Transylvania Fortress Wall Houses

Typical houses lining up the fortress wall protecting a village church in Saxon Transylvania (Harman/ Honigsberg/ Szászhermány, Brasov county), some dating from late c13th from the time of the first Tatar and Turkish raids over the  region. (©Valentin Mandache)

Saxon Transylvania is the largest rural medieval architectural region left in Europe. It has a very embattled history because of it precarious geographical location at the old frontier between Christendom and the Muslim power projected by the Ottoman Empire and their Tatar allies. The term “Saxon” is an umbrella name given to the ethnic German population, originating in what is today the principality of Luxembourg and its adjiacennt areas in France, Germany and Belgium. They settled in Southern and Eastern Transylvania beginning with c12th through royal patents issued by the medieval Hungarian kings. The devastating Tatar and Turkish raids that began after the region was first overrun during the Great Tatar Invasion of Europe that ended in 1242 (initiated by Genghis Khan and his successors), prompted the locals to build strong defences around their towns and villages. Thus, a very peculiar medieval military-civil architecture emerged in the region, with many examples still surviving today. The main fortifications were built around the village church and also the church itself was transformed in an impressive fortified building as point of last resistance. The wall enclosure had also to accommodate the village population, food and their livestock during the Tatar-Turkish raids and thus every village household had its own assigned fortress wall house and grain storage area  as in shown in the photograph above, which I took in June last year inside the citadel of Harman village (Honigsberg in German, Szászhermány in Hungarian).  There are many surviving such examples in Southern Transylvania, which would constitute an excellent restoration/ renovation project for someone with imagination and passion for medieval architecture. Unfortunately there are not many takers of that opportunity and these exceptional buildings are slowly disappearing through neglect, irretrievably damaged by ignorant locals or razed to the ground by rapacious Romanian property developers.


I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.


If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.


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