We took the scenic route to see a few of the Saxon Fortified Churches during our drive between Sighisoara and Sibiu. The main stop was planned for the UNESCO designated Biertan Fortified Church.
In Biertan is one of the seven UNESCO designated Saxon Fortified Churches in Transylvania. The fortress was built by ethnic Germans as part of the Kingdom of Hungary and completed in 1524. The town of Biertan is a quaint small village that is making efforts to accommodate the tourists that come to see the church. The church compound charges a modest entry fee which goes towards preservation and Restoration of the site. Like many of the historical sites in Romania, I often felt like I was looking at what Germany may have been in the 1930s. Not much has seemed to have changed at these sites for many years.
Surprise to us was another stunning church in the town of Moșna. We didn't even know about this church as it didn't appear specifically on any info we came across during our research... a travel serendipity- our favorite! We found it to be just as interesting, though not quite as extensive, as the church in Biertran. The two main differences we noticed compared to Biertran were
1) No tourists! We were the only people on the site. In fact, no one was around to tell us where we were or were not allowed to wander and we had to figure out for ourselves the semi-maze through the wall and how to get into the church proper.
2) The unrestored state of the buildings. Though the structural integrity seems to be maintained most of the building seems quite raw and in a semi-state of decay. This in my opinion is not a bad thing. Though I hope the original aspects are not lost through neglect, the raw state made the site seem more authentic. I felt that we were looking back into times past before anything recognizably modern.
We enjoyed the FREE church in Moșna just as much as the one we paid to enter in Biertan (though i am a cheapskate and love free things, I actually don't mind the modest entry fees for most of the sites in Romania as I feel the revenue is needed quite badly for preservation and restoration). While we were wondering around unsupervised we found an unlocked door in the church and headed up a staircase. Clearly we needed to investigate and satisfy our curiosity. The stone spiral staircase took us up into the attic above chapel and up into the bell tower.... pretty sure we weren't supposed to be up there.. but it was awesome! Seeing the rafters and structural support in the roof and the old bronze bells in the tower was interesting. Additionally the view from the tower couldn't be beat. We enjoyed the nice view down the valley across the old village.
Continuing our journey from Sighisoara and Biertan we made a quick stop in Mediaș before continuing to Sibiu. The downtown square was quite nice and maintained. The old Tower of the Buglers, an impressive 70 meters tall, is visible for kilometers around the city. Mediaș had one of the best preserved medieval historical center, but we only had time to walk around for about 30 min and continue since our daylight was fading.
Know Before You Go!
- Be aware that there are many towns and villages across Transylvania with Saxon era churches in various states of preservation/decay. The UNESCO list is a great place to start if you're interested in visiting but don't discount the others which can often be just as interesting though more raw and in unrestored conditions.
- For more information of the UNESCO designated Fortified Churches on Wiki: CLICK HERE