The Cistercian Abbey of Carta: Bringing Gothic Style to Transylvania
One of the oldest and most beautiful Gothic monuments from Romania, the Cistercian Abbey of Carta represents the peak of this medieval religious order European expansion. Its construction had from the beginning a major impact on the architecture of the region, the Cistercians being, in fact, the promoters of the Gothic style in Transylvania
Located just 43 km outside Sibiu, on the national road to Brasov, the abbey of Carta is the most Eastern built Cistercian monument in Europe, a solid proof of the power and influential role of this French-based religious order founded in 1098 in Citeaux, Burgundy.
The Abbey was built and restored in several phases throughout the 13th century, being destroyed in great part by the Mongol invasion from 1241. It was reconstructed in the following decades, and its Gothic style was a source of inspiration for other religious monuments from Southern Transylvania, including the Evangelical churches of Prejmer, Harman, Bartolomeu and Cristian.
Owning numerous villages, the Cistercian Abbey of Carta became a rich and powerful actor in the coming centuries, often in conflict with the Saxon guilds that controlled the commerce of Transylvania. This competition ultimately determined King Matthias Corvinus in 1474 to close the abbey and chase away the monks, expropriating all its properties. However, the official explanation was a different one. Allegedly the monks had replaced the Cistercians’ austerity for a more decadent lifestyle that eventually determined the king to take away their privileges.
The old Cistercian Abbey of Carta managed to survive the centuries even if only partially, the largest part still standing being the choir, restored and transformed today into an evangelical church. The empty space of the nave is used as a war cemetery and lapidarium while a circular staircase takes you up to the gate tower for a panoramic observation point above the ruins of the monastery.
A perfect stop on your road trip from Brasov to Sibiu, the ruins of the Cistercian site from Carta are yet another proof of the multicultural heritage of Transylvania. Above all, it’s a rare legacy of this austere religious order in this part of the continent, making it, even more, a must-see during your time in Romania.
You can visit the monument every day until 6 pm. Try the parish house from the inner court if the main entrance is closed.
Taste the apple juice and the local home-made sweets from the small restaurant inside the ticket office.
On your way to Brasov, stop to visit the fortress from Fagaras and the 12th-century church from Halmeag.