Out of the more than one hundred Saxon settlements in Transylvania, 7 are included on the UNESCO heritage list: Biertan, Calnic, Darju, Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor and Viscri, all of them being located in southern Transylvania.
Out of the more than one hundred Saxon settlements in Transylvania, 7 are included on the UNESCO heritage list: Biertan, Calnic, Darju, Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor and Viscri, all of them being located in southern Transylvania. So, let's take a tour of the Saxon fortified churches together with Marian Constantinescu a travel journalist and editor for Traveller Magazine.
Saxon villages in Transylvania are typical of the early centuries of the second millennium. Settlers who came in large numbers from Germany’s Saxon region erected these settlements in the border area. As they had to cope with the Turkish and Tartar invasions or wars, the settlement’s central area, which also included the church, was fortified with defense walls. There were many ways in which the Saxon churches were fortified, so we cannot speak about a common architectural style, but about a style that was characteristic of each of the local communities in the region. That is why Transylvania’s Saxon sites today are architectural monuments, unique in Europe for their manifold purpose: civilian, religious and military.
We start our journey across Brasov County in the town of Prejmer, located quite close to Brasov; the town boasts a Saxon fortified church. With details on that, here is journalist Marian Constantinescu.
”This fortified church in Prejmer dates back to the 13th century. What’s special about it is that it is made up of no less than 272 rooms, the equivalent of the number of families living in Prejmer at that time. Prejmer also boasts a famous organ, just as famous as those of the Saxon churches. Y which is mentioned in the 17th century chronicles as one of the most famous in Transylvania.”
Another Saxon fortified church which is highly recommended to visitors is that in Viscri. Situated on a hill which juts over a plateau, the church has two rows of walls and 4 defense towers, one of which is very tall and dates back to 1494. If you want to go to Viscri, follow the road linking Brasov to Sighisoara. Look for traffic signs in Rupea, which is 7 km away of Viscri. Here is Marian Constantinescu again:
”We now make a stopover in Viscri, which re-captured public attention a couple of years ago, due both to the investments made in the region and to the visits paid by Prince Charles to the area. Viscri is an interesting combination of natural beauty and architecture, boasting an old church, Saxon type fortifications, with towers, bastions and other elements specific to local Saxon architecture. Viscri is mentioned in documents rather late, because it was not one of the famous citadels, inhabited by very rich people. It was mentioned in documents as late as 1400, under the name of Alba Eclezia. In 1500 it was included among the free communes of the seat of Rupea. It is worth mentioning that Viscri was a prosperous commune, with 51 households, 3 priests, a teacher and only 2 poor people, as the documents of the time show.”
If you leave Brasov and Rupea behind and follow the route to the famous medieval citadel of Sighsoara you can make a stopover in Saschiz, another village which boasts a Saxon fortified church.
Journalist Marian Constantinescu has more: “Those who competed with Sighisoara for about 500 years are the residents of Saschiz. That is why, it is not by chance that the Saschiz church and the fortress tower have almost the same shape as the Hour Church Steeple in Sighisoara. The bastions are reminiscent of Gothic architecture; later on, they were reinforced according to the principle of a building where villagers could take refuge. Prince Charles paid a number of visits there and was impressed by the traditions and the way in which a whole range of traditional products are preserved. If you come here, you can admire some of the traditions of painting with floral designs in Transylvania. Unfortunately, some of the furniture and galleries were erased by Calvinists. Nevertheless, there are still traces left and in peasant houses, you can see the famous dowry chests and wooden objects painted with floral motives. Now and then, in Saschiz, you can listen to organ concerts, the big organ being one of the best and most impressive in this country.”
Here is an invitation for you to visit Romania, extended by journalist Marian Constantinescu: “Fortunately, there are lots of other such heritage assets of the Saxon civilization in Romania. We may tell you about them some other time. For the time being, we just urge you to come and visit Romania; there is a lot to see, to buy, there are many interacting cultures, including the Transylvanian Saxon culture.”