Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania (1993, 1999)

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These Transylvanian villages with their fortified churches provide a vivid picture of the cultural landscape of southern Transylvania. The seven villages inscribed, founded by the Transylvanian Saxons, are characterized by a specific land-use system, settlement pattern and organization of the family farmstead that have been preserved since the late Middle Ages. They are dominated by their fortified churches, which illustrate building styles from the 13th to the 16th century. In 1999 the property was extended with Biertan and its Fortified Church. 

The seven villages inscribed are (in order of face value): Saschiz, Darjiu, Viscri, Valea Viilor [Vorumloc], Calnic, Prejmer, and Biertan, all located in the counties of Alba, Brasov, Harghita, Mureş, Sibiu, Region of Transylvania. 

The name "Transylvania" is Latin for "Beyond the Forest". The area is famed abroad as the homeland of Dracula, a mountainous place where storms lash medieval hamlets, while wolves -- or werewolves -- howl from the surrounding woods. The scenery is breathtakingly dramatic, especially in Prahova Valley, the Turda and Bicaz gorges and around the high passes with their spooky Gothic citadels, 

The first stamp (Biertan Church, 1995) is smaller than the last six stamps (from 2002) which are all of equal size, and larger than the the Biertan-stamp. 

The village Biertan, set high on a hill within two and a half rings of walls linked by a splendid covered staircase, is the best known of all the Saxon fortified churches.  It was completed as late as 1516, and recently restored. The church was the seat of the Lutheran bishops until 1867, and their fine gravestones can be seen inside the Bishop's Tower.

  • Romania 1995. Biertan Church. 

Romania 1995. Biertan Church.  
Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Saschiz. Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Viscri. Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Darjiu.

The population of the area is an ethnic jigsaw of Romanians, Magyars, Germans, and Gypsies, formed over centuries of migration and colonization. Transylvania's history is still often disputed along nationalist lines, the feelings aroused running high in both Hungary and Romania, and being routinely exploited by politicians. 

Most Hungarians view Erdély (their name for Transylvania) as a land "stolen" by the Romanians, where some two million Magyars face continuing harassment and subjation  by a Romanian population that they claim arrived long after the Magyars had settled the area. Romanians assert the opposite: that Transylvania has always been rightfully theirs and that, for centuries, it was the Magyars who practised discrimination as colonialist overlords. 

Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Calnic. Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Valea Viilor (Vorumloc). Romania 2002. Rustic Fortified German Villages of Transylvania. Prejmer.

Although the same language is spoken on both sides of the Carpathians, there is a clear cultural divide between the provinces. Many people, mostly Transylvanians, will tell you that Transylvania is part of Central Europe, with a long tradition of culture, free enterprise, political decency and generally civilized behaviour, while the Regat ("Old Kingdom" of Wallachia and Moldavia) is a primitive place, half Balkan and half Turkish, where everything is subject to corruption, inertia and maladministration, and nothing worthwhile ever gets done. 

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  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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