The Transylvanian Saxon Fortified Church Of Birthälm (Biertan)

The Transylvanian Saxon fortified church of Birthälm (Romanian: Biserica fortificată din Biertan) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Transylvania, Romania. Along with six other fortified churches (five Saxon ones and a Székely one), it is part of UNESCO’s list of ‘Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania’.

The inscription of these medieval landmarks to UNESCO dates back to 1993 and the extended list with seven of the best preserved fortified churches in Transylvania was successfully submitted in 1999. These fortified churches consist each of a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the neighbouring village.

Outside view of the fortified church of Birthälm (Romanian: Biertan)

Outside view of the fortified church of Birthälm (Romanian: Biertan) – October, 2015

The entrance to the Lutheran fortified church Birthälm (Romanian: Biertan)

The entrance to the Lutheran fortified church

One of the towers near the church

One of the towers near the church

Another tower near the church

Another tower near the church

In the case of the fortified church of Birthälm, located in the county of Sibiu (German: Kreis Hermannstadt), the church along with the commune of the same name (in Romanian known as Biertan and in the Transylvanian Saxon dialect known as Bierthalm) is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the first of its kind to be submitted to UNESCO as early as 1993.

View of the village of Birthälm from the walls of the fortified church

View of the village of Birthälm from the walls of the fortified church

Panoramic view of the village from the hilltop

Panoramic view of the village from the hilltop

Inside the Lutheran church

Inside the Lutheran church

The ceiling inside the Lutheran church

The ceiling inside the Lutheran church

Founded by the German settlers known as the Transylvanian Saxons during the 15th and 16th centuries, the church features a Late Gothic predominant architectural style with Romanesque elements. Initially Roman Catholic, the church turned Evangelical Lutheran when the Saxons of Transylvania decided to become Lutherans after the Reformation.

In the proximity of the fortified church there are Franconian-styled houses built by the same Saxons. Additionally, Birthälm was the see of the Transylvanian Lutheran Church for roughly three centuries, namely from 1572 to 1867.

A view of one of the towers of the fortified church

A view of one of the towers of the fortified church

The locality is also renown for an important archaeological artefact known as the ‘Biertan Donarium’, a votive object excavated in the proximity of the village. The ‘Biertan Donarium’ was found in a forest 5 kilometres from the Saxon settlement during the 18th century and was part of baron Samuel von Bruckenthal’s personal collections of ancient artefacts and relics. It dates back to the 4th century AD and on it stands written in Latin: ‘Ego Zenovius votum posui’ (that could be translated as ‘I Zenovius offered thou this gift’).

This archaeological artefact is an evidence of the usage of the Latin language by a Romance population that emerged from the Romanisation of the Dacians in the former Roman province of Dacia after the withdrawal of the Roman administration and military. This artefact is exhibited at the Brukenthal National Museum in Hermannstadt (Romanian: Sibiu), the seat of the same county in which Birthälm/Biertan is located.

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