The fortified churches of the Saxon villages have been the first to make this region special.
There is no other place in Europe where you can find such an architectural weaving, unitary and untouched – almost 250 churches, all at a walking distance one from the other. Unlike the castles that have either become derelict or have been improperly restored and modernised, these churches were kept in their original state by generations of Saxons. Unusual for their time, the fortified churches were not built by noblemen but by the villagers themselves, making them sophisticated examples of traditional ecclesiastical art and military engineering.
To survive the frequent sieges of the Turks or Huns, the Saxons have surrounded their churches with massive defence walls, sometimes in two or three rows, inside which the entire village population could survive for weeks. Behind the walls there was a school for the kids, stables for live stock, food storages, grains and smoked meat to be used commonly by everyone.
Outside the walls there were the houses and barns.
Unlike the cold defensive exterior, the interiors are beautifully decorated. The altars of rare artistic delicacy are often compared to those in Renascence Italy. All the galleries and benches are painted with colourful flower patterns.
In the 16th century, the Saxons became Lutherans and you can often see, sculpted or painted on the church door, the first verse of Luther’s famous hymn: „Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A mighty fortress is our God). For the Saxons, the first line of defence for western Christianity, these words were more than a simple metaphor.
In the churches of Apold, Bunești, Cloașterf, Dupuș, Florești, Mălâncrav, Meșendorf, Roadeș and Viscri we installed new locks and bars. We also insulated roofs, repaired the walls that were on the verge of collapsing, dug new drain ditches, rebuilt arches and towers.
The Saxon’s Lutheranism did not repress other beliefs. As we gathered more information about this are, we restored other elements of the religious heritage, like Orthodox and Unitarian churches and Jewish synagogues in Cloașterf, Florești, Mălâncrav, Mediaș, Noul Săsesc, Sighișoara and Viscri.
The Viscri church, built in 1225, is one of the most impressive examples of Saxon fortification in Transylvania. In the last decade, the MET was constantly involved in its restoration.
The most recent MET rehabilitation project was the Orthodox church in Florești. In 2001, this church was on the verge of collapsing and had already been desacralised. Built initially by the Bethlen family in 1424, the eastern wall bears an inscription in their memory.