The Watch

Fortified Churches of Southern Transylvania

Sibiu, Romania

2010 World Monuments Watch

Nestled in the hills and valleys below the jagged, menacing Carpathian Mountains of northern Romania, the red tile roofs and white walls of the fortified churches of southern Transylvania offer a contrasting but no less unique image. More than 250 churches originally stood watch over this cultural landscape and its communities. As much spiritual centers as they were protective havens, the 160 churches that survive today are testaments to the struggle for survival against constant Tartar and, later, Turkish attacks between the 12th and 14th centuries. Crenellations, arrow slits, and hoardings adorn the structures standing sentry over their villages. With the advent of gunpowder and other technologies in the early 18th century, the protective functions of the fortifications became obsolete. The churches, however, maintained an essential role in the traditional daily life of the community as both spiritual and social centers. Emigration of Transylvanian Saxons within the last 20 years has transformed the region and contributed to the degradation of many of these churches. Insufficient funding, abandonment, and neglect have allowed the roofs, walls, and foundations to fall into disrepair. A trust has been established to advocate for the restoration of these sacred guardians of the past. Watch listing seeks to draw attention to and support the trust's efforts.

Since the Watch

Following the 2010 Watch, local advocates from the Coordination Office for Fortified Churches of the Evangelical Church A.C. in Romania secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund for the restoration of 18 fortified churches. The restoration project took place between 2011 and 2013, at a cost of €5.5 million. In addition, the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation awarded $39,185 for the restoration of the fortified church in the village of Moardăș. Advocates have continued to promote the region as a destination for cultural tourism. May 2014

Join us in keeping watch over mankind’s greatest achievements, and support this call to action.