UNESCO Villages with Fortified Churches
The Fortified Villages of Transylvania can be visited in the following tours:
You can book now with the guides your Romanian Friend recommends - see how it works
Transylvanian villages with fortified churches are mainly characterized by a specific land-use system, a specific landscaping and organization of farms, which are being preserved since the Middle Ages. As the fortified churches are central to each village, it illustrates building trends from the XIII to the XVI century. They are specific for Saxon (Germanic ethnic group) and Szekler (Hungarian ethnic group) villages located in the south-east Transylvania. Once counting 300, fortified churches have played a both a religious and a military function for over five centuries and they form one of the most well preserved and dense medieval fortification systems in Europe.
As both ethnic groups were situated in an area constantly threatened by Turkish invasions, both communities have build fortresses of various sizes. In smaller cities, villages or markets, fortresses were build in churches - to be precise, churches were build as fortresses. In some cases, the churches were complemented by defense walls and towers, as well as other interior buildings to serve as safe harbour for the village inhabitants during invasions, during peace time, to serve as deposits for food and other goods. The materials used for building are traditionally stones and red bricks, and the tiles for the roof are painted with red clay, which is specific for the area.
The following are the remaining villages with fortified churches:
- Calnic fortified church
Location: Calnic village, Alba county, 125 km from Cluj-Napoca
Nearest airport: Cluj-Napoca
- Prejemer fortified church
Location: Prejmer village, Brasov county, 17km from Brasov
Nearest airport: Brasov, Bucharest
Location: Viscri village, Brasov county, 90 km from Brasov
Nearest airport: Bucharest, Brasov
Romanian Friend tip: during your visit there, you might have an unexpected encounter with Prince Charles of Great Britain, who owns a house there and is enjoying frequent trips to the beautiful village of Viscri.
- Darju fortified church
Location: Darju village, Harghita county, 133 km from Sibiu
Nearest airport: Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca
- Saschiz fortified church
Location: Saschiz village, Mures county, 117 km from Sibiu
Nearest airport: Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, Targu-Mures
- Biertan fortified church
Location: Biertan village, Sibiu county, 67 km from Sibiu
Nearest airport: Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca
If you choose to visit the villages on your own, you should know that these are small communities (2-3.000 people). Unless you phone people in advance, there are high chances you won't find a place to have dinner. There a couple of small shops selling food products (magazinul satului) but don't expect too much.
Also, if you want to visit the churches, when arriving at their entrance there are high chances it will be locked. That is because locals keep the key and open the church only when visitor come. Usually, the opening hours and the keyholder's number can be found on the door.
We recommend hiring one of the local guides we know to take you to see the churches and the villages, because a lot of local knowledge is required to see these attractions and learn something about their history (don't expect too much English too!).
Besides these historic attractions, the villages are picturesque, quiet and representative of Transylvania rural life. It's why we included them on our list of must see sights in Transylvania - read the full list!
Romanian Friend tip: The UNESCO Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania are not the only cultural treasures Romania has to offer and the painted churches of Bukovina and the wooden churches of Maramures might also interest you for their outstanding cultural significance.
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