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 itinerary of medieval Transylvania.
Located only a few kilometers from Brasov, the fortified church of Prejmer had from the beginning a challenging mission. The most eastern village founded by the Saxon from Transylvania, 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.
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 Order influenced its architecture 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.
Like many other fortified churches from Transylvania, the monument from Prejmer was fortified in several stages. 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 was 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.
This monument deserves at least one visit if you’re traveling through Transylvania and want to know more about its history. This fortified church is perhaps the best example of how the German colonists originally combined religious and defensive architecture in a monumental edifice that saved their lives.
Don’t miss visiting the nearby fortified church of Harman.