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The Saschiz Fortified Church

 

While many, if not most of the medieval Saxon settlements established in Transylvania were centered around a fortified church, the village of Saschiz is a bit of an exception in the fact that its stronghold was erected on a forest covered hill located some 2 km from the center of the village. It is a very old structure indeed, given the inscription discovered on the north-western defensive wall, which indicates 1347 as the year when works started. However, the church itself was erected between 1493 and 1496 by the Saxon colonists who had settled there.


Located in the village of Saschiz, Mureş County, this fortified complex is one of such exquisite architectural mastery that it would be easy to forget its defensive purposes. Today, in times of peace, it stands out mostly as a monument of remarkable artistic and historical beauty. In recognition of that, the Evangelical fortified church of Saschiz was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Furthermore, prince Charles of the British Royal Family has made it the object of both frequent visits and consistent efforts to restore and preserve it.

The Saschiz Fortified Church (copyright: creative commons)

 

About

An impenetrable shelter
Built towards the end of the XV century to protect and shelter the people of Saschiz and six other localities who had contributed towards its construction, this fortified Saxon church, dedicated to Saint Stefan, is a very harmonious mix of religious architecture and defensive structures, including four defense towers, two gate towers, and, naturally, the surrounding wall, measuring up to nine meters in height.

A model of practical organization  
The court of the church served as a miniature size city and was perfectly organized, as indicated by the fact that each of the towers had a name, suggesting the specific activity it hosted. Thus, there was a School Tower, an Ammunition Tower, a Royal Tower, a Priest’s Tower, the Gate Tower and the Defense Tower. The court also included a small chapel, the ruins of which are still visible today, and a fountain that, according to legend, was used to communicate with the village.

The Evangelical church was erected in late Gothic style, using mostly stone, and centered around a very wide and very long hall, with three portals and two small brick towers located on its western façade, which allowed access inside. The interior of the church gives a general impression of elegant simplicity bordering on austerity, which is specific to the Calvinist faith. This place of worship is also home to one of the most glorious golden chalices ever to have been made by the goldsmiths of Transylvania, including among its decorations the portraits of three Hungarian kings.

 

Must see

The massive defense tower, erected some 10 m from the sacristy, has several levels equipped with firing mouths. The bottom levels were made of stone, whereas for the top ones, added at a later date, the constructors used bricks. After the building of the clock tower of Sighişoara, in 1677, this defense tower was converted into a belfry, but was almost completely destroyed, shortly after, by a violent fire. Its current aspect is the result of ample restoration works carried out in 1832, after a second huge fire. The window of its top level contains a wooden figure called Bogdan, who sounded the quarter hours.