Prejmer Fortified Church: For Centuries in the First Line of Enemy Attacks
Prejmer Fortified Church was conquered only once, but went through 50 sieges during its hundreds of years of existence. A remarkable success for this historical monument now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a must-see of any itineraries through medieval Transylvania.
Located only a few kilometers from Brasov, one of the seven citadels founded by the Saxon colonists starting with the 12th century, the fortified church of Prejmer had from the beginning a challenging mission. The most eastern Saxon village from Transylvania, close to Buzau Pass, Prejmer was often in the front line of enemy attacks which could only mean that the fortified church had to endure more sieges than most similar constructions from the region.
A task for which Prejmer Fortified Church was strengthened for centuries, starting with its founders, the mythical Teutonic Knights.
From Teutonic Knights to Saxon colonists
The fortified church was first mentioned in a written document in 1240 when the Hungarian King donated it to the Cistercians, a powerful religious order based in Carta, close to Sibiu. But most likely, the construction of the monument started a few decades before during the short rule of the Teutonic Knights in Transylvania.
Its time as a possession of the Cistercian Abbey from Carta left visible features on the architecture of the church that became predominantly Gothic, using elements like round windows, sexpartite vaults, side chapels for the choir and apses supported by buttresses. After the Cistercians lost their privileges and were chased away, the fortified church remained in the possession of the local Saxon community that strengthened and used it in the troubled 15th and 16th centuries when the Turks and the Tatars constantly attacked Transylvania.
Fortification and survival
Like many other fortified churches from Transylvania, the monument from Prejmer was fortified in several stages, directly influenced by the geopolitics of the region. If in the 13th century, the enclosing walls were 3 meters thick, one century later the walls were heightened to 12 meters and were almost 5 meters thick, provided with a wall-walk, loopholes and machicolations used by the guards in case of sieges. Four defense towers were built outside the walls and access inside was made even more difficult by the moat that surrounded the fortification, the strong entrance gate and the 32 meters long passage with portcullis.
Another defining element of the fortified church from Prejmer is its systems of provision — one of the most advanced in Transylvania — and housing distribution for villagers. Almost 300 rooms connected through wooden staircases were built on the inner side of the walls, where locals lived and stored their supplies during longer attacks. You can walk along the wooden corridors and explore the rooms, but don’t miss out on visiting the church. You’ll see one of the most valuable and oldest Gothic altars in Romania, dating from the mid-15th century, and Renaissance choir stalls from the 16th century.
The strongest fortified church from Romania and this part of Europe deserves at least one visit if you’re traveling through Transylvania and want to know more about its history. Prejmer Fortified Church is perhaps the best example of how the Saxons originally combined religious and defensive architecture in a monumental edifice that was to save their lives and souls.
The monument is closed for visits on Sundays.
In Prejmer you can also see the Eutrophic Forest and Swamp Reserve with rare flora, including relic glacial species.
Don’t miss visiting the nearby fortified church of Harman.