The Church on the Hill
To reach the Evangelical Church on the Hill from Sighișoara, visitors must climb the 175 steps of the so-called Pupils' Stairway that leads to the highest point of the medieval fortress of Sighișoara. However, the beauty and grandeur of this XIV century Gotic church is such that even climbing twice that number of stairs wouldn’t be too much of an effort. Among all the Evangelical churches of Transylvania, it is the only one to enclose an ancient crypt, containing a total of about sixty tombs underneath the walls of the choir.
These, of course, are not the only features that make this church an impressive monument of originality. For instance, it's worth mentioning the fact that it encloses a Romanesque chapel, or that it has a square-shaped dungeon and a 42 m high spire slightly inclined to the south, or, even more of a rarity, the fact that one of its paintings illustrates the Holy Trinity interpreted as a person with three faces. All of these are signature traits of this church.
Landmarks of history
This Evangelical church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, was built in several stages, with construction works starting as early as 1345 and ending only by 1525. The stages of its construction correspond, roughly, to various architectural styles. Thus, between 1200 and 1250 the church was in its Romanesque stage (it was actually a chapel of somewhat uncertain origins); the early Gothic stage followed, between 1250 and 1300, when the west end tower was erected; next came the Saint Nicholas church, between 1300 and 1429, which saw the construction of the three nave basilica; finally, between 1429 and 1483 the church was brought to the appearance that is has preserved to this day.
Most of the paintings inside the church were authored either by Valentinus Pictor (the ones in the choir and the triumphal archway), which would date them in 1483, or by Jakobus Kendlinger (the ones in north-south lateral nave), which would date them in 1488. All the frescoes were covered with white paint in 1544, but some of them were uncovered during restoration works.
As far as structure is concerned, the Saint Nicholas Church on the Hill from Sighișoara is a hall church with three naves, reaching an impressive length of 53 m. The two lateral naves were not part of the original construction, but were erected at a later date and with different sizes: the northern one measures 5.2 m in height, whereas the southern one only 3 m. Inside, the church has an amazing feeling of volume created by the very high ceilings, supported by octagonal pillars. It also hosts a number of baptisteries, tombstones and altars, retrieved from other places of worship that have been abandoned. Its own polyptych altar dates from the XVI century and is decorated with paintings of Saint Martin.
Despite its long and troubled history, this church remains a fine example of Gothic architecture, displaying some of its signature traits. It has an elongated choir, ribbed vaults with pointed arches, windows topped by lancet arches and surrounded by tracery-rich frameworks, arched counterforts, and wide portals laden with ornaments. Outside, on the south-eastern side of the choir, the church is guarded by stone sculptures, the remains of what was probably a much more ample scene illustrating the Adoration of the Wise Men. They are some of the very few Gothic stone sculptures of Transylvania.