Center of Sighisoara (1999)
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Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, Sighisoara is a fine example of a small, fortified medieval town which played an important strategic and commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for several centuries.
The old town or citadel dominates the newer quarters from a rocky massif whose slopes support a jumble of ancient, leaning houses, their windows overlooking the steps leading up from Piasa Hermann Oberth to the main gateway.
Most of the burghers were Magyar or Saxon, and the Romanians - or Vlachs as they were then called - became inferior citizens in Transylvanian towns following edicts passed in 1540.
These excluded Vlachs from public office and forbade them to live in townhouses with chimneys or with windows overlooking the streets, and also prohibited them from wearing furs, embroidered dress, shoes or boots.
Romania 1997. Entry to the City Hall of Sighisoara.
Above rises the mighty Clock Tower, where each day a different wooden figure emerges from the belfry on the stroke of midnight. The tower was raised in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when Sighisoara became a free town controlled by craft guilds, each of which had to finance the construction of a bastion and defend it during wartime. It has subsequently been rebuilt after earthquakes and a fire in 1676. Originally a Saxon town known as Castrum Sex (Fort Six, of the seven Siebenbürgen), Sighisoara grew rich on the proceeds of trade with Moldavia and Wallachia.
The labels between the two stamps show the forbidding silhouette of battlements and needle spires that looms over Sighisoara (Schässburg to the Saxons and Segesvár to the Hungarians) as the sun descends behind the hills of the Tirnava Mare Valley, and it seems fitting that this was the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, "The Impaler" - the man known to so many as Dracula. Visually archaic even by Romanian standards, Sighisoara makes the perfect introduction to Transylvania.
In its justification for inscription the UNESCO states that Sighisoara is an outstanding testimony to the culture of the Transylvanian Saxons, a culture that is coming to a close after 850 years and will continue to exist only through its architectural and urban monuments.
Sighisoara is an outstanding example of a small fortified city in the border region between the Latin-oriented culture of central Europe and the Byzantine-Orthodox culture of south-eastern Europe. The apparently unstoppable process of emigration by the Saxons, the social stratum which had formed and upheld the cultural traditions of the region, threatens the survival of their architectural heritage as well.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Romania (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Romania-Section, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 21 jul 2006