We had some lovely fog during this week. Dreamy but driveable, as I call it: enough visibility on the road to see where you were going, with enough atmosphere to make everything seem otherworldly. As I’m wont to do, I gallivanted through the local forests with my camera, enjoying myself. I couldn’t do it too much, because duty called. In my case, my current duty is to purchase materials and supervise the ongoing restoration work at our country estate: an old Saxon fortified church and parochial house in Magarei, built during medieval times, now in sore need of loving care. So as I was driving back and forth between Mediaș (known in Saxon as Mediasch) and Pelișor (known in Saxon as Magarei), I’d park the car on the side of the road and run off into the forest, camera in hand, clock ticking on my wrist, spend 10-20 minutes hopping over the molehills (there are quite a few of them this year, just about everywhere around Magarei), take my photos, take a few seconds to listen to the sounds of the forest, which are lovely this time of year, then I’d run back to the car to see to my work. Only a few birds have begun to sing among the trees, so what I mostly heard were the sounds of water droplets (fog condensate) falling onto last autumn’s foliage on the ground. It was a lovely sound, a muted sort of “mpphhh” that punctuated the fog-muffled silence of the forest, and since I love silence and hate man-made sounds, it was quite perfect.
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!
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!
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!
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.