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The Calnic Fortified Church

 

If anyone wants to get a glimpse at what Saxons were capable of many centuries ago, a visit to the Câlnic fortified church is an absolute must. The entire defensive complex is an impressive sight for anyone who has even the tiniest interest in medieval constructions and wishes to see history re-enacted before their eyes.

Chapel. Calnic Fortified Church (copyright: creative commons)

Chapel. Calnic Fortified Church (copyright: creative commons)

 

About

Location of the village  
The Saxon village of Câlnic is an ancient settlement located in Alba County, Transylvania, home to one of the seven fortified churches of Transylvania that were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


History of the village
It was first mentioned around the year 1200 as one of the estates of the German earls of Kellinger, whose descendants ended up selling the land to the local community of Saxons, back in 1430. While today it may appear more like an idyllic location rather than a war-time fortress, it's worth mentioning that its fortification was strong enough to resist even to the assault of the forces of Michael the Brave, for several days, in his 1599 campaign.

The dungeon tower had three levels: the cellar and two stories. Its two windows, set in a stone framework, display features of the early Gothic style. The surrounding wall, measuring about 4 m in height  and fitted with buttresses, was equipped with a defense tower complete with an exterior moat, 3 m deep and 10 m wide, and a sliding grid the traces of which are still visible today. The triumphal arch is also witness to those long-ago ages, bearing traces of two successive mural paintings, the most recent of which represents a bust of Jesus Christ.

After the stronghold passed into the hands of the Saxons, in 1430, the new owners started adapting it to their own needs. They added another two stories to the dungeon, so that it ended up measuring about 20 m in height, and a chapel was erected in place of the former rectangular building. Initially, the chapel was decorated with paintings. Then, after 1550, it was repainted in white. A second set of walls was erected in the XVI century, following the outline of the previous defense moat. This second row of walls was then surrounded with another exterior moat, most of which is currently filled with earth.

One element of this complex that is actually outside its walls is the Evangelical church built on top of the nearby hill, in the middle of the cemetery, a XV century construction that was greatly modified in the XIX century, which explains its current Neo-Gothic style. The original tabernacle and the Gothic portal of the sacristy are still visible today. Another, more recent addition that represents a great attraction is the modest sized organ, of remarkable beauty and artistry, made in 1867 by the famous organ builder Carl Hesse, of Wien.

 

Must see

In true Saxon fashion, the fortress of Câlnic is located in the middle of the village, close to every important or functional building. It is a medieval fortification specific to dungeon cities, standing today as the most representative example of this type of construction in Alba County. At first, in the XIII century, the fortress was made of a massive dungeon and a rectangular-shaped building, surrounded by one set of walls laid out on an oval outline.