About 20 minutes of driving from Brasov lies the old Saxon village of Prejmer, built around its main attraction and claim to international fame, the massive fortified church dating from the 13th century.
The largest fortified church in Southeastern Europe, the church of Prejmer has been inducted in the UNESCO World Heritage for its historic and cultural significance. Visiting the heavily fortified edifice and the sleepy streets around it, lined with traditional Saxon houses, is a trip back in a long-gone era.
The first documentary attestation of Prejmer dates from the 13th century, when King Andrew II of Hungary sent a letter to the Order of the Teutonic Knights that acknowledged their rights over Tartillou river (today Tartlau).
The first time when the name Prejmer was attested was 1360, in its Hungarian form – Praszmar.
The fortified church of Prejmer was attacked over 50 times during its existence, but only once it was captured, in 1611, during the reign of Gabriel Bathory, Prince of Transylvania.
The fortified church of Prejmer is the largest in Transylvania and one of the most impressive from an architectural perspective. Shaped like a cross, the church was erected in 1225 by the Teutons, who later left Transylvania, leaving the edifice in the care of the Cistercian religious order. The order enlarged the church and restored in the early Gothic style in 1240. Some of the highlights of the church include the late Gothic vaulting and the altarpiece of the Passion, built in 1450-1460, also in the Gothic style.
To protect the church and to provide a safe haven to locals during the invasions of Turks and Tatars, a mighty fortress was erected around the church starting with the 1420s. The fortification included a 12 meter high and 4 meter wide wall with five defensive towers. A deep moat, spanned by a drawbridge, used to surround the fortification, but it was filled up when the danger of invasions passed. Along the walls of the citadel, villagers built 272 small cells that served as storage space in peace time and as refuge during attacks. Each cell had a number that corresponded to the number of a house in the village, and they were passed from one generation to the other. Some of the cells have been restored and a small museum currently functions within the fortress.
Prejmer is home to one of the few churches in Burzenland (Tara Barsei) that was completely painted both on the inside and the outside – the St Peter and Paul Orthodox Church. The present church was built in 1760, after a fire destroyed an edifice built three decades earlier.
How to get there
Getting to Prejmer is simple, thanks to the proximity to Brasov, and to the existence of a train station. Minibuses and buses to and from Brasov leave every half an hour, with the trip taking about 20 minutes. There are also six trains every day.