Places

The fortified church in Mosna

The village of Moșna, known as Meschen in German and Muzsna in Hungarian, is first mentioned in written documents in 1283, and there is evidence that a settlement existed there since the 1st century AD (source). Moşna was also the home of Stephan Ludwig Roth (1796-1849), a famous Saxon priest, pedagogue and human rights campaigner (source).

The Saxon settlers in the area first built a Romanesque basilica in the 13th century, which was then modified and expanded in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in the Gothic style. The man responsible for the project was Andreas Lapicidas of Sibiu (Hermannstadt), a master stone mason, known as Endreas Steinmetz in Sachsen. His initials can be seen inside the church, carved on a lintel.

The Moșna fortified church is one of the biggest in Transilvania and it is a remarkable work of Gothic architecture. The church itself is structured around three naves with ribbed vaults for ceilings. The naves are separated through four pairs of columns, the ones in the west side having been made of bricks and decorated differently so as to preserve the eastern group of columns intact, since the latter was erected using stone from the pillars of the former Romanesque basilica. Inside, the most noteworthy architectural elements are the door to the sacristy, the stone pulpit and the monumental tabernacle which measures 11.05 m in height.

The fortifications include five towers and a 9m defense wall that surrounds the church and allows for ample space inside the fortress. The bell tower has seven levels and three bells, the oldest of which dates from 1515. The gate tower in the south-eastern corner has five levels. The northern side of the fortification is guarded by a tower with four levels. A shorter, three-level tower stands to the south and it hosts a museum dedicated mostly to the trades and customs of the Saxon community but which also includes exhibits discovered during various archaeological explorations, such as coins and fragments of weaponry.

When we visited in 2011, we arrived right around noon, which as some of you may know, is the worst time of the day for photos. I also had with me a camera that was more remarkable for its zoom (30x) than the dynamic range of its sensor and the quality of its photos. I plan to visit again soon and take some photographs that will do the place justice. It’s undergone significant repairs and restoration work since 2011, so it looks different now. We’ve actually revisited it just a couple of months ago, but it was for a photoshoot for Ligia’s ongoing project, Straie Alese, so I didn’t focus on capturing the architecture.

Enjoy the photos!

Standard
Places

Sighisoara from a distance

The same day I took these photos, we decided to drive into the hills surrounding the town and see if we could find a scenic spot from whence to photograph it. We found a couple of spots. There are a couple of pensions perched up there, with great views of the valley and the town. While the pensions/restaurants themselves are underwhelming (one was closed, another only served water and bad coffee), the views are worth the drive.

By the time I set up my equipment, it was dusk and twilight was fast approaching. You’ll have to excuse the liberal use of noise reduction in the photographs, but I was shooting with the long end of a 70-300mm lens at f5.6, fast shutter speeds and high ISO. What made the photos more interesting was the creeping fog, which was enveloping the town from all sides. I can see the appeal of such scenery in stories about vampires, but I assure you, there are none there.

When night fell over the valley, we drove back down and I took a few shots of an historic church and of the Târnava Mare river which passes through the town. One last thing: the mountains which you see in some of the photographs are the Southern Carpathians, more specifically the Făgăraș Mountains.

Enjoy the photographs!

Standard
Places

The fortified church in Zagar

There is a fortified church in the village of Zagăr, which is located in the county of Mureș, Transilvania. I was not able to find out any information about it online; I don’t know why it’s not documented. The only thing I was able to find was a mention of the vineyards in the region, which are known for their white wines (source). The village is known as Rode in German and Zágor in Hungarian. It was first mentioned in written documents in 1412 (source). The same source states that the church was rebuilt in the year 1640 but does not give a reason why.

We also weren’t able to visit the buildings themselves (the church and the parochial house) when we visited in 2011, because the place was locked up and no one was around. On the upside, it’s a well-maintained place, restored in 2007, judging by the inscription on the back gate. Perhaps at some time in the future we’ll revisit it.

Enjoy the photographs!

Standard

These were taken in November of 2010, so let’s say it was eight years ago or so. Things may look different now — hopefully better, given how much tourism this little town gets each year.

It was one of our typical jaunts through the medieval fortress, along its walls and back down the stairs toward the bottom of the hill. Still, the images show different spots from the ones you’ve seen here and here.

Should you want to know more about the town, click here and here. Enjoy the photographs!

Places

More images from Sighisoara

Gallery
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)

Enjoy the photographs!

Standard

Not much is known about the small medieval church in this Transylvanian village. Known in Romanian as Viișoara, it is Hundorf in German and Csatófalva in Hungarian. The clue about it not being fortified perhaps lies in its German name: “Hun-dorf” means “Hungarian village”. Since it was predominantly Hungarian with few Saxons, and it was the Saxons who fortified churches during medieval times… it didn’t happen here.

One source states the church was finished in the 15th century and then underwent modifications or restorations in 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. When we visited it in 2011, it wasn’t in the greatest of shapes. A date on one of the buttresses said “2010”, as in some repairs had been made just a year before our visit, but the place didn’t look it. Still, it wasn’t falling down either, so it was getting some care, though it wasn’t getting any good use.

Enjoy the photographs!

Places

The medieval church in Viișoara

Gallery

Valea Viilor (“Wurmloch” in German, “Nagybaromlak” in Hungarian) is a village in Sibiu County, Transilvania, in a region known for its wine production during medieval times. Its name is translated in English as “The Valley of the Vineyards”. It is first mentioned in written documents in 1263 as “posessio Barwmlak”.

The church in this Saxon village was first built in the 14th century (see source). Its ruins can be seen beneath the floor of the sacristy. In 1414 a new church was erected over it. In turn, most of that later structure was then demolished or modified during the years 1500-1528, as the church was enlarged and fortified walls were built around it, making it a fortified church (see source).

Unlike a lot of other Saxon fortified churches in Transilvania, this structure received attention from later generations, and underwent needed repairs in 1738, 1782, 1826, 1969, 1987, 1996 and in recent years as well.

When we visited it back in April of 2011, the gates were locked and no gatekeeper was to be found, so we walked around its defensive walls, admiring the solid medieval architecture that has stood the test of time. Enjoy the photographs!

Places

The fortified church in Valea Viilor

Gallery
Places

The fortified church in Bazna

The village of Bazna (“Baaßen” in German and “Bázna” in Hungarian) is technically a commune comprised of three villages: Bazna, Boian and Velt. Settled by Saxons in the 13th century, the land was great not only for agriculture but also gave forth natural gas and springs of water containing salt and iodine.

The fortified church you’re about to see in my photographs was built in the 15th century. A hundred years or so later, it gained the surrounding fortified walls and defense tower. You’ll find an oddity in that tower: it’s also a bell tower and it has three bells made sometime between the 14-15th century. That’s not something often seen in Transilvania, where most of the bells were melted to make weapons during WWI.

The church has a caretaker and is well-maintained, which is more (much more) than can be said for most of the other fortified churches in Transilvania.

Enjoy the photographs! I took them in April of 2010.

Standard
Places

Italian road trip – Day 6 – Rome

Day 5 ended with us exhausted, crashing onto our beds and having a sound night’s sleep after a paradoxical search for a hotel with available rooms in what is one of the largest cities in the world with plenty of hotels. But that’s how things were that night. We woke up to a beautiful day and we set out to explore Rome.

I had set a grand goal: to show my companions the Rome I knew from 1999, ten years earlier. The part I hadn’t worked out yet in my enthusiasm, was that I’d explored Rome in three weeks, by myself, and now I was going to drag four people in tow to see a lofty list of places in a single day. Make no mistake about it, there were repeated protestations as the day progressed, but it was hard to hear them as I walked ahead at a military pace…

When it was all said and done, after putting my incredibly patient companions through a full day of exploration with little food or drink (there was no time, we had to see everything on my list…), I set another goal: reach a seaside town called Ladispoli by nightfall and find a hotel. Yeah, I did that to them, too! I didn’t let them sleep, I packed them into the car and off we went. I still can’t believe they put up with me. I know I wouldn’t have. Now that I’m in my 40s (this was back in 2009 mind you), I know I wouldn’t do this to myself or to others. The pace was too hectic, we couldn’t take things in. By the end of the day, it was all a blur. Thank goodness we took photos, or else we wouldn’t remember much.

Enjoy our memories from that day!

Standard
Places

The fortified church in Sebes

This fortified church looked quite different when it was first built using the Romanesque style in the beginning of the 12th century AD. It was soon destroyed by the Tartar Invasion of 1241-1242. Afterward, the work progressed more slowly and in the Cistercian Gothic style which we see today. Parts of the older structure were used and integrated into the new architecture, resulting in a larger, unified whole where you can still see that some things don’t quite belong. For example, at one of the main entrances you get to glimpse part of the older, lower entrance to the left of the Gothic arches.

The chorus balcony dates back to 1370, is 23 meters tall and the columns which support it are 11 meters tall. The main structural work ended around the year 1420, the Saxons having made a lot of progress in the late 14th century due to a period of prosperity. The church itself was fortified and an impressive defense wall was built around the edifice. A separate chapel was built on the side of the church where religious objects and clothing are stored.

In the 15th century, Sebes entered a period of Ottoman occupation that lasted 40 years. Somehow the guilds prospered in this period and that meant the church was further developed and decorated. The Renaissance altar is 13 meters tall and 6 meters wide and dates to 1520. The Gothic ceiling supports are decorated with sculpted Green Men, mythological and biblical creatures. The church has a beautiful and functional organ built in 1791 by the brothers Reiger and a black grand piano built in the second half of the 19th century. When we skip forward to WWI, we find out that the church bells were confiscated and used for cannonballs, but they were replaced in 1925. A restoration effort in the mid-1960s brought the church somewhat modern amenities such as electric lighting and it took care of various structural and decorative issues.

Services are still held in the church (see the schedule posted in the photo gallery) but very few Saxon parishioners are left (about 20 of them attend regularly).

Enjoy the photographs!

Standard