Viscri Fortified Church
The village of Viscri, is part of Buneşti commune in Braşov county and is best known for its highly fortified church, originally built around 1100 AD. It is part of the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, designated in 1993 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The church was built in the 12th century by Szekely (Szeklers, Hungarian ethnics) colonists and taken over by Saxons colonists in 1185. In the 12th century, that is in the first stage of German colonization in Transylvania, the Saxons had built a Romanesque church, which, having been pulled down by the Tartar invasion in 1241-1242, was replaced by an edifice which has been preserved to the day.
Though small in size, the Gothic Church at Viscri impresses by the grandeur of its walls made of roughly shaped stones. The plan of the former Saxon Romanesque church had been simple, with a single nave, a flat ceiling and a semicircular apse on its eastern side. In the 13th century a keep was built onto the west of the church, the choir was extended eastward and shortly afterward the church was enlarged as far as to the tower. During a third phase of construction at the end of 15th century, the church was converted into a fortified church by adding battlements to the choir and the West Tower. In the chancel one can see what was left of a Romanesque pillar, ended in a cornice capitel (actually the only one known in Transylvania), alongside a triumphal arch left also form the former church. After 1743 a covered corridor for the storage of corn was built. A century later, two chambers in the defense corridor of the bastion were turned into school rooms. The classic 19th century altar has as centerpiece “the Blessing of the Children” by the painter J. Paukratz from Rupea. The font was made from a capital of the 13th century church. The furniture of the Church is decorated with folk Saxon motifs.
The residence tower alongside its outbuildings placed in an oval enclosure that had once (in the 13th century) been home to the village’s headman were actually the core of the Peasant Fortress built in the 14th century, and restored, together with the Church, in the 16th century. The Fortress has two precinct walls. The inner one, provided with four towers and two bastions, has been preserved to the day. On the wall, one can still read that restoration works were made in the 17th century under the guidance of architect Hartmann, and having the following motto ‘In pace de bello et in bello de pace cogitatis’.
Mention should be made of the covered wall-walk of the fortification, linked to the four towers and to the Church. At times of war, it would allow people’s safe moving along within the Fortress. The fortification has a stone arched entrance and four upper levels which can be reached by the wall carved steps. The walls have a depth of five meters which were built from the nearby river’s stones.
The Church and the Peasant Fortress display three different building materials, namely stone mixed with partially plastered brick for the precinct walls, towers, as well as for the Church’s walls and spire; wood used to encircle the precinct walls and the towers, and placed below the cornices and along the bracket corridors; tile which covers the Church’s and the towers’ tall roofs. Their corresponding colors, i.e. white, brown and red make the buildings’ complex look particularly picturesque. To this effect contribute also the Church’s buttresses, with lateral entrances to the nave, alongside the very narrow space left between the Church and the Fortress, keeping with the rural styles during the Middle Ages.
Photo: Netoiu Claudiu