Villages with Fortified Churches

Villages with Fortified Churches
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The Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania are examples of defensive vernacular architecture made by Saxon settlers.

They date from the 13th to the 16th century. Transylvanian villages were often organised around a fortified church, to protect them from invading Mongols and Turks.

The following six former Saxon and one Székely villages comprise this WHS:

  • Biertan
  • Câlnic
  • Dârjiu
  • Prejmer
  • Saschiz
  • Valea Viilor
  • Viscri

Map of Villages with Fortified Churches

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Els

Visit September 2010

There are 200-250 villages with fortified churches in Transylvania. You'll pass several of them on your way to one of the 7 WHS designated villages. They are scattered along the main roads between Sibiu and Sighisoara, and Sighisoara and Brasov. Every village has the typical small, brightly coloured houses and a bulky and sometimes oddly shaped church. The names of the towns are posted in German too. It's a pleasure just driving around and looking out for them.

September 2010

First I visited Valea Viilor (Wurmloch). There's a big sign to it from the main road. Four km along a winding country road took me to this town, original in its Saxon lay-out with one long street ending at the church. Construction workers were busy with the tower. Their head man doubled as museum/church keeper (or is he the keeper who needed to oversee the reconstruction?) and welcomed me in German. There's an oval compound here within the walls (6-7 m high). There's lots of room for storage behind these walls. The interior of this church is relatively simple. All Biblical quotes displayed are in German.

September 2010

Biertan is the best known of these villages, and the one originally inscribed in 1993. It's also the most popular with tourists; it has souvenir stalls and a book shop. Entrance is 6 Lei (1.5 EUR). The structure here is large, like a citadel. You enter via a long wooden staircase. At the top of the hill there are a number of towers, each with its own design and function. The church here has a more elaborate interior, including a prize piece altar. Lovely site, with good views over the surrounding countryside!

September 2010

P.S., in answer to Paul Tanner's observations from 1999 below: the horse drawn carts are still a common sight here but all the main roads are paved now.

Community Reviews

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John booth

New Zealand - 08-Dec-12 -

Villages with Fortified Churches by john booth

I reached five of the villages to visit the fortified churches :

Calnic - by taxi from Sebes station

Prejmer - by train to Ilieni, returning by bus direct to Brasov

Saschiz, Viscri and Biertan - by taxi from Sighisoara

Of the five I found Viscri to be the most interesting and attractive, although I also liked the bottle glass windows of the Biertan church.


John S.

United States - 13-Nov-11 -

I saw three on a recent visit, and the best one was in Viscri. Although the road to the town is now paved, it is still a bit of a pain to get there. Once there, especially during the low season, one has to look for the old lady who keeps the keys to the church. Inside is fantastic: a modest church, a neat fortress layout, and a creaky tower/lookout. The hunt for the old lady was the best part as we were able to interact with locals, and she also showed a few things here and there we would have missed.

It is true that the area is littered with fortified churches. The ones listed bu UNESCO are fine, but I suggest really hiring a car and going out to explore. Copsa Mare, for example, is only 2km from Biertan, and has a creaky old church in a nice compact little town right in a middle of a small valley.


Solivagant

UK - 15-Jun-05 -

Villages with Fortified Churches by Solivagant

This site is strictly described as “Villages with fortified Churches” rather than purely the churches themselves. In all honesty the Churches are the main attraction although some of the villages possess a rural charm. The Fortified Churches of Transylvania are not as impressive in my opinion as the Painted Churches of Bucovina but are still well worth seeking out whilst you are in the area seeing the WHS town of Sighisoara and the Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains. (This is a great “hot spot” area for WHS! In fact Romania as a whole is greatly undervalued I feel as European destination which is full of interest and, apart from the Danube Delta possibly, its 7 WHS are relatively easily accessible).

Between Sigishoara and Sibiu there is an area which was settled by Saxons in the 12th century. Facing threats from the Turks in 15th and 16th centuries these people fortified their churches into veritable castles with high walls around them. The area in fact remained primarily Saxon until as recently as the demise of communism when many took the opportunity to emigrate to Germany and this has placed the churches in a parlous position which WHS inscription might assist.

In fact only 7 churches are actually inscribed although many more are in existence. It is part of the “fun” of a tour of the area to search them out. Many are in poor condition and seemed to be unused behind their enormous walls. Biertan (photo) is possibly the most impressive/famous and was the only one we actually managed to get inside. It is cavernous and a bit stark but there are fine views of the village and the walls from “up there”! When we were there in 1999 the village was still wonderfully rural. Its dirt track gravel streets, flanked by solid Saxon houses, were busy with horse drawn carts and waddling geese – a time warp which, no doubt, is already changing as Romania emerges from the ravages of Ceaucescu’s era and prepares for membership of the EU.


Site Info

Full Name
Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania
Unesco ID
596
Country
Romania
Inscribed
1993
Type
Cultural
Criteria
4
Categories
Religious structure - Christian
Link
By ID

Site History

1999 Extended

1999 Revision

Includes former TWHS L'eglise fortifie de Dirjiu

1993 Inscribed

1991 Referred

As Biertan: Bureau -pending better protection. Mission to be sent to Romania to help

Locations

The site has 7 locations

Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Biertan Biertan, Biertan, Sibiu,
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of C
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Dârjiu
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Prejmer-Tartlau
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Saschiz-Keisd Saschiz, Saschiz, Mure
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Valea Viilor Valea Viilor, Valea Viilor, Sibiu,
Villages with Fortified Churches: Village of Viscri

Connections

The site has

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History
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Religion and Belief
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Visitors

Community Members have visited.

A. Mehmet Haksever Alberto Peterle Alex Marcean Alex Pflugfelder Alex popescu Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Ali Zingstra Andrea & Uwe Zimmermann Andrew Wembridge Anna Wludarska Atila Ege Aurora Petan Bamse Bin Blegg Bodil Ankerly Boj Brigitte Huber Byronb Carlos Garrido Cezar Grozavu Corinne Vail Cristina Erba Cyba DAB Dan Pettigrew Daniel Chazad David Berlanda David Samuel Santos Deambulante Delpupp Dibro Dimitar Krastev Don Irwin Donald M Parrish Jr Elaine McArdle Elia Vettorato Els Slots Eric Lurio Erik Jelinek Eva Kisgyorgy FK FS Fan Yibo Feldhase Filip Murlak Fkarpfinger G. ingraham G.L. Ingraham Gary Arndt George Evangelou Gi Gianni Bianchini Grzegorz Andruszkiewicz Gustavo Leit Harald T. Howe Siang Tan Hurrvinek Iain Jackson Ivan Rucek Jan-Willem Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jean Lecaillon Jeanne OGrady Joel Baldwin John Smaranda John Varner John booth Jonas Hagung Jonas Kremer Jordi Martinez Jose Antonio Collar Joyce van Soest Judith Tanner Juha Kokkonen Karl Grossner Kasienka5 Katharina Klaus Bondar Koen Vliegenthart Krisztina zill Lale Eralp Turkey Leontine Helleman Lorenzo Mejino MBennett Maki Wang Malgorzata Kopczynska Marcel staron Marie Morlon Markus Marleen Speelman-Kooijmans Marta Lempert Martina Ruckova Mdnichol Michal Marciniak Michiel Dekker Mikko Miloš Tašković Monica Tasciotti Nihal Ege Orphanos Pablo Tierno Pascal Cauliez Patrick Matgen Paul Hilder Paul Schofield Peltzi Peter Loov Philipp Peterer Randi Thomsen Reza Roger Ourset Roman Raab Rosen STEFAN Sachin Schnitzel Sergio Arjona Shaka_schulz Shandos Cleaver Sncjob Solivagant Stanislaw Warwas Stefan and Mia Su Yen Chen Svein Heltberg Szucs Tamas TRAVELLERMEL Tamara Ratz Tatiana Nikulnikova Teresa J. Wilkin Tevity Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt Timothy C Easton Tsunami Vernon Prieto VforMih Violeta Voyager Walter H. Werner Huber Wolfgang Hlousa WolfgangHl ZX You Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray