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The history of the fortified churches in southern Transylvania began in the 13th century, when Saxon and Szekler colonists settled in the area to defend the borders of the province. Living under the permanent threat of the Turks and the Tartars, the frontier guards built strong defense walls around the cities or around the churches situated in the center of the villages. In times of war, the fortifications also served as shelter for the locals, while in times of peace they were storage spaces for goods and provisions. Once approximately 300, the churches played an important military role for five centuries, forming one of the most solid fortification systems in Europe. Still dominating the sceneries of their surroundings, they maintain the history of the lands they’ve defended throughout times alive. A journey around BraÅŸov is a lesson of culture, sprinkled with stories and superb sceneries.

Tara Barsei


One of the most beautiful settlements in Å¢ara Bârsei (the Burzenland) is Hărman commune. Its German name is Honigberg and in Latin it is called Mons Mellis, both meaning the Honey Mountain. It is said that a while back there were numerous bee gardens here and the locals produced a lot of honey, a valuable exchange currency in the Middle Ages. The history of Hărman is tightly connected to the Teutonic order, who received the settlement from King Bela IV. Being colonized in the area, they laid the foundation of the fortress, and the Saxons continued the construction after the knights were banished. Shortly after however, the fortification and the church were destroyed during the great Mongol invasion. After the episode, the Saxons resumed the works at the fortress, impressing a Burgundian Gothic style on it.

Considered austere and indestructible by the French, Hărman fortress was one of the most resistant medieval fortifications in Transylvania, never conquered, despite its 47 sieges. The legends of the place say that approximately four centuries ago, the fortress was sieged by the troops of Prince Bathory, but the efforts of his soldiers proved ineffective.

Knowing the enemies to be hungry, the inhabitants of the fortress threw them large breads which exploded as soon as they got into the hands of the Hungarians. Truth or legend, the invaders gave up on the siege and the inhabitants got rid of the Hungarian armies.

The fortified church at HÓ‘rman had refuge rooms and craftsmen’s workshops, similar to the ones in Prejmer and was defended by three rows of concentric walls, seven towers and a water ditch. In the former store rooms you will be able to admire traditional Saxon costumes, tools and decorative objects which recreate the traditional atmosphere. The inside of the halidom is truly imposing, as the walls are adorned with western and byzantine paintings. You will also see a very well preserved collection of oriental carpets. But the most precious element of the church is the 17th century organ, the second in size in Transylvania. The fortification at HÓ‘rman is a testimony of the Saxons’ troubled past, proving their bravery and perseverance. You will definitely be charmed by its simple and elegant beauty.







In the north of BraÅŸov there is a commune quite hard tried throughout its history. It is said that Sânpetru was founded by 'the group of the 100 Prejmer villagers' under the name of Mons Sanctis Petri, during the Teutonic rule. There was a funerary chapel here in the 13th century, later included in the precincts of the peasant fortress. After the Turkish invasions, the locals decided to strengthen the church, to have a refuge place in case of other sieges. The construction was added towers, bastions, rooms for living and provisions. However, the fortress was devastated by the repeated fires.

In the interior, the ensemble consists of a Roman chapel and the new church. The chapel is decorated with frescoes in gothic style and of Italian influence, made by the representatives of the Teutonic order. It is said that the inhabitants of the fortress and the Cistercian knights who contributed to the social and spiritual life of the settlement were buried here. The new church houses the Thais organ, which will soon delight the church goers with its tunes once again.

Near Sânpetru there is LempeÅŸ Hill, a natural botanical reservation made of forests of different essences, disposed according to their rocks and soil. In the east there is the durmast forest, the linden tree and the hornbeam prevail in the north; on the western slope we will find beech trees and rarely fir trees, while the south is occupied by the law protected species: the feather grass, the hair grass, the perennial herb Kobresia myosuroides. Also in the southern area, those who love paragliding can find a perfect spot to enjoy their passion. At Sânpetru, history combines with the beauty of nature so you can enjoy a pleasant and relaxing vacation.


Codlea - Vulcan

If you reach Sânpetru, don’t hesitate to continue your road to Codlea, where you will find a small church, surrounded by greenery and stately trees. The fortified ensemble is composed of walls with watch roads, the weavers’ and the coopers’ bastions and the provision rooms. The inside of the church exhales quietness and harmony. What stands out is the renaissance ceiling, the most spectacular element in the halidom, with 252 panels, representing the transformations of Luther’s rose. Codlea houses one of the most valuable musical instruments in Transylvania – the baroque organ purchased in 1709, exceptionally decorated, having 2,000 tubes and two wooden claviers. If you are lucky you’ll get to hear its tunes, for concerts are held in the church once in a while.

At the foot of the Bucegi, Vulcan maintains its legends alive. The various names of the village originate in the world of the fantastic. For example, the Saxon name 'Wolkendorf' means 'the village of the clouds', while the Hungarian name comes from the word 'wylk' (meaning wolf); it is also said that the ghost of the white rider was seen in the forest of the church and that it disappeared as soon as the bells rang.

The center of the community is represented by the fortified church, a miniature of the one in Cristian. Here too you will see the combination of the gothic and the Romanic, although the present style, rendered by the numerous restorations, is mostly baroque. In the interior there is an arch of triumph, reminding of the 13th century basilica, the choir and the paneled ceiling, a characteristic element for Saxon churches. In the yard of the fortress, the rooms from inside the walls are still used to deposit fruit and vegetables, a sign that Saxons still keep their ancient ways. The Burzenland hasn’t lost its charm, the places are full of history and tradition, and the fortresses patiently wait to be discovered by tourists from all over the world.







Near Vulcan, Cristian village preserves its Saxon atmosphere unaltered, standing out with its big houses and tall gates. In the center of the locality, as if emerging from ancient times, the imposing church-fortress rises, dating back to 1270. The fortification was built two centuries later, and consisted of a double defense wall, eight towers, a gate bastion and a water ditch, all currently well preserved. In the interior yard there were several wooden houses, used to shelter the inhabitants and their provisions.

Initially raised in the Romanic style, throughout time, the church has been added elements belonging to different styles. The western portal and some sculptures are gothic, with a Cistercian accent; the altar is built in the classical style, while the upgrading in the 19th century is representative for the Transylvanian neoclassical style. The halidom preserves an important candelabrum with 50 lamps, confectioned in the memory of the heroes fallen on the battlefield during World War I. The church impresses with its proportions and elegance, the organs, the stained glass in the choir, the balconies supported by massive columns, the sculpture behind the altar – they all exhale a state of balance and inner peace. Crossing the threshold of this halidom you will rediscover your inner joy.





Seven kilometers from BraÅŸov, on the course of the Ghimbav, there is a small town which stands out with its specific Saxon architecture, wide streets situated parallel with the water course. Thanks to its positioning on the shore of the GhimbÓ‘ÅŸel, the settlement was known by the name of 'Weidenbach', in translation – ‘the Village by the Willows'. The area had been inhabited ever since the Iron Age, and a Dacian settlement exited here.

The fortified church in Ghimbav dates back to the 14th century, being a typical evangelical construction, circular in shape and surrounded by a water ditch. In 1658, the great Turkish invasion destroyed the fortress and enslaved 900 of its inhabitants. Later on, the edifice was rebuilt to host the office of the city hall. After hundreds of years of protecting the community, the fortified church fell in ruins, remaining forgotten or solitary on the left shore of the GhimbÓ‘ÅŸel. If restored, the fortress could be included in the tourist circuit to receive its well deserved appraisal.


Memorable pages in the history of the Saxons, the fortified churches in BraÅŸov County have remained imposing in the scenery of the Transylvanian settlements. Taking us back to the time of the Teutonic knights and to the Middle Ages, these fortresses have lasted throughout times, patiently awaiting their tourists. Although some of them need restoration works in order to become the architectonic jewels they once were, they still create an atmosphere of peace and harmony where you can find your balance.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]