Transylvania's Saxon Heritage
178 images Created 30 Sep 2015
With more than 150 fortified churches from the 13th to 16th centuries south-eastern 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 south-eastern 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 exodus of the Saxons after Ceausescu’s death left the villages occupied by Romanians and Roma people. This caused an insurmountable gap between the new population and the cultural and architectural heritage of the old one, and many feared the fast disappearance of this unique cultural heritage. Instead their heritage has been preserved thanks to the Foundation Mihai Emineascu Trust, founded in 1987 with an alternative approach to haphazard development and to abandonment. The restoration of a single house or church can leave it out of context, to retain the full architectural cohesion would be a transient achievement if the living conditions of the villagers do not change. But if with outside assistance they see their heritage as a sustainable source of income, 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 Prince Charles of England.