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The Copsa Mare Church

 

The village of Copșa Mare, located in the northern part of Sibiu County, is under the administrative jurisdiction of the commune of Biertan, and, interestingly enough, the existence of this remarkable fortified church is, at least to some extent, the result of the locals' ambition to erect a place of worship comparable in beauty and value to the one in Biertan.

It takes a rather long walk to reach the small hill on which the Saxons built the fortified church of Copșa Mare, many hundreds of years ago, but every step is well worth. While the village itself is remarkably ancient, with the first official record of its existence being in 1238, the church is no less important in terms of historical value.

Fortified Church of Groß-Kopisch (copyright: creative commons)

Fortified Church of Groß-Kopisch (copyright: creative commons)

 

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Steps through history
Once you walk inside, you are welcomed by the sight of the sacristy, bearing an inscription which attests to how ancient the church is.

The Copsa Mare village
Already in the early XIV century there were records of religious services being performed in a Gothic church in this village.

The Copsa Mare Church is surrounded by defense walls erected at the end of the XVI century, which give this Gothic architectural complex the feel of a medieval stronghold, rather than a religious construction. But since the spiritual aspect is well represented too, the overall impression is of a charming mix of history, religion and art.

The early basilica had three tower naves and its collateral structures, which included the western tower, were attached to the main body through keel arches. In the XIV century, when the construction was fortified, the collateral structures were demolished and the arches were walled in. The walls above the central nave were elevated and fitted with embrasures. The steeple was covered with a pyramid-shaped roof and modified so as to include a sentinel path. The choir balcony was also elevated and fortified so that it ended up rising 11 m above the level of the nave. Also, the entire complex was surrounded with defense walls fortified with buttresses, closing in a rectangular court of irregular shape. A two-level defense wall was erected in the north-eastern side of the court, just outside the fortification walls. In the past, there was also a similar tower in the south-western corner of the complex. More recently, the locals had built various storage facilities in the defensive walls, but today they have been dismantled.

 

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As far as the architectural style is concerned, the church remains mostly Gothic in its structure and decorations, though it does include certain Baroque elements too, added at a later date. Among them, it's worth mentioning the altar, dating from 1854, supported by 6 Corinthian pillars and a Baroque baldachin. This altar replaces the original one, a Gothic polyptych altar, fragments of which were recovered in 1975 and transported to Sibiu for restoration. The canopy of the pulpit and the baptistery are also decorated in Baroque style.