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RUPEA - VISCRI

Situated at the heart of Transylvania, between valleys and smooth hills, creating a special, picturesque setting, Rupea is one of the few towns which have kept its authentic beauty. The traditional Saxon architecture, characterized by spacious houses, very high gates and richly decorated windows, enhances this area with the coziness and harmony specific to the Transylvanian region. You will experience the sensation of feeling frozen in time, because at Rupea and in its surroundings the signs of modernity are few. On the alleyways of the villages, simple and welcoming people will open their doors to you, sharing stories they once heard from their forefathers.

Rupea has remained an important Saxon cultural center, keeping the history and the traditions in this area unaltered; its patrimony consists of citadels, fortified ensembles, churches, memorial houses and archeological sites. By visiting the surroundings you will also discover ancient customs preserved by the locals up to the present day. We invite you to relax and enjoy the quietness of the delightful natural sceneries.

Rupea Fortress

 

Rupea Fortress

The Fortress and the Fortified Church in Rupea

In the north-west of the town, on a massive whinstone rock, Rupea Fortress stands tall and imposing, defying the horizon. Originally a Dacian fortification, it became a Roman castrum called Rupes (from the Latin ‘stone’). Due to its strategic position, close to the road tying Transylvania to Moldavia and Wallachia, it had the role of controlling the commercial activity in the area. Although the firsts signs of inhabitance in Rupea date back to the Paleolithic, the fortress is mentioned in documents in 1324, a year when the Saxons rebelled against the Hungarian King Carol Robert de Anjou.

Along the centuries, the fortification served as a refuge during the numerous Turkish sieges; however, throughout its history, it was never conquered or pillaged, being partially destroyed by a storm and then abandoned by the locals in 1790. In the 14th century, on the ruins of the former castrum, the Saxons built a peasant fortress in the shape of an ascending spiral. The fortification system was divided into three sectors still visible today, raised in different epochs and having their own particularities. The first precinct is the Upper Fortress dating back to the pre-feudal period (10-13th centuries). Here you will notice a 59 meter deep fountain, still functional, the Gunpowder Tower – serving as entrance in the precinct and the Bacon Tower, an Old Saxon legacy. Villagers used to keep the bacon and the sausages in a safe place to be used as provisions in case of attack. In the Middle Fortress, built two centuries later, one can see the Bars Tower, the chapel and the main gate. The Lower Fortress is the most recent, comprising the guard’s house and the military storage room.

The road up to Rupea fortification is toilsome, but the effort is rewarded with a wonderful view over the Hartibaciu Plateau. Thanks to its exceptional restoration, the fortress offers an image of the historical events which affected the surrounding lands. You can easily imagine the stories of all the rooms you will see inside the fortification. The elders of the place, simple villagers, have believed for a long time that such stone monuments were raised by giants of unknown origin, extremely endowed and powerful. The legends haven’t stopped, so fantastic scenarios are still passionately exposed to curious tourists at Rupea.

In the central square of the town there is the fortified Evangelical Church, raised at the beginning of the 14th century. The halidom is shaped as a hall, presenting gothic and baroque elements, along with medieval paintings. Among the old ‘dowry’ of the church we can name a gravestone dated 1631, a collection of 17 oriental carpets from eastern and central Europe and the swallow’s nest organ, transferred to the Black Church in Brasov.

Rupea Fortress

 

Rupea Fortress

 

Rupea Fortress

Viscri – CriÅ£ – BuneÅŸti

Up to Viscri, the road runs smoothly along the wooded hills, here and there revealing a stately house, seemingly frozen in time. In this village so loved by Prince Charles of Great Britain nothing seems to have been touched by modernity; people love the peace and quietness of their lives and intend to preserve them. In Viscri you really have the opportunity to visit smitheries, shingle fabrication workshops, or you can see bread being baked in a traditional oven.

In the village there is one of the most picturesque peasant and Saxon citadels, housing within its walls the oldest fortified church in Transylvania, part of the UNESCO patrimony. The Saxon colonizers who had come here at the end of the 12th century found a Romanic limestone chapel, of a white-greenish color. This construction gave the name of the village (‘Alba Ecclesia’ – ‘Weisskirch’ in the Saxon dialect, meaning – White Church). The Viscri ensemble also comprises a nave-type church and the defense walls. The halidom is extremely simple, with wooden benches and naïve paintings, similar to the interior of a peasants’ house.  The church houses a genuine ethnographic museum; in the small rooms you will be able to admire several tools used in the household, traditional costumes, beehives. By climbing the narrow stairs, you get to the tower of the church, a place offering an ample perspective over the entire village, an idyllic scenery you will fall in love with on the spot.

At CriÅ£, a cross on a hill gave the name of the village (Kreuz). It was in the same place that the Saxons raised a church in the 15th century, and the community was formed around it. The initial precinct was defended by five towers with shooting windows which were demolished in 1810, when a new church and village school were built. The halidom has the shape of a capacious and elegant room, with a Bohemian dome and a classic altar, with the organ and the 19th century pulpit. As you pass the threshold of this church, you will feel the emotion of getting closer to God, and you will also experience a lesson of Transylvanian history and tradition.

In BuneÅŸti, although the walls of the church are in an advanced state of degradation, the interior is well preserved. The gothic halidom benefited from an entire defense arsenal, made of buttresses, towers, ramparts, crenels and watch routes. The only elements cheering the atmosphere up are the light green decorations on the walls and the painted wooden galleries. The much cherished spirituality in the rural area and the simplicity of the villager are elements which can be found in these sober edifices, where each regains his/her peace of mind.

Viscri

 

Viscri

 

Viscri

FiÅŸer – RoadeÅŸ

Neighboring BuneÅŸti, on a hill in the north, the church in FiÅŸer, decorated with superb renaissance paintings, tells its story. Here, you can visit the meadow with 76 secular oaks, considered monuments of nature. At RoadeÅŸ however, you will notice how all the locals turn their heads towards the abrupt hill of the village when they want to predict the weather. On one of the towers of the evangelical church there is a tin rooster, pointing to the direction in which the wind blows and showing whether the rain comes or goes towards the forest. Many generations used this technique, as the halidom dates back to the 15th century. You will easily recognize the typical double fortified wall and the five defense towers. In the interior however, there is a valuable altar of renaissance and gothic influence, which tempted even the wrongdoers; the altar, together with two sculptures of saints and a series of paintings were once stolen, but later recuperated: they had to return to fulfill their holly purpose.

Jibert – TicuÅŸu Vechi

Jibert commune houses a great number of churches-monuments which evoke the history of the Saxons. Don’t hesitate to stop in the fortified church in Dacia, which harmoniously combines the renaissance style with the classic or neo gothic ones, or in the evangelical halidom in Jibert, whose quietness provides time for introspection. Once, the road connecting Fagaras to Rupea went through TicuÅŸu Vechi, a village masked by hills and forests; its trace is still visible. In the center of the commune you will see a fortified gothic church with an altar of rococo influence and a baroque pulpit. Furthermore, in Cobor, at the end of an alleyway elbowing through the village you can see the old, gothic hall-church, more than six centuries old. Once guarded by four stately towers and a watch route, the halidom still preserves the painted rostra from 1846. These churches reflect the simplicity of the village, which is the depositary of traditions and of the priceless connection with divinity.

On your journey to discover Rupea’s riches, be sure to pass through Ungra to visit the Romanic church raised in the 13th century. In its walls, the stones and the decorative lion heads from the old fortification were integrated, relics reminding of the history of these places.

Bunesti

 

Viscri

The entire Rupea area, up to Valeni, CriÅ£ and RoadeÅŸ is dominated by smooth crests on which the fortified churches are spread, genuine oases of spirituality. Bridges across time, they represent the depositary of Saxon traditions, an occasion of introspection and of consolidating the relationship with God. In order to better know the rural world around Rupea, we invite you to visit the ethnographic museum, a suggestive synthesis of this region’s specificity, illustrating the life of the Romanians, Saxons and Magyars who all lived together here in the past. On the Ball of the Traditional Costume (in February) or on The Fortresses’ Festival (in September) you will be able to enjoy the Transylvanian customs and watch the locals wear traditional clothing and relive the atmosphere of the round dance.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]