Transylvania's Saxon Heritage
157 images Created 30 Sep 2015
With more than 150 fortified churches from the 13th to 16th centuries, southeastern Transylvania is a cultural and architectural heritage unique in Europe, with seven villages listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The history of the fortified Saxon churches started in the 12th century when King Geza II of Hungary settled 2,500 German colonists to protect and develop the southeastern part of Transylvania. Under the constant threat of the Ottoman and Tatar invasions, the smaller communities created fortified churches with towers and managed to survive almost nine centuries. In 1990 the departure of the Saxons after Ceausescu’s death left the villages occupied by Romanians and Roma people causing an insurmountable gap between the new population and the cultural and architectural heritage of the old one. Many feared the fast disappearance of this unique cultural heritage. Instead, their heritage has been preserved thanks to the Foundation Mihai Eminescu Trust, founded in 1987 with an alternative approach to haphazard development and abandonment. Restoring a single house or church can leave it out of context. Retaining the complete architectural cohesion will be a transient achievement if the living conditions of the villagers do not change. But if they see their heritage as a sustainable source of income with outside assistance, then they could see a future for their communities. Today Viscri is the foremost example of a successful Whole Village Project, attracting international acclaim for its combination of historic preservation and economic regeneration, earning the support of King Charles III when he was still Prince of Wales.