The Fortified Church from Cisnadioara: Over 800 Years of History
The fortified church from Cisnadioara, Michaelsberg in German, is one of the oldest monuments around Sibiu, one of the seven citadels founded by the Saxons of Transylvania centuries ago. It’s also a rare and wonderful example of Romanesque architecture, including a splendid western portal, that survived more than 800 years without major changes. Even if only for this reason, visiting the fortified church of Cisnadioara should be on top of your list of attractions to see around Sibiu.
Over 800 years of history
Dedicated to Saint Michael, this three naves basilica was built in the late 12th century on the highest hill of the village, but was mentioned for the first time in writing in 1223 when it was given to the Monastery of Carta, controlled by the powerful Cistercian order. The church of Cisnadioara remained in the possession of the Cistercian monks until the late 15th century, passing afterwards in the property of the Evangelical Church from Sibiu. For hundreds of year it served, like all the other fortified churches of Transylvania, as a vital space for the protection of villagers in case of enemy attacks which took place frequently until the 18th century.
Its enclosing walls, now in ruins, were up to seven meters tall, and had access doors, a wall-walk and spaces through which large rocks were thrown down the hill in case of siege. It was the duty of every man of the village to roll a big rock uphill before he got married, an original way to supply constantly the fortified church from Cisnadioara with fighting material.
While it stopped protecting a long time ago the locals, together with the 18th century downhill Evangelical Church, the basilica is today the central part of their Saxon heritage. Better conserved than many of the fortified churches of Transylvania, a visit to this Romanesque basilica easily completes a tour of medieval Sibiu and its surroundings.
Visit also the Evangelical Church and the Ethnographic Museum.
Save at least half a day for a visit at the open-air Village Museum close to Sibiu.
Try local dishes like apple soup, onion soup or the mouth-watering Saxon dessert ‘hencles’.