The fortified church at Prejmer, just north of Brasov, is one of several such buildings stretching across the southern part of Transylvania which form part of the region’s rich Saxon heritage.
The Saxons, originally from Germany, were invited to settle in the area – and defend it from attack by the Mongols, and later the Ottomans – from the 12th century onwards. Their fortified churches, around 140 of which remain today, are among the most distinctive and memorable features of travelling in Transylvania. Most of Transylvania’s Saxon population has now left – deported to Siberia following the Second World War, or emigrated to Germany in the later years of the 20th century, with a final exodus departing following the fall of Ceauşescu.
The 13th century church is surrounded by massive defensive walls, the inner face of which (shown here) has around 270 small individual rooms – each numbered, to avoid confusion – into which the entire village could retreat in the event of an attack or siege. There are also larger store rooms inside the walls, and livestock would be herded into the area between the walls and the church, which provided space for grazing.
Seven of Transylvania’s fortified churches – Prejmer among them – together constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site.