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‘.

The old town of Sighisoara as seen on a rainy day.

The small town of Sighișoara (Schäßburg), as seen during a rainy day. Image source:

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 Northwestern European German-speaking settlers in the area beginning in the mid 12th century (not all of them were of German descent, some of them were also from the Low Countries).

The Clock Tower in Sighișoara during the night.

The Clock Tower (Der Stundturm in German), as seen during nighttime

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.

The Central Square in Sighișoara.

The Central Square in Schäßburg (Sighișoara)

A street in Sighișoara.

Another central street in Schäßburg (Sighișoara)

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 passage of time 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’.

Ropemakers' Tower, situated on the hilltop near the Lutheran Cathedral.

Ropemakers’ Tower, situated on the hilltop near the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral and Joseph Haltrich high school

Close view of the Ropemakers' Tower.

Close view of the Ropemakers’ Tower

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’).

Central Sighișoara as seen from the Clock Tower.

Central Schäßburg (Sighișoara) as seen from the Clock Tower (German: Der Stundturm)

View from the Clock Tower.

Elevated view from the Clock Tower

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 Clock Tower as seen during daytime.

The Clock Tower as seen during daytime

A street in central Sighișoara with the Clock Tower in the background.

A street in central Schäßburg (Sighișoara) with the Clock Tower in the background

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).

Old houses from the historic downtown

Old houses from the historic centre

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.

Panoramic view of the city from the Clock Tower.

Panoramic view of the town from the Clock Tower

Panoramic view from the Clock Tower with the Târnava Mare river in the background.

Panoramic view from the Clock Tower with the Târnava Mare river (German: Große Kokel) in the background

Another panoramic view of the city from the Clock Tower.

Another panoramic view of the town from the Clock Tower

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.

A street in central Sighișoara.

A street in central Schäßburg (Sighișoara) during summertime

Another street in central Sighișoara.

Another street in central Schäßburg (Sighișoara)

Below is a footage from a drone showcasing the town’s major touristic attractions as well as the UNESCO-recognized town centre itself:

And another great footage of the town centre below:

Documentation sources and external links:

  • Sighișoara on (in English)
  • Schäßburg on (in German)
  • Personal photographs or selected ones from either or
  • Personal experience and visits in very beautiful Schäßburg/Sighișoara
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7 Responses to The History Of The Transylvanian Saxon Citadel Of Schäßburg

  1. Fred Orend says:

    Thank you for show casing the Saxon community! I appreciate the info, especially the beautiful pictures and fascinating history! I’m an American of Saxon-German Heritage and I am trying to find as much information as possible.

    • Peter Depner says:

      Schoenen Gruss aus Kanada,ch bin auch aus Schassburgund wohne in Kanada.
      Hieschen Gross,Peter

      • Victor Rouă says:

        Sehr interessant! Vielen dank für lesen The Dockyards! Alles Gute und Herzlich Gruße aus Suceava, Rumänien!

        Mit viel Respekt,
        Victor Rouă – Webmaster at The Dockyards

    • Victor Rouă says:

      Thank you very much, Fred, for writing this beautiful comment! I truly hope this message finds you well! Plenty of health and much success for 2023!

      Sincerely and respectfully,
      Victor Rouă – Webmaster at The Dockyards

  2. Victor Rouă says:

    Vielen dank für lesen The Dockyards! Gruss aus Dänmark!

  3. Karl Gagesch says:

    Thank you and greetings from Canada. I am of Saxon decent and doing research on Saxon history and culture. Your information was helpful and the pictures are excellent. Great work!

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