Top 10 Saxon Fortified Churches, Romania
Saxon Fortified Churches, Travel Guide
> Biertan, the most impressive one.
> Over 100 villages have fortified churches.
> The landscape is spectacular.
In the southern half of Transylvania, there is an area where the former German community of the region used to be located, until 1989, when most of them left to Germany. It is the Saxon Transylvania and its limits are the Transylvanian Alps in the south, the Szekely area in the east and north and the area around the city of Alba Iulia in the west. The Tarnave rivers cross the region.
About the Saxon Fortified Churches, Romania
Over 100 centuries-old fortified churches, looking like medieval castles. Lots of them are still in good condition and some of them are protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Apart from the churches themselves, the Saxon villages that host them are beautiful, most of them displaying great examples of medieval German architecture.
Transylvanian villages were often organised around a fortified church. The Saxon villages of Transylvania appeared in the thirteenth century when the Kings of Hungary settled German colonists in the area. They had a special status among nations in the province and their civilisation managed to survive and thrive, forming a very strong community of farmers, artisans and merchants.
Being situated in a region constantly under the threat of the Ottoman and Tatar invasions, they built fortifications of different sizes. The most important towns were fully fortified, and the smaller communities created fortifications centered around the church, where they added defensive towers and storehouses to keep their most valuable goods and to help them withstand long sieges. Some fortifications had observations towers, some of them being church towers adapted to the needs of a fortress.
HOW THE VILLAGES WERE BUILT
The villages follow the topography closely and try to make the best of it; thus villages situated in a valley developed around a central street and possibly some secondary ones, while those situated on a flatter spot follow a looser, radial pattern. Due to security reasons and the traditions of the Saxon inhabitants, the villages are compact.
The main element is the church, always situated in the middle of the town. Different types of fortifications can be found: a small enceinte around the church, a row of fortifications around the church or a real fortress with multiple fortification walls centered on the church. The churches have been adapted to include defensive functions. In almost all cases, the church is situated in an easily defendable position, generally on a hilltop.
THE OTHER BUILDINGS
Close to the church there is the main square of the village or Tanzplaz (Dance Square) around which the social life gravitated. The only buildings situated next to the fortifications are those of communal use: the school or the village hall. The parish house, along with the houses of the most wealthy villagers, were situated around this square. Also in most sites, barns for grain storage are situated close to the centre of the village.