Places

The fortified church in Hetiur

Hetiur is a small village located between Sighișoara and Tg. Mureș in Transilvania, about 10 km away from the former. Formerly named Hetur and Hetura, known in Saxon as Marembrich and Hungarian as Hétúr, it is a Saxon settlement first mentioned in written documents in 1301. As is typical with settlements in Romania, the place is much older than the written documents. Coins from the time of Hadrian, made between 119-121 AD, were found in the village. Pieces of gold and silver jewelry made by the Daci were also found there. The village’s curious name comes from Hungarian and it means “seven masters” or “seven rulers”.

The fortified church was built in the 15th century in the Gothic style and underwent modifications and repairs in the 17th and 19th centuries. The church was blessed in person by Pope Martin the 5th, who also granted it a tax-free status, meaning the church no longer had to pay yearly dues to the Catholic Church. (source)

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Places

The fortified church in Curciu

Having already visited about twenty-five fortified churches in Southern Transilvania, I can say that one of the most underrated fortified churches in this region is the one in Curci. It’s sad that it’s so, because it is quite beautiful, both on the outside and on the inside. Its outside is truly picturesque and its inside, though white-washed, as is the case with most reformed churches, still shows remnants of its more colorful gothic past, with green men on its walls and ceilings and murals hidden beneath multiple coats of lime paint.

When we visited in the spring of 2011, its caretaker told me no one had visited it for over 5 months. How can anyone miss a church like this one? It is a truly beautiful place.

Curciu, also known as Criș in Romanian, Kiertš or Kirtsch in German and Küküllőkőrös, Szászkőrös, and Kőrös in Hungarian (that’s right, three separate names), is an old Dacian settlement that was once called “La Fântâni”, itself built over yet older settlements from the bronze and iron age (source). It is first mentioned in written documents in 1332, and we also find it in court documents in 1337 alongside the name of a Saxon, Petro de Keuruz, who was called to testify as a witness about a legal matter. Curciu is also the place where my grandfather on my mother’s side was born.

The construction of the Saxon church was completed in the first half of the 14th century and took about 50 years. A lot of river rocks were used in its walls, as you’ll see in the photographs. The structure underwent modifications in 1425-1430, when the choir loft was added and again sometime in the 1450s. The church’s organ was built in 1844 by Wilhelm Maetz and it is still intact and undamaged to this day.

It isn’t a big church, but there are so many interesting architectural details that clearly point out a master at work. When you look at it as a whole (its chosen location, its perspective from all points of view, the way the architect chose to express the various functions of the building and the spaces used), it is a thing of wonder. It made me want to explore every little nook and cranny, and come back to it in the future.

If you’d like to visit this church, the village of Curciu is about 12 km away from Medias. You’ll need to take a paved country road toward the village of Darlos, pass through it, and follow the sign toward Curci.u Once there, you’ll need to ask around for the way to the caretaker’s house, who will then give you a personal tour of the domain.

Enjoy the photographs!

 

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Places

The fortified church in Biertan

The village of Biertan has one of the most renowned fortified churches in Transilvania, Romania. Built between 1493 and 1522, over the site of a previous church, it is contained within two concentric fortified walls, with seven towers and two bastions.

The village itself has maintained its medieval character: the two roads that lead into it are the same they’ve always been; most of the houses, particularly in the village center, still have the same architecture, and you’ll be hardpressed to find but a few modern buildings there.

You get to it by driving through gentle rolling hills and crop fields. Forgotten by time (and by modern real estate development), it’s as if you’re going back through time.

The fortified church stands in the geographical center of the village, right next to the spacious, riverstone-paved village square.

It’s a good idea to take a walk around the outer fortified wall before going in, to get a sense of the place and its layout.

The current entrance into the fortified walls is through an arched passageway with a long row of steps up the hill, which leads inside the inner courtyard.

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