The fortified church in Bahnea

This historic church is a bit harder to find. Bahnea (“Bachnen” in German, “Bonyha” in Hungarian) is a small village off the main roads, which you can only reach by driving on narrower county roads. The church itself is also hard to spot even when you’re in the village, because it’s hidden away behind the houses and backyard gardens, on a small hill. Here is a link to its location on Google Maps. It is a beautiful structure though, with lots of history, and the priest is an easygoing Hungarian fellow who is glad to talk with you and show you around.

The village is first mentioned in written documents in 1291. The church dates to the beginning of the 14th century, sometime between 1300-1350. The owners of the church (and the village) were the Bánffy family, an old Hungarian aristocratic family with lots of history and properties (castles and palaces) in Transilvania.

Just like the Saxons, the Hungarians who came to live in Transilvania were initially Catholic and later became Reformed. The Saxons became Evangelical around 1500 and the Hungarians became Reformed around 1600. So it was with the Church. Built Catholic, its walls were adorned with frescoes and its columns with various sculptures and Green Men. Come the Reformation, the frescoes were whitewashed and some of the sculptures defaced, and they stayed that way until the 20th century, when a restoration effort uncovered some of them.

Enjoy the photographs!

Sighisoara: on the beaten path

As opposed to these photos, the ones you’ll see here are popular sights most tourists get to see (or not, depending on what they’re looking at). Enjoy!

The fortified church in Copsa Mare

The construction of the Saxon church in the village of Copsa Mare (“Gross-Kopisch” in German and “Nagykapus” in Hungarian) started in the 14th century and underwent transformations in order to further fortify it in 1510, 1519 and 1797. In 1800, the organ was installed. In 1854, the Gothic altar was replaced with a Baroque one. The fortified wall was added in the 16th century, in 1519 to be more exact.

The village was once renowned for its vineyards. The Saxons who lived there owned the largest and best-known vineyards of Southern Transilvania. The village is first mentioned in written documents in 1283 and from those documents it can be deduced that an earlier church structure existed where the current one resides.

Planul_fortificatiei_din_Copsa_Mare

Enjoy the photographs!

The fortified church in Richis

This church in the village of Richis (“Reichesdorf” in German and “Riomfalva” in Hungarian) was built sometime between 1350-1400 and it initially functioned as a Cistercian abbey. The abbey did not have a bell tower to begin with because the Cistercian order was not allowed to have them. In 1400, it became a Catholic church and a bell tower was built as a separate structure from the church. In 1500, the fortified wall was built around the church, to defend it from invading tartars and turks.

Sometime between 1540 and 1550, the Saxons became Evangelicals and converted the decorations of the church to what they deemed as a more austere place to worship. They tore some of the medieval ornamentation, particularly the sculptures, and they whitewashed the walls, inside and out. It was only in 1957, when the newly arrived priest led an effort to scrape away the lime whitewash and restore the church that the early gothic motifs were rediscovered.

The church interior is abundant in unique animal, vegetal and human motifs. The most captivating is the “green man”, a symbol of nature’s fertility. Another symbol of the natural wealth in the region is the very name of the place, Reichesdorf, which means “wealthy village”. Should you visit, you’ll want to see the 1775 baroque altar made of sculpted wood, illustrating the Crucifixion.

The local guide of the church is Mr. Schaas, one of the few Saxons left in the village, whom you’ll see in the gallery I’ve published here. He always welcomes visitors and is glad to tell the story of the church to you.

Enjoy the photos!

 

The fortified church in Saschiz

This kind of architectural structure which combines a regularly-used church with fortified walls is typical of the region of Transilvania, where Saxons built them as places of refuge against invading tartars and turks. While larger settlements (such as Medias) could afford to build fortified walls around the entire town, villages such as Saschiz built fortified churches. There were originally 300 of these churches in Transilvania. About 150 of them remain standing.

Known as Keisd in German and Szászkézd in Hungarian, Saschiz (“Sas” = Saxon, “chiz” = Keisd) is unique because it also has a separate fortress built on one of the hilltops above the village. It (along with six other villages) is named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress, being relatively far from the village, didn’t see much use during times of invasion and the fortified church itself became the place where people would take refuge and do their best to withstand sieges. The fortified church was built in 1493-1496 and the fortress was begun in 1496.

The photos you’ll see here were taken in and around the fortified church. We haven’t visited the fotress yet, but we intend to do it.

I hope you enjoyed the photos! I took them with my Canon EOS 5D and the EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.

Canon EOS 5D (front)
Canon EOS 5D
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens

The Rupea Fortress

We visited the Rupea Fortress a number of years ago, before the restoration work began. Now the work is complete and it’s amazing to see the difference. We visited it recently and took another set of photos. Those are coming soon. In the meantime, here is a set of the photos taken back when it was still falling apart.

There’s a lot of history packed into that hilltop where the fortress is built. Archeological digs found evidence of settlements dating back to 5500-3500 BC. When Romania was known as Dacia, before it was conquered and colonized by the Romans, the place was known as Rumidava. Afterward, it became known as Rupes, from the basaltic rock of the hill where it’s built. When the Saxons colonized Transilvania, the fortress became known as Castrum Kuholm, the word “kuholm” refering once again to the same basaltic rock. There is more information here, should you be interested.

I hope you enjoyed the photos! I took them with my Canon EOS 5D and the EF 24-105mm f/4L lens.

Canon EOS 5D (front)
Canon EOS 5D
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f4L IS USM Lens

A walk through Sibiu’s historical center

These are a few photographs (only 13 this time 😁) taken during a walk through Sibiu’s historical center nine years ago (yes, 2009). If you’re wondering why I keep publishing photos from that year, it’s because I’m finally taking care of my editing backlog. Wait, Raoul, are you saying you’re nine years behind on editing your photos? Ahem… most of my photos, yes. When you take lots of photos, that’s what happens 🤷‍♂️.

Anyway, these photos were taken with my cellphone at the time, the now-venerable Nokia N95 which had a 5 megapixel camera. It was pretty good by the standards of its time and is woefully behind the times now, not necessarily in megapixels but in dynamic range and image quality. Still, it did okay in daylight.

Enjoy the photos!

And here is the grandfather of many of today’s cellphone cameras:

Nokia N95-1