Saschiz fortified church and fortress

Saschiz (German: Keisd, Transylvanian Saxon Kisd, Hungarian: Szászkézd) is a commune in Mureş County, Romania. It has a population of 2,048: 88% Romanians, 5% Germans, 4% Hungarians and 3% Roma. The commune has a fortified church, designated in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saschiz has been first mentioned in writing in 1305. In 1419 it counted several guilds, of which those set up by shoemakers, carpenters and house painters. By that time, Saschiz boasted several schools, a hospital, Turkish bath-house and a court-house. On the 12th of May 1678, the town of Saschiz fell under Sighişoara's administrative jurisdiction by a decision of Transylvania's Diet. The settlement is known for its folk pottery (of a zgraphitocobalt type) since 1702, as well as for its folk costumes and fabrics.

On the premises of a Romanesque church, a great fortified church was erected in 1493. A couple of preserved documents certify subsidies given by the Province of Sibiu from 1494 to 1525 for the construction of the church. The township was even given Papal indulgence from 1503 to 1507 and was furthermore exempted from supporting the military troupes with accommodation and supplies as the official Johan Polder had established. It draws attention by the expressive beauty of its proportions, and by a rigorous adaptation of a typical fortification's elements to the requirements of a church. The fortified level is placed over the nave and choir, making the edifice look like a huge bastion. The bulwark of the wall-walk is pushed forward by the bracket over the massive arches placed on top of the stone and brick buttresses. Behind the arches one can see the slits of the loop-holes.

The Church holds one of the most beautiful chalices made by the goldsmiths in Transylvania. The chalice of the Evangelical Church at Saschiz is richly adorned, with its leg decorated with beams, an inscription and a trimming with lily flowers. On the leg of the chalice are carved the portraits of three Hungarian kings, i.e. Stephen, Emeric and Ladislas.

The Tower at Saschiz is one of the most beautiful examples of Saxon architecture in Transylvania. The spire of the Tower has the shape of a pointed pyramid, it is covered with coloured enameled tiles, and is richly decorated. Its top level below the cover of the roof is slightly protruded, being held up by a bracket, and supported on a row of narrow arches that hold the loop-holes on the cornice. Its defensive role was strengthened by the elevation of the vestry with solid masonry. The twelve skylights, three on each side of the Tower, the four turrets on its corners, and the highly pointed spire with its bulb-shaped iron-plated base, make it look like the building that actually inspired it the Clock Tower at Sighişoara.

In the old days the settlement was surrounded by a defensive wall. Its remains are the present enclosure of the premises. The fortified church was also watched over by the stronghold built on the hill next from the village.

The Fortified peasant fortress stands on a wooded hill close to the village and has an ellipsoidal plan, tall walls and towers. The Old fortress of Saschiz, as it is also called, just like the Rasnov fortress, is not a typical fortification for Transylvania. The construction of the refuge fortress evinces the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic architectural styles in Transylvania, which was put an end to in the 14th century. This is proved by the Fortress' bent roof and loop-holes provided with a wooden beam that would rotate in order to ensure a better aiming at the enemy. This system of arrow loops and fire holes is also to be found at the fortresses of Rupea and Prejmer. The stone walls of the Fortress are 7-9 m tall, and they are fortified by square defensive towers. The towers' names, i.e. the School Tower, the Fire Powder Tower, the Priests' Tower, the Princess' Tower, the Guard's Tower indicate that the village community was well organized. The Old Fortress has kept a 65 m deep fountain to the day.