The History Of The Transylvanian Saxon Citadel Of Schäßburg
Schäßburg is a very well preserved medieval town 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 town is also known as ‘Saxoburgum‘.
Schäßburg is a Transylvanian Saxon fortified urban settlement with a rich history which spans almost a millennium back in time and, along with other six fortified medieval towns and cities, is part of the enduring German heritage in Transylvania, Romania. Schäßburg, along with other six Transylvanian Saxon fortified towns and 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 then King of Hungary Géza II 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/river valley in successive waves. The first mention of the town 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 town 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 town 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’ or ‘town’; in Romanian, in general the word for town ‘oraș’ is derived from the Hungarian ‘város’).
During the late Middle Ages and early Modern Age, the town 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 town has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1999 and is the place where the old citadel lies. Reputed tourist 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 town. 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 town, according to the 2011 Romanian national census, there were 28,102 permanent residents. Of these 28,102 citizens, the town can be ethnically represented as follows: Romanians (accounting for 75% of the population), Hungarians (accounting for 18%), Germans, more specifically Transylvanian Saxons (accounting for 2%), and other ethnic groups (accounting for the remainder of 5%).
The once predominant German-speaking town of Schäßburg/Sighișoara was left by the vast majority of the Transylvanian Saxons during and after World War II. A mass wave of emigration from the town took place especially during the communist era, when the Romanian-German community fled to either Germany or Austria.
Nowadays, the most significant tourist attractions include the Clock Tower (the tallest building in the town), the old citadel, the house of Vlad the Impaler, a museum of medieval weapons as well as the local Evangelical Lutheran churches.
Below is a footage from a drone showcasing the town’s major touristic attractions as well as the UNESCO-recognized town centre itself: