Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania

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Saxon and Székely Transylvanian villages were often organised around a fortified church. With its more than 150 well preserved fortified churches of a great variety of architectural styles (out of an original 300 foritifed churches), south-eastern Transylvania region in Romania currently has one of the highest numbers of existing fortified churches from the 13th to 16th centuries.[1]. A group of six Saxon and one Székely villages is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

Contents


The list

The seven villages listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

History

The Saxon villages of Transylvania appeared in the thirteenth century when the Kings of Hungary settled German colonists in the area. They had a special status among nations in the province and their civilisation managed to survive and thrive, forming a very strong community of farmers, artisans and merchants. Being situated in a region constantly under the threat of the Ottoman and Tatar invasions, they built fortifications of different sizes. The most important towns were fully fortified, and the smaller communities created fortifications centered around the church, where they added defensive towers and storehouses to keep their most valuable goods and to help them withstand long sieges.

Description

The topography in Southern Transylvania is that of a plateau, cut by wide valleys of various small rivers that flow into larger ones, namely the Olt River, Mureş River, Târnava Mare River and Târnava Mică River. The villages follow the topography closely and try to make the best of it; thus villages situated in a valley developed around a central street and possibly some secondary ones, while those situated on a flatter spot follow a looser, radial pattern. Due to security reasons and the traditions of the Saxon inhabitants, the villages are compact.

The main element is the church, always situated in the middle of the town. Different types of fortifications can be found: a small enceinte around the church, a row of fortifications around the church or a real fortress with multiple fortification walls centered on the church. The churches have been adapted to include defensive functions; all of them are either Romanesque basilicas or single-nave churches of the late Gothic period. The churches often include many additions, ranging in age from the original period in which the churches were built Late Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. Many churches also include baroque elements from that period, as the baroque style was very popular in the region.

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