We Love Biertan
Biertan, or Birthaläm in German, is not just an amazing fortified church built more than 400 year ago nor just another UNESCO site. It is a travel back in time.
Biertan is located in the south-eastern part of Transylvania, quite in the center of Romania. Part of the Sibiu county, it is just 30km from Sighisoara and 81km from Sibiu. The easiest way to reach Biertan is buy car or public bus from Sighisora. Also, a cab could be taken from the towns of Sighisoara or Medias.
Most of the tourists visit Biertan coming from Sighisoara, another UNESCO site. While driving on the national road between Sighisoara and Medias, flanked on each side by the gentle slopes of the Transylvanian plateau, passing through the old villages or the plantations of hops, you’ll have the feeling of traveling in a secluded world. And this feeling will become more and more accentuated once you’ve turned left in the village of Saros pe Tarnave. From now on you’ll admire the old Saxon-like houses, lined up on each side of the road like some soldiers of a medieval world long time forgotten. Saros pe Tarnave, Scaroch in German, boasts an interesting fortified church built in the 14th century, too. Few tourist stop here although, many of the heading off straight to Biertan.
Not far away from the town of Biertan you’ll be able to admire the entire edifice, the outer walls flanked by several towers and the massive church. Biertan is one of the oldest Saxon settlements from Transylvania. The first inhabitants came here in the 13th century, the first document mentioning Biertan dating back to 1224. They were brought in Transylvania by the Hungarian kings who had wanted to secure the borders of their newly conquered territory, to enclose the local population and to develop the local economy. The Germans had received many privileges and agreed to emigrate to Transylvania. Initially they had built 7 cities but then they built many others.
For centuries the Germans kept their traditions, language and their own way of living. They developed the economy and the constructions of Transylvania like no one else. Unfortunately, their world came to a close in the 20th century when many of them had perished in the Second World War or they emigrated back to Germany in the communist era and right after its collapse. Today Biertan reminds of this forgotten world only through its old houses and its fortified church, an amazing UNESCO site.
The fortified church of Biertan was built between 1490 and 1524 in the Late Gothic style, being the last one in Transylvania of this type. The impressive church is protected by the outer walls and several towers built in the same time with the church. One of the most interesting buildings of the entire complex is the matrimonial prison where the couples who wanted to divorce where forced to spend some time together, sharing all the time just one room, one chair, one set of tableware and so on.
One of the towers of the church from Biertan was transformed into a catholic chapel. In the 16th century many of the Saxons became members of the Protestant religion. Those who had remained faithful to their old religion had the tower transformed into a catholic chapel.
The interior of the church boasts some very interesting art exhibits. The largest polyptych altar in the country displays 28 scenes from the life of Jesus and Holly Virgin. The pulpit is carved in stone in the 16th century while the pews, made in the same time, exhibits an interesting and valuable marquetry. In the western part of the church one can see a gallery where the organ is located. Built in the 19th century by Karl Hesse, a famous organ builder from Vienna. It is still in good working conditions. But probably the most famous exhibit of the church is the massive door of the former treasury room. Made of oak tree in the 16th century, the door has an impressive locking system that blocks it in about 20 spots. Beside this, the door has an interesting marquetry design.
The hole complex offers a great view over the reddish-like roofs of the town and over the surrounding hills. It is truly an escape from the bustling life of the cities. And if it happens to be hungry, then try the local medieval restaurant Unglerus located right next to the citadel. They provide accommodation in nice local house right across the medieval fortified church of Biertan.
From Biertan you could enjoy several day-trips to Sighisoara, Medias or Sibiu. Biertan is a very good base to dive in the world of the forgotten villages from Transylvania. Definitely, Biertan is one of the most interesting UNESCO sites of Romania which should be on the agenda of each and every traveler.ILoveRomania® has several tours that include this amazing tourist destination, both for shared tours or private tours.
Schedule of the Biertan fortified church:
Monday – Sunday: 09:00-13:00 / 14:00 – 18:00
Entrance fee: €1.5
text and pictures by Daniel Gheorghita