Biertan fortified church

Biertan (German: Birthälm, Romani: Biyertan, Hungarian: Berethalom) is a commune in central Romania, in the north of the Sibiu County, 80 km north of Sibiu and 15 km east of Mediaş. It is one of the most important Saxon villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, having been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993. It was the seat of the Lutheran Evangelical Diocese in Transylvania between 1572 and 1867. It is one of the most visited villages in Transylvania, being the historically important place of the annual reunion of the Transylvanian Saxons, many of whom now live in Germany.

Biertan is one of the first German settlements in Transylvania placed between the two "Seats" (Mediaş and Şeica) in the Andreean Diploma from 1224. The first attestation of its name has been certified since 1283, in a document about the taxes demanded by the Catholic Capital from Alba Iulia to the Catholic priests from the Transylvanian Saxon communities. As any other Transylvanian Saxon Community, it had an urban organization, being noticed the franconic style of the rows of houses around the central square overlooked by a grandiose fortress-church.

This heavily fortified church sits on a hilltop in the center of Biertan village. The church was mentioned for the first time in 1402; most likely a Gothic basilica, it was completely demolished. The only remains of the original church are some stone vault ribs and a few bosses.

Today’s church is a hall-shaped church with a chief nave and two side-aisles. The four-bay church has a 5/8 apse and was built between 1500 and 1525, during the time of Priest “Baccalaureus Johannis”. The church has net-shaped brick-ribbed vaults over its entire ceiling.

Late-Gothic and Renaissance stone masonry is also preserved, including doorways, brackets, the pulpit, and other items. The wooden furniture, the doors, and the folding triptych date back to the beginning of the 16th century. Inside the church the late Gothic shrine, in the form of a triptych was realized in more stages between 1515-1524. The pews are made between 1514-1523 by Reychmut from Sighişoara and are ones of the most valuable pews of this kind from Transylvania. The Europa Nostra restoration from 1978 to 1991 revealed parts of the former paintings and inscriptions.

The pulpit was made in 1523 by the stone carver Ulrich, from Braşov. The painting on the wood of the pulpit is from 1754. The pulpit is impressive for the biblical scenes reproduction and for the adornment with architectural and vegetal motifs very carefully painted in the transition style from Gothic to Renaissance.

An organ existed in a church since 1523 (the organ player Bartholomaeus is mentioned); it was replaced in 1731, in 1785 (by Samuel Metz), then in 1869, when the Hessian Company in Vienna built a new organ with 1290 tubes, 2 manuals, pedals and 25 registers.

The artist Johannes Reichmuth from Sighişoara made in 1515 the special door of the vestry. The vestry has an intricate blocking system of the door which moved simultaneously 15 lockers. The room of the vestry shielded the treasure of the church and of the village when there was a siedge. In this room there can stil be seen tools of the Transylvanian crafters, paintings, jugs and bowls in Renaissance style.

On the southern part of the upper plateau, the "Catholic Tower" contains preserved fresco paintings from the mid-15th century. The two shielding walls, which partially lie on arches, are strengthened by many towers and a bastion. To reach the upper plateau of the fortress, one must pass four gate-towers. The outer wall, situated mostly at the base of the hill, is strengthened to the west and south by two fortified zwingers with gate towers.


Rolandia said...

Nice article!
Legends say that the couples that were considering separation would be locked together in a cell until they were reconciled, having to share a bed, eat from the same plate with the same spoon and drink from the same cup. This is probably the reason why in Biertan there has been just one divorce in the past 300 years.

Unveil Romania Travel Planner said...

Biertan is a great place to visit! Romania has around 150 fortified Saxon churches & villages in Transylvania, usually around 800 years old. Currently, 7 villages are listed as UNESCO sites. By visiting them, you’ll feel like a kid entering a fairy-tale land. Viscri is another popular destination, famous for being promoted by Prince Charles of Wales, who even bought a traditional house in this timeless place.

You can read more about Transylvania attractions and legends here: