent attacks from invaders. The military adaptation of the churches materialized in building several rows of walls, water trenches, counter forts, bastions, towers and storage rooms. Apart from the superb masonry of both the churches and the defence walls, the common feature of the churches is the Romanesque and early Gothic architectural styles which can be noticed in all of them.
Visit the fortified churches from Biertan, Viscri, Saschiz, Prejmer, Valea Viilor, Câlnic and Dârjiu, declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The most impressive Saxon church is in Biertan. The double – walled church, built around 1522 in Gothic style, was the seat of the Lutheran bishops from 1572 to 1867. The lock to the sacristy, once keeping a great treasure, composed of 19 smaller locks, won the first prize at the Paris World Expo in 1900.
The fortified church in Prejmer is surrounded by solid walls, 14m high and 5-6m wide, which delimitate a circular enclosure, 80m in diameter. This church had the role of protecting the region during all the fights that took place until the 17th century throughout southern Transylvania. This beautiful Gothic edifice shows, on the inside, extremely valuable elements, such as the altar with panels and the organ dating from 1803.
The oldest and one of the most spectacular fortified churches in Transylvania is the one in Viscri. Its origins date back from the 1100s, when the Szeklers built a small church here. At the end of the 12th century, the Saxons took over and rebuilt the church, adding fortifications with towers. These stone walls that enclose the small-sized church give a specific grandeur to the fortified assembly.
The Evangelical church in Saschiz was built at the end of the 15th century and impresses through the successful overlapping of the fortification elements to the shapes and forms of a religious edifice. From the outside, this Gothic church resembles a bastion, having imposing arches built above the huge stone and brick counter forts.
The Evangelical fortified church in Valea Viilor was built in Gothic style in the 14th century, over an older Romanic church. In the beginning of the 16th century it suffered some modification and it was also added the fortifications. Nowadays it is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Transylvania, having a distinguish value.
Câlnic Citadel is one of the most interesting architecture monuments in Romania, holding a special place among the fortifications built by the Saxons. Its specificity consists in the combination between the successive inputs from the nobiliary family, who built the nobiliary residence with its distinctive donjon, and the Saxon community, which added the fortifications. Close to the citadel, visitors can find the former Evangelical parish house and the Saxon church, built in the 16th century by the community. In the 19th century, the church (also called “the church on the hill”) has been transformed, now having a Neo-Gothic appearance.
The Unitarian Church in Dârjiu is one of the most representative fortified churches. It houses a valuable assembly of mural painting, most of which was deteriorated or destroyed during the Protestant Reformation that took place in the 16th century. Remarkable at the fortifications from Dârjiu is the south-western tower, in which it is located a solar clock dating from 1622.
How to get there:
The Saxon fortified churches are situated in the central and southern parts of Transylvania. They are easily accessible by car, especially from Brașov, Sibiu and Sighișoara.