Valea Viilor fortified church

Valea Viilor (German: Wurmloch; Hungarian: Nagybaromlak) is a commune located in Sibiu County, Romania. It is composed of the villages of Valea Viilor and Motiş.

Valea Viilor is first mentioned in 1305 when its owner, Count Apafi, passed away. In a document from this period the village was referred to as terra Baromlach which means "land of the cattle". The German version of the village's name sounds similar but has a different meaning. The German name appears half a century later in a document that acknowledges the church of Wurmloch as belonging to the Superior Council of Schelk (Şeica Mare). The Saxon name roughly translates to "snake hole". As to whether the place was swarming with snakes or full of cattle it is unclear. What is clear is that the land was owned by nobility. However, by 1359 the land was being mentioned as a free commune. Surprisingly, the villagers of Valea Viilor excelled at making wine, giving rise to the Romanian name meaning "Vineyard Valley". The whole area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.

The fortified church is situated in the center of the village. The first church was most likely a Gothic basilica erected in the early 14th century. Archeological excavations have revealed the existence of another building before the present church. Observable ruins in the floor of the vestry indicate that once was a Romanesque church at Valea Viilor. It is speculated that the original church was approximately 10 meters long, less than half the length of the present church. The present-day Gothic church, built in the 14th century, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church is characterized by Late-Gothic elements from around 1500. The church hall has a tunnel vault with a Late-Gothic ribbed net. The small nave has a vault supported by seven pairs of pillars that are attached to the side walls. Both the nave and the choir have a complex network of ribs on their vaults. In the construction phase, more levels were added above the choir with arches between the tall buttresses and a fortified level with a hoarding. The Baroque altar from 1779 has two tiers, columns, small columns, saint’s statues, and painted panels. A Eucharist shrine and stall work from the beginning of the 16th century have survived. The existing organ is from 1808. The church had undergone several periods of construction in the beginning of the 19th century.

The church is surrounded by an oval precinct with 7-8 meter high mantle walls. Towers were placed in the east, west, north, and south with the western one being a gate tower. The church and precinct are accessed via a vaulted gangway with portcullis on the western side. On the sides there are four bastions oriented north, south, east, and west. The walls are equipped with battlements and machicolations that are supported by brackets on the outside. There is another hoarding above the hall, with loopholes and arches for machicolations. The west tower, which is also a bell tower, has buttresses at 45 degrees, arches between the buttresses, and a hoarding on wooden cantilevers. The fortress of Valea Viilor is impressive because of the sculptural character of the fortified aspects.