The Cistercian Abbey of Carta: Bringing Gothic Style to Transylvania

Diana Condrea
Diana Condrea
Diana is a tourism consultant, tour guide, travel writer and amateur photographer. You can find Diana on LinkedIn

Carta  Monastery is part of our Medieval Transylvania Tour

The Cistercian Abbey of Carta is one of the oldest Gothic sites from Romania and the most Eastern monument the Cistercians built in Europe. Also known as Carta Monastery, the ruins are today among the unique historical attractions of Transylvania.

Located 43 km outside Sibiu, close to the famous Transfagarasan Road, this landmark is a must if you enjoy old history and architecture.

cistercian abbey of carta

The ruins of Carta Monastery as seen from the gate tower

The powerful Cistercian Abbey of Carta

Despite its short presence in the history of Transylvania, the Cistercian order, founded in 1098 in Citeaux, had a major impact on the Gothic architecture of the region. Their main site, Carta Monastery, became a relevant architectural model for other religious monuments from Southern Transylvania. The list includes the fortified churches of Prejmer, Harman, Bartolomeu, and Cristian. 

Owning numerous villages, the Cistercians became a powerful actor, often in conflict with the local guilds that controlled the commerce of Transylvania. This competition ultimately determined King Matthias Corvinus to close the abbey in 1474. Yet, the official explanation followed a different line. The monks had allegedly replaced austerity for a decadent lifestyle that determined the king to take away their privileges. Either way, the monks had to leave and all the order’s properties were confiscated, including the Cistercian Abbey of Carta.

Carta Monastery

The war cemetery from the nave

A war cemetery instead of the nave

The only surviving testimony of the Cistericans’ past presence is the historical site from Carta. Built and restored in the 13th century, almost destroyed by the Mongol invasion from 1241, Carta Monastery survived even if only in ruins. The largest part still standing is the choir, transformed today into an evangelical church. The empty space of the nave became a war cemetery and a lapidarium while the gate tower offers an excellent view of the entire monument.

cistercian abbey of carta

Ruins of Carta Monastery

A perfect stop on your road trip from Brasov to Sibiu, the Cistercians ruins are another mark of multicultural Transylvania. Above all, it’s the rare legacy of this austere religious order in Eastern Europe.

Where to stay

Sibiu is the closest city to the Cistercian Abbey of Carta. Don’t forget to book your accommodation in time. If you’re looking for a guest house in the Old Town, we recommend Rosen Villa Sibiu, Maison Elysee, Cetatea Medievala, or Casa Timpuri Vechi. If you prefer to rent an apartment, try Casa Hermani, Apartament Piata Mica, Hermannstadt House, or Central Parc Studios.

Travel tips

You can visit the monument every day until 6 pm.

Taste the apple juice and the local homemade sweets sold at the ticket office.

On your way to Brasov, visit the fortress from Fagaras and the 12th-century church from Halmeag.

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