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The Fortified Church
of Valea Viilor

 

All of the Saxon fortified churches of Transylvania are impressive in terms of size and complexity of their defensive structures, but the one of Valea Viilor is also remarkable in its history, which starts as early as the XII century, at least as far as the construction of the current church is concerned. For those willing to also take into account the previously existing Roman basilica, its spiritual history is even older, its beginnings shrouded in mystery.

The Evangelical church of Valea Viilor, located in Sibiu County, is one of the seven fortified places of worship to have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its value and in an attempt to encourage efforts to preserve it. It is also one of the very few actual stronghold churches of Transylvania, one that scholars describe as being of monumental complexity, all the more reason to visit it respectfully, keeping in mind it is the product of hundreds of years of work and the combined skillfulness of great masters.

The Fortified Church of Valea Viilor (copyright: creative commons)

The Fortified Church of Valea Viilor (copyright: creative commons)

 

About

The permanence of spirituality
The site of the current Evangelical church was previously home to a small Roman basilica, the ruins of which were discovered under the floor of the sacristy. The first official record of the Saxon church goes back to 1414. During the XV and XVI centuries, the church was enlarged and fortified, with most works being completed by 1520. The main entry, on the western façade, was walled in, and another two openings were made and covered with metal grids. In 1738 an earthquake caused serious damage, the repairs for which were completed only four years later. The church was further subjected to renovations in 1781 and 1826.

Curves all around
If there is one thing specific to the composition of this complex, it is the abundance of round shapes, encountered as follows: the ceilings of the nave and of the choir, shaped as ribbed vaults; the two small round towers near the northern and southern entrances, equipped with spiral stairways; a third round tower near the south-western bulwark, which ensures access to the steeple; and the oval-shaped surrounding wall.

The church is Gothic in architectural composition and decorating style. Its nave has a vaulted ceiling decorated with an intricate pattern of ribs and supported by seven pairs of columns. Initially it was a hall church with a westward oriented tower, an elongated choir and polygonal apse. The most complex defensive structures were added on top of the choir and the apse: their walls were embedded in the massive tower, which was built to have three defense levels made of bricks and a fourth open defense level made of archways and buttresses. The pyramid-shaped roof is interrupted by the fifth defense level.

 

Must see

The church of Valea Viilor exudes history in every stone, constituting a genuine museum of religious and architectural art. Among the most impressive and ancient exhibits, it’s worth mentioning the following: the eastern defense tower, dating from 1501; a tabernacle niche on the northern wall, dating from 1504 and painted with a representation of Christ the Man of Sorrows; the 1528 wooden pews; the 1746 baldachin on top of the pulpit; the 1779 altar decorated with sculptures made by the great Johann Folbarth of Sighişoara; and the church organ, dating from 1807.