Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Saxon Fortified Churches. Sibiu Romania.

Biertan.  Fortified Church.  Romania
We were in Sibiu Romania visiting dear friends.  On one of our days there, we went out to see some of the fortified Saxon churches in the area.

Saxons began settling in Transylvania in the 12th century, primarily to defend the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary against a range of invaders, and eventually many Transylvanian churches were fortified by massive walls.  Between the 13th and 16th centuries, about 300 villages were defended by fortified churches, and about 150 exist (in some state) today. Of the fortified churches, Biertan is one of the most famous.

Biertan is among the last such churches built in southern Transylvania (1486-1524) and its late Gothic verticality is remarkable.  (The Blue Guide to Romania describes it as looking like a rocket ship.) 

 Biertan includes nine towers and three sets of fortresses (built successively against a series of invaders culminating in the 17th century with the Ottoman Empire).  

We also visited Axente Sevur (which, unlike Biertan was open for visitors).  Axente Sevur (originally called Frua) was settled by people from Brabant and Flanders, later called Saxons.  The church dates from 1323 and is in the Gothic style.

Scale model of Axente Sevur fortified church.

The tower
 Climbing the tower

View of interior

We then went to Agarbicu, built in the 14th century in Gothic style and later fortified.

And Seica Mare, begun in 1300, with its amazingly tall tower.

These churches are an amazing sight.  Built with the best technology of the time, they seem to have arrived, almost by magic, into a medieval village life that feels much older.  Shorn of the context of the cultures that developed this architecture, these churches are like skyscrapers that somehow landed in the Middle Ages.  


  1. Wonderful photos! And to think of how these fortresses and churches have stood the tests of time!

  2. Is that Anca and Dan I see in a photo with Tony? I was just telling a story about Anca this afternoon! I miss her. :)

  3. Yes, that's Anca and Dan. Dan is 18! Anca is well. We talked about you (I showed her your new look in facebook.). It was great to see them.