See the medieval heritage in Biertan fortified church

Eva Poteaca | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The Dark Ages is a fascinating period in the history of our times. As a matter of fact, the medieval era wasn’t as “dark” as one can imagine and produced some of the most amazing manuscripts, metalworks, and breath-taking buildings. I am sure that many of you are passionate about the Dark Ages, its history and architectural testament and eager to visit Romania. While visiting this all season country, one must definitely see the medieval heritage in Biertan fortified church in southern Transylvania.

Fortified churches in Transylvania

When we tell a story of a medieval artifact, we tell a story of people. This is because people were the ones who built the monuments we can admire today. This characteristic can also be applied to the Biertan fortified church, and in this case, all the marvelous constructions were possible due to the Transylvanian Saxons, the travelers of German ethnicity settled in Transylvania.

The fortified churches are spread across the southern part of Transylvania, the heart of Romania. The inclusion of such monuments in the UNESCO heritage may have started with Biertan in the year 1933, but it only opened a door for about 150 fortified churches, dating from the 13th to the 16th century, which were included as the World Heritage Sites. The fortified churches are the main attractions of the villages and cities founded by the Transylvanian Saxons, one of the eye-catchers of Saschiz being its fortified church.

There are some characteristics worth mentioning. Most of the medieval remnants in Transylvania are built around a central nucleus. And the most important building of this nucleus is a church. Churches were the most significant treasures of the Transylvanian Saxons, and the fact that they were so valued can be seen in the multiple construction phases these edifices undertook. The medieval era was also a period of instability and wars, and that’s why it isn’t surprising that many of the constructions are always accompanied by barricades and defensive constructions.

But why are the fortified ecclesiastical constructions in Transylvania so meaningful? First of all, they are dominated by a settlement pattern typical for the Dark Ages. These fortified churches not only have the main characteristic of medieval monuments but in Transylvania, one can see the best preserved medieval sites in Europe.

The Biertan fortified church

The Biertan fortified church can be found in the middle of the Transylvanian Plateau, in one of the first settlements of Transylvanian Saxons, Biertan. The settlement, near the city of Sibiu and its Fortress Street, became a city at the end of the 14th century, and a century later, the construction of the fortified church began. The construction was finalized in the year 1524, about the same time when Biertan became a significant economic center of the area.  

Picture © Credit to: iStock/AttilaBarsan

I have no doubts that one will include the fortified church in Biertan to a must-see list. This is because it is a testimony of innovation, an example of remarkable architecture and at the same time a site still untouched. The ecclesiastical edifice is surrounded by a triple belt of fortification walls, and one can enter this construction through one of its three gates. The defense system also includes six towers and three bastions, and this is because the Turks and the Tatars were frequently trying to conquer this area.

Picture © Credit to: iStock/Balate Dorin

The church is a large impressive construction with three halls of equal height. The interior is as remarkable as the construction itself, hosting the largest polytheistic altar with 28 painted panels, a pavilion carved by the master Ulrich from Brașov, and the famous sacristy with its complex system of 19 locks. 

Picture © Credit to: iStock/AttilaBarsan

I do no doubt that you will be eager to see the medieval heritage in Biertan fortified church. Here, you will find a picturesque urban appearance and construction that led to the discovery of the reminiscence of the Dark Ages in Transylvania

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