Click one of the icons below to discover more information!



CisnadioaraHighly influenced by the cohabitation of the Romanians, the Magyars and the Germans, Transylvania holds a special place in the Romanian spiritual landscape. Starting with the 13th century, when the Saxon and Szekler colonizers settled here, the Olt Land (also called FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸului Land) has played an important political, military and economic role. Permanently threatened by the Turkish and Tartar invasions, the communities have raised impressive defense walls around the churches. Representing the nucleus around which the activities of the community were organized, the church was usually surrounded by living spaces and storage rooms for provisions. It also had a defense road, ditches and defense towers, shooting windows, so it was built like a proper fortification.

The consolidated and fortified churches at the foot of the FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ Mountains evoke the history and the culture of the Transylvanian Saxons.  They represent both various defense tactics as well as architectural influences representative of Western Europe. Each settlement offers a unique image, distinguishing itself through the interior and exterior decorations and religious items.  The stone fortresses in FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸului Land harmoniously combine Romanic and gothic elements, being depositaries of the Saxon spirituality. Full of legends and traditions passed on from ancient times, the fortified churches win you over with their greatness, but also with their simplicity.

The Fortified Church at Cristian

Dealul FrumosThroughout time, the villagers in Cristian village were confronted with numerous sieges and fires started by the Turks, but also with epidemics which drastically reduced the population. It was only the fortified church, built on the foundation of a former Roman basilica, which sheltered the people in perilous times. At the mid 15th century, the settlement was transformed according to the architectural tendencies of the time. At Cristian you can admire a gothic style church, with wooden galleries on which traditional Saxon paintings have been preserved. The baroque altar and the high columns decorated with frescoes are impressive.

The strategic needs haven’t been neglected either; the edifice was surrounded by a stone wall with five towers, one of them storing the provisions of the community. You can climb in the belfry from where the view opens over the wonderful Cristian village. The fortified church, one of the biggest in Sibiu County, still looks like an impenetrable fortress. Monumental and solemn, it dominates the surroundings, continuing the history of the Saxons in Transylvania.

Nearby, you can visit the Roman churches in Sura Mare and Miercurea Sibiului, simple halidoms surrounded by greenery and quietness. Passing their thresholds, you will regain spiritual harmony and you will learn the stories which created the identity of the place.

The Fortified Churches at CisnÓ‘die and Hosman

CisnadieAt the center of CisnÓ‘die town, there is a church raised by the Saxons in the 12th and 13th centuries, fortified with towers, bastions and water ditches. At that time, the community mainly consisted of drapers and farm tools manufacturers, and CisnÓ‘die was an important center of cloth processing. The Roman basilica with three naves was later modified in gothic style. In the interior, architectural styles blend in a unique way; you can admire the Roman arches, the portal’s rococo elements, the organ in the Art Nouveau style and the altar adorned with frescoes.

The CisnÓ‘die Church was devastated numerous times by the fires caused by lightnings. Legends say that at the end of the 18th century, after coming back from Vienna, the priest of the community told the villagers they had to put up a lightning rod. The people were reticent at first, doubting the efficiency of this invention. In the same year (1795), the halidom burned down twice, and therefore the first lightning rod in Eastern Europe was set up in the oldest clock-tower in Romania.

AgnitaAt CisnÓ‘dioara, on top of a hill, one of Transylvania’s emblematic Roman monuments is preserved. Simple, austere, with small windows, it hasn’t suffered modifications throughout time, remaining a testimony of the Middle Ages. North-West of CisnÓ‘dioara there is the church in Hosman, whose portal was crafted by Viennese masters. The entrance in the halidom is remarkable, imitating the model of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. The capitals are decorated with symbols of sins and redemption. For instance, you will see a man praying, a devil luring a young man, saints riding lions. The interior frescoes also remind of the eternal conflict between good and evil.

The Fortified Churches in Agnita, Dealu Frumos and Merghindeal

Dealul FrumosThroughout time Agnita has been the center of commercial exchanges on Hârtibaciului Valley. Being a famous artisans’ community and having a solid fortification, it received the royal privilege of organizing an annual fair and of hosting the headquarters of the law court. Situated at Transylvania’s border, the city was under the permanent threat of Turkish attacks, and so, in the 15th century, the church was surrounded with walls and defense towers. In between them, there were dwelling spaces, yards for animals and storage rooms for provisions. The interior of the church combines gothic, renaissance and baroque elements. At the exterior, the towers of the guilds have been preserved – The Tailors’ Tower, The Shoemakers’ Tower, The Carpenters’ Tower, but also The Bacon Tower used to store food in Transylvania.

Very close to Agnita, at Dealu Frumos and Merghindeal, there are two similar churches, surrounded by massive white walls. The Roman basilicas dating back to the 13th century were turned into gothic style halidoms, with impressive columns and a belfry isolated from the church. At Dealu Frumos there is a museum where you can admire tools and traditional Saxon costumes, old documents and photographs illustrating village life. You will also see the organs which have enchanted churchgoers throughout time.

The Fortified Churches at Cincu and Rodbav

MerghindealBetween the Olt and the Hârtibaciu Rivers, there lies Cincu commune, a Saxon dwelling place with a privileged position in the Sibiu area. The first Latin school in Transylvania was founded here in 1789. There are four churches in the village, but the one standing out is the fortified church, situated on a very abrupt hill in the center of the village. A true gem of the Transylvanian medieval architecture, it reunites baroque, renaissance and gothic elements. The altar, with paintings symbolizing the doubt of Thomas the Apostle and the adoration of the Magi, is the most valuable piece inside. The halidom also preserves an oriental carpet collection from the 17th and the 18th centuries, epitaphs and fragments of frescoes. During the reign of Matthias Corvinus, the church was fortified with two sets of walls and five defense towers, out of which only one is presently visible. On sunny days, from its peak you can see the crests of the FÓ‘gÓ‘raÅŸ.

Not far from Cincu, at Rodbav, one of the oldest churches in the Olt Land still survives after almost eight centuries of existence. It is one of the halidoms initially built as a hall church, without the basilica plan characteristic to Saxon churches. The edifice is simple, painted in light blue, with a richly decorated altar and pulpit. It is said that underneath the church there were secret tunnels and catacombs destined for refuge in times of siege. Furthermore, between the walls of the fortification there were storage rooms, artisans’ shops, animal shelters and beekeeping spaces.

The Fortified Churches at Cincsor and CârÅ£a

CincsorA fortified church typical for the Saxon architecture can be found at Cincsor. Being repeatedly invaded by the Turks and the Tartars, the locals found refuge in the fortress, bringing animals and provisions with them. The gothic style church had a belfry and other four defense towers. In the interior there is an austere atmosphere, calling to meditation and to reestablishing the connection with divinity.

The Monastery in CârÅ£a was initially an abbey of the Cistercian monks, who founded it at the beginning of the 13th century on the left shore of the Olt. In the beginning, the halidom was built in wood, then the monks brought stonemasons all the way from France and the latter built a monument representative for the early gothic style. After the Ottoman attacks and the abolition of the religious order, the church was deserted and today it is in ruins. Even so, the chapel is still used for religious service and the place is worth visiting. The very high walls, the arcades, the round windows and the western portal give a special charm to this old settlement.

Although they knew tumultuous historical times and they went through numerous sieges and fires, the fortified churches in the Olt land have been reliable shelters for the people.  Architectural monuments, keepers of the Transylvanian culture and spirituality and halidoms where the relationship with the divinity has remained unaltered, they continue their mission for hundreds of years. A visit to these Transylvanian lands brings you peace of mind and unique picturesque landscapes.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]