The History Of The Transylvanian Saxon Citadel Of Schäßburg
Schäßburg is a medieval city located in Transylvania, central Romania. In Romanian it is known as Sighișoara and in Hungarian as Segesvár. In the Transylvanian Saxon dialect, Schäßburg is known under the names Schäsbrich and Šesburχ. This medieval settlement was also known in Latin as ‘Castrum Sex’, given the fact that it was built on the site of a former Roman fort. Alternatively, in Latin the city is also known as ‘Saxoburgum’.
Schäßburg is a Saxon fortified city with a rich history which spans for almost a millennium and, along with other six fortified medieval cities, is part of the German heritage in Transylvania, Romania. Schäßburg, along with other six Transylvanian Saxon fortified cities, gave the German name of Transylvania which is ‘Siebenbürgen’, hence the number of major medieval settlements built by the German settlers in the area beginning in the 12th century.
The history of Schäßburg begins in the early 12th century when a group of German craftsmen and merchants, later known as the Transylvanian Saxons, were invited to settle down in Transylvania by the King of Hungary in order to protect the eastern frontiers of the Hungarian Kingdom, as well as to ensure trade and establish mining camps. These German craftsmen, tradesmen and miners came from the Rhine-Moselle region in successive waves. The first mention of the city dates back to the end of the 12th century, namely in a chronicle from 1191.
Another historic document of 1280 mentions a town built on the site of a former Roman fort as ‘Castrum Sex’. Its latin denomination stems from the fact that the fort had an irregular shape with six corners. The city was also recorded throughout the time’s passing with many other different names such as ‘Schaäsburg’ (in 1282), ‘Schespurg’ (in 1298) and ‘Segusvar’ (in 1300). By the 1330s, the early medieval German settlement became a royal residence and three decades later, namely in 1367, it gained the city status as ‘Civitas de Segusvar’.
The city is renowned for the presence of the Wallachian prince Vlad Dracul (father of Vlad the Impaler – commonly known as ‘Dracula’ in popular culture) who lived there in exile. The Romanian name ‘Sighișoara’ was firstly attested in 1435. Its form is derived from the Hungarian counterpart ‘Segesvár’ (the word ‘vár’ in Hungarian meaning ‘fort’).
During the late Middle Ages and early Modern Age, the city suffered from several military occupations, fires as well as plagues. After the end of World War I it passed, along with the rest of Transylvania, from Austro-Hungarian control to the Kingdom of Romania, through the Treaty of Trianon which was signed in 1920.
The central part of the city has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1999 and is the place where the old citadel lies. Reputed touristic attractions are represented by the medieval buildings (the medieval churches, the Clock Tower or the houses from the old town).
On an annual basis, a medieval festival is held in the city. The medieval festival takes place in the old citadel at the end of each June. There is also a Blues festival which takes place annually in February as well as a film festival which commences at the beginning of June.
Regarding the demographic situation of the city, according to the 2011 Romanian national census there were 28.102 permanent residents. Of these 28,102 citizens, the city can be ethnically represented as follows: Romanians (accounting for 75% of the population), Hungarians (accounting for 18%), Germans (accounting for 2%) and other ethnic groups (accounting for the remainder of 5%).
The once predominant German-speaking city of Schäßburg was left by the vast majority of the Transylvanian Saxons during and after World War II. A mass wave of emigration from the city took place especially during the Communist era, when the Romanian-German community fled to either Germany or Austria.
Nowadays, the most significant touristic attractions include the Clock Tower (the tallest building in the city), the old citadel, the house of Vlad the Impaler, a museum of medieval weapons as well as the local Lutheran churches.
Below is a footage from a drone showcasing the city’s major touristic attractions as well as the city centre itself: