Jan 21, 2016

Transylvanian Built Heritage

Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania

There are over 200 fortified churches in the 'Saxon' area of Transylvania. German and Flemish speakers from the Rhine and Moselle regions were invited to the area in the 12th century to protect the borders of Christendom from invaders from the east. 

Transylvania Saxon Villages
The Saxons have been managing their cities, villages and landscape for nearly 1000 years, and still speak the original dialects in their villages. Truly a cultural treasure.

These villages are all built following a strict plan that can be traced back to 12th century Moselle region. Our thanks to renowned landscape architect Kim Wilkie for this image.

Viscri village
Nine Transilvanian villages with fortified churches were designated in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One of the best known of these villages in Viscri, Deutschweisskirch, built around 1100. 

The road to Viscri

Viscri in its surrounding landscape.

Viscri street scene.

The streets are not asphalted, and the pace of life is wonderfully gentle.

Ladies in Viscri: there is great strength in the community, with daily contact between all the houses.

Viscri street scene

Cattle coming home for evening milking in Viscri

The cows are grazed in a village herd, but returning in the evening, each cow knows its own home and waits by the gate.

 The White Church of Viscri (Alba Ecclesia)
The fortified church dates from 1100 when the Székelys (Hungarian tribe) built a small church. In 1185 the church was taken over by Saxon colonists, and the Székelys were forced to settle further north. The font was made from a capital of the 13th-century church. The church is surrounded by a cemetery with gravestones dating back to the "Bijelo Brdo culture".

Around 1185 the church was taken over by Saxon colonists. In the 14th century the eastern part of the church was rebuilt and in 1525, the first fortifications with towers were added. In the 18th century the church was surrounded by a second defense wall. A century later, two chambers in the defense corridor of the bastion were turned into school rooms.

Viscri church in its landscape

Viscri church from the surrounding fields.

Viscri church at Christmas

Viscri church looking back from the altar

The 16-18th century painted wooden panels of the church are untouched since they were first created.

Flowers are a common subject for these naive decorations, reflecting the species found in the wildflower-rich fields near the churches.

Many of the paintings are dated ....

... this wooden bench is dated 1794, and after 222 years is still used by the villagers during Sunday services.

The classic 19th-century altarpiece has as centrepiece "the Blessing of the Children" by the painter J. Paukratz from Rupea.

A view of Viscri village from the church tower.

The village of Crit
The village of Crit was the site of one of the earliest recorded compulsory, community-paid education systems in Europe, in the 15th century.
Cloasterf is a charming small village with a beautiful chapel: it was called Closdorf (cloister village) in German; its chapel was linked to the 13th century Cistercian monastery of Carta, one of the earliest Catholic monasteries established in Transylvania.
Mesendorf village
Mesendorf is a well-preserved village near Viscri, situated in a spectacular isolated valley.

The original 15th century church was demolished and replaced by a more modern church in the 18th century. Like nearby Cloasterf church, it came under the authority of the Cistercian monastery of Carta

Biertan village
Biertan is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site villages of Transylvania
Apold is another of the UNESCO-listed villages, with an important church recently restored
Another of the UNESCO-listed villages, Saschiz is also the base of Fundatia ADEPT Transylvania, which works to protect the landscape and communities of the area

Saschiz is dominated by an impressive 15th century fortress.

Mountain-biking near Saschiz

Also near Viscri, Roades church and landscape setting are spectacular. The important 16th century altarpiece of Roades was stolen in 1990, recovered in Hungary months later, and is now housed in a secure museum in Sibiu.
Malancrav village
The village of Malancrav is very isolated. Unlike most villages, Malancrav was owned by a Hungarian family, Apafy, who retained a catholic church in the village with frescoes15th century frescoes still intact. Most of the original Saxon population has remained after the great exodus of Saxons back to Germany in 1990, and so many of the community traditions continue today.

Many houses have no running water, and rely on public wells.

The stream running through Malancrav is especially wide .....

.... in the days of carts with wooden wheels, on hot summer days the farmers would ride their carts into the steam to cool the metal hoops and keep them tight to the wooden wheels.

The streams are perfect habitat for ducks and geese: most villages keep them for meat and eggs.

Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania & KAMA SYSTEM srl.
Credits: Story

Thank you to Bob Gibbons again for his wonderful photographs.

Credits: All media
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