The spiritual and defensive centre of each village was the distinctive fortified church. At times of attack, Saxons would retreat with their livestock within the walls of the church, in which stores of food were kept, and which had a well, to allow for a siege. In fact, households kept their dried hams and fat bacon within family storerooms built into the walls of the church for use, even in peacetime. Each Sunday villagers would cut off enough for the week, and the hams remained in the cool of the thick-walled church. This custom continues in some villages.
The fortified church from Apold (Trappold in German) dates back to the 13th century. It was originally a Romanesque basilica. The three-aisles hall church built in Late Gothic style originates from the 15th century. The outer ring walls and three defensive towers have been preserved from the 15th and 16 century. Its western side tower was annexed to the building later on and the church was fortified during the 16th century. The church keeps several treasures in its interior: the neoclassical organ altar from 1821, a Gothic tabernacle, the pulpit and wooden galleries built in 1760.
The Saxons built the fortified church of Archita (Arkeden in German) around the year 1200. It has two mantle walls and seven of the original nine towers are still intact today. In the middle of the precinct there was a 12th century Romanesque basilica with three naves and no tower. The church was later rebuilt in the Gothic style and enlarged with a tower, followed by the defense systems in the 16th century. After a fire in 1748 that also destroyed the village, the church was built in its current shape. The interior Baroque design originates from that period: the side and organ gallery, the organ itself, the altar and the pulpit.
The UNESCO World Heritage site in the village of Biertan (Birthalm in German), is one of the biggest and most famous fortified churches in Transylvania. Almost completely preserved, the fortified church, built in Late Gothic style in the 16th century, replaced an older Romanesque church, dating from the 14th century. During the Middle Ages it was the seat of the bishop of the Evangelic Church from 1572 to 1867. The late Gothic sacristy door, richly decorated with inlay work, is a testimony of great craftsmanship. The fortified church is home to paintings, sculptures and Late Gothic style furniture.
The fortified church in the village of Bunesti (Bodendorf in German), built at the beginning of the 14th century, replaced an older Romanic church. It holds both Romanic and Gothic structural elements. The fortification wall, originating in the 14th century was strengthen by four towers and had grain storage rooms on the inside. The interior impresses with its tall and narrow proportions, underlined by the two-story balcony on the northern side, erected between 1680 and 1775. Mural paintings hide behind the stunning Classic style golden altar, built in wood.
The fortified church in Cloașterf dates from 1524, being one of the very well preserved settlements in Transylvanian. It is one of the few fortified churches that has a defence floor, above the nave and choir there is a fortified floor with windows and shooting holes. The church was so well projected as it could withstand a siege for a few days, some legends saying that it even has a tunnel for evacuation. Its interior is very interesting, being realized in 17th century.
It is said that its name comes from German Klosdorf - Nikolau (Saint Nicholas) and Dorf (village).
The stone church dedicated to St. Cross was first mentioned in documents, in 1270, and its old name Kreuz (cross) comes, as a local legend says, from a large cross thrust into a promontory, visible from three neighboring villages away - Criţ, and Meşendorf. Around the cross the first homes were built . The neo-classical hall church with chancel and western bell tower was built between 1810 and 1813. Only the ring wall and four defensive towers are still preserved from the 15th Century fortification system. On the southern side, only the ruins of the old Saxon school still exist today. The interior was made partially at the same time with the construction itself.
The church of Daia was first attested in 1327, being devoted to Saint Mary. The settlement underwent transformations over time, but from the initial period it preserved the outer walls of the aisles, the square choir and some decorative features from the late Gothic period. The fortification around the church is a simple oval curtain wall, made in two stages, using different materials. The initial tower, made of brick, can be related to the Romanesque architecture from the West Plain of Transylvania. The actual belfry, which is separated from the church and built in a different style, can be included in the central and eastern European Baroque.
The fortified church in the village of Laslea (Gross Lasseln in German) was initially built in the 15th century. It was demolished in the 18th century and only its steeple tower and parts of the lateral naves were preserved from it. A new tower was built to replace the old one, but it collapsed in the 19th century. Its name came from Saint Ladislau.
The Gothic style church in the village of Mălâncrav (Malmkrog in German), served as Maria’s sanctuary until the Reformation. The fortified church is most famous for its 14th century inner wall frescoes, which are the most extensive ensemble of this kind in Tranylvania. The church was fortified during the 15th century. It is attested as the court church for the noble Apafy family, which ruled the village until the end of the 17th century. The church it is said that represented a center for pilgrims in the past.
The fortified church in Meșendorf was built during 14th - 15th century, in Romanic style. Later on, the church was restored in Gothic style. The vaults of the church were removed because of the risk to collapse during the renovation work in the early 19th century, but the tower has been preserved in its medieval form. 2 of the 3 defence towers in the fortification walls are still preserved. A part of the fortification wall was demolished in 1888, allowing a school to be built in that space. The three sides wooden gallery, decorated with Baroque paintings, the winged altar dating from 1693 dominate the interior. The organ seen today replaced an older one in 1765.
The Gothic style church in Richiș (Reichesdorf in German) was built in successive stages, starting from the 14th century. The basilica body is composed of 3 naves, separated by two massive pillars and battlement walk. The church was fortified in the 16th century and the gate tower is still visible today. Two gravestones and some mural paintings can be found in the vestry. The church distinguishes itself due to its rich decorations: the pillars and columns with capitals supporting the ribs of the vaults, the keystones decorated with masks.
The fortified church in Roadeș (Radeln in German) and the bell tower were built in the 14th century. It was fortified in the 15th century with a polygonal wall and 5 defence towers, which enclosed the former open entrance atrium, out of which only three still, stand today. The triptych altar dates back to the 16th century and it is one of the best-preserved altars from the pre-protestant period in Transylvania. It is currently being kept in Sibiu and it depicts scenes from the life of John the Baptist. The church is also home to a bell from 1550.
Saschiz Fortified Church
The The UNESCO World Heritage site in the village of Saschiz (Keisd in German) is a Gothic style small-hall church with one nave and was built built between 1493 and 1525 replacing a Romanesque basilica. It was fortified in the 15th century, with a 9m tall surrounding wall. The interior furnishing is mainly Baroque, except the Gothic pew in the chancel, which is richly decorated with carvings. On the exterior walls fragments of writings were preserved. The church tower resembles the Clock Tower from the citadel in Sighisoara, adorned with 12 skylights and colourful enamel tiles on the roof.
The peasant citadel that dominates Saschiz is still a trace of unrest medieval era. Built on a wooded hill, about 2 km from the center of the village, the fortress was built in the 14th century to protect the Saschiz inhabitants and other six municipalities adjoining, who helped build it, of invasions. It is said that the fortress had belonged to a virgin who, lacking heirs, donated it to the villagers after her death. The threatening hill in the southwestern part of the village is said to hide not only unknown treasures, but also their guardian, the spirit of a giant wearing a noose instead of coat of arms, who once in a year disturbs the silence of the night with ghostly sounds.
Sighișoara is considered to be one of the most beautiful and well-preserved inhabited citadel in Europe, with authentic medieval architecture. In Eastern Europe, Sighisoara is one of the few fortified towns that are still inhabited. A document of 1280 records a town built on the site of a Roman fort as Castrum Sex or "six-sided camp", referring to the fort's shape of an irregular hexagon. By 1337 Sighișoara had become a royal center for the kings, who awarded the settlement urban status in 1367 as the Civitas de Segusvar. The city played an important strategic and commercial role at the edges of Central Europe for several centuries.
The Romanesque original church of Şaeş (Schaas in German) collapsed in 1802. Its ruins were entirely removed and replaced with a neo-classical hall church with narrowed chancel and western bell tower in 1820. The remains of the fortifications consist of parts of the curtain wall, a defense building and a defense tower. The interior of the church is remarkable by its original design and inventory. The entrance door is a testimony of craftsmanship.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site in the village of Viscri (Deutsch Weisskirch in German - the White Church) is one of the most picturesque fortified churches in Transylvania. Built in the 12th century, replacing an ancient Romanic church constructed by the Szeklers, the Lutheran church was fortified in the 15th century. The 7 m high ring wall was built in early 16th century and during the 17th century was strengthened by fortified houses, defensive towers and parapet walk. The interior of the church still preserves the paneled ceiling from 1743 and the sober furnishing.*
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