Medieval History in the Fortified Church of Biertan
One of the top cultural attractions in Transylvania, the fortified church of Biertan is the strongest of the 300 fortifications of this type built in the Saxon villages of Transylvania, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Originally built between 1493 and 1522, being the last hall-church in Romania, with fortifications walls added later in the 16th century, the fortified church of Biertan has impressive dimensions and still conserves three walls, seven towers, two bastions, three buildings, stairs and access routes.
The most important religious center of Saxons from Transylvania for almost three centuries, from 1572 to 1867, this church is today one of the best conserved from all the hundreds of fortified churches built after the Saxons settled this part of Transylvania starting with the 12th century. Biertan was in fact one of the first colonized areas in the region mentioned in the official document of the Hungarian court that granted land privileges for Saxons who in exchange were willing to settle here to defend the Transylvanian border.
The Saxon community initially built in Biertan a smaller wooden church, but after this first edifice burnt and faced with the increasing Ottoman threat, they decided to build a strong fortified church that would save their lives in case of danger. The solid defensive fortifications of the church are an excellent testimony of the troubled centuries faced by local Saxon communities who, using their military and architectural know-how, managed to create a monumental construction that stands until today.
Besides its architecture, the church has more unique features that make it a must-see destination. It has the largest altar in Transylvania, carved in wood with 28 painted panels illustrating various Biblical scenes, and a very special sacristy door. The attraction here is the innovative closing system from 1515 that simultaneously activates 19 locks when the door of the sacristy closes. Used to protect the most valuable goods of the church in case of need, the door was also presented at the World Fair from Paris in 1889. The fortified church of Biertan also has a rare rock pulpit dating from the 16th century and some of the most beautiful painted church chairs in the region, much of the furniture being the original one.
Not to mention that back in the day couples who were intending to separate were accommodated in a special marital room from the church until solving their issues. They had only one bed, one table, one plate and one spoon for two weeks, and apparently only one couple decided to go on with the divorce after being locked here.
The fortified church of Biertan is a wonderful example of this typical Saxon architecture so widespread in the villages surrounding Brasov, Sibiu and Sighisoara, and a destination you shouldn’t miss if you’re looking to see the most important fortified churches in Transylvania.
Where to stay
For a complete experience, spend the night in a traditional guest house managed by the Foundation Mihai Eminescu Trust. This way, you’ll contribute to the conservation of the cultural patrimony from the village.
Rent a bike to explore the surrounding villages using the available bike trails.
Take a 2 km walk to Copsa Mare where you can visit another splendid medieval fortified church.