Top 5 Transylvanian Saxon Fortified Churches

Below is a personal top of 5 most interesting Transylvanian Saxon fortified churches boasting of both architectural and historical beauty.

5. Grossau (Standard German)/Grīßau (Transylvanian Saxon dialect)

Grossau (Romanian: Cristian) is supposedly one of the oldest settlements of the Transylvanian Saxons, being settled at some point during the 12th century. However, the locality was first attested in a 13th century Latin charter known as ‘Insula Christana’. The local Saxon church, erected on the site of a former Romanesque monastery, preserves elements of both Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

Grossau/Cristian Transylvanian Saxon church in Sibiu county, southern Transylvania, Romania. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

4. Weißkirch (Standard German)/Veiskiriχ (Transylvanian Saxon dialect)

This fortified church is one of the most spectacular of its kind in the whole of Transylvania. It was initially built during the early Middle Ages, but during the 18th century it was further surrounded by a second defensive wall.

The small village of Weisskirch/Viscri, where this Transylvanian Saxon fortified church lies, is also known for being one of the most favourite touristic destinations of Prince Charles of Wales, where he had also restored a couple of local Saxon houses in 2006 so as to preserve the unique rural way of life and promote tourism in Romania.

The entrance to the Weißkirch (Romanian: Viscri) fortified church, as seen in October 2015.

3. Keißd (Standard German)/Keist (Transylvanian Saxon dialect)

The local fortified church of Keißd is one of the most spectacular and well preserved of its kind in Eastern Europe. It was built during the 15th century and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Keißd (Romanian: Saschiz) fortified church, as seen in December 2005. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Tartlau (Standard German)/Torteln (Transylvanian Saxon dialect)

Initially constructed as a stronghold by the Teutonic Knights during the 13th century in the time of the German colonisation of Burzenland (Romanian: Țara Bârsei), the medieval town of Tartlau gradually developed under successive waves of Transylvanian Saxon settlers and went on to be the easternmost Transylvanian Saxon settlement of the entire region.

Tartlau (Prejmer) fortified church near Kronstadt (Brașov). Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Tartlau got successively invaded throughout the High Middle Ages by Hungarians, Mongols, Tatars, and Ottomans. The town is renowned for its unique fortified church (one of the most well preserved in Europe). The local church undergone a program of restoration during the early 1970s, then at the initiative of the Romanian Communist government.

1. Birthälm (Standard German)/Bierthalmen (Transylvanian Saxon dialect)

Birthälm is a commune located in the northern part of the Hermannstadt/Sibiu county, southern Transylvania. The commune is reputed for being one of the most significant Transylvanian Saxon settlements with fortified churches. The local fortified church dates back to the 14th century and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as early as 1993.

Outside view of the fortified church of Birthälm (Romanian: Biertan), as seen in October 2015.

Documentation sources and external links:

  • Cristian, Sibiu on (in English)
  • Viscri on (in English)
  • Saschiz on (in English)
  • Prejmer on (in English)
  • Biertan on (in English)
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