Discover the Spirit of Transylvania
Transylvania is known for its medieval and fortified churches. In a relatively confined rural area, 201 churches, church castles, fortified churches and castles can be found. Some of them are part of the UNESCO World Culture Heritage (Calnic, Valea Viilor, Saschiz, Biertan, Viscri, Darjiu, Prejmer). These are joined by several urban churches and fortification systems. All of them originate from a time beginning with the 12th century and have been taken care of by their builders, the Transylvanian Saxons. Because of the eventful history of the 20th century, an overwhelming part has left the homeland. The buildings were abandoned.
The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) in Romania, as the traditional church of the Transylvanian Saxons, is left alone with the burden of maintaining the church castles. The vast majority of the constructions belong to it. Unfortunately, only some of them are used for religious service, since just a few compact communities of Saxons remained. Today, 25 years after the church constructors left, the question of maintaining this patrimony becomes more and more urgent. Although of solid build, it’s impossible for them to survive on their own, especially when the current community, which walks by on a daily basis, does not identify itself with them.
The royal road in preserving this historic landscape is cultural tourism. The Saxon church castles and medieval churches are visited annually by 500,000 guests. However, 180,000 are registered by the Black Church in Brasov alone. The rest is divided on all the other churches. Biertan, Prejmer and the Hill Church of Sighișoara open their gates for 30,000 visitors, whereas Hărman, Mediaș, Cisnădie, Cisnădioara and Cârța for 10,000. Several record only single digit numbers. These are too low to make preservation, maintenances and daily business hours possible.
The project of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) in Romania, “Discover the Spirit of Transylvania” aims to assist as many communities as possible to make their monuments accessible to the public as well as in the development of cultural offers and programs. Concert series in Brasov, Sighisoara and the Barsa County, a film festival in Biertan and the “Filtsch” festival in Sebes, are long-standing initiatives. We support traditional celebrations such as those in Carta or Malancrav, as well as modern events in Cisnadioara and Cincsor. Venerable expositions in Cisnadie, Axente Sever and Miercurea Sibiului stand in contrast with the youthfulness of activities in of Selistat and Barcut.
If we are talking about fortified churches, we are not only thinking of the liturgical building. A vicarage and bell ringer accommodations, a school and a meeting hall, used in the past for neighborhood gatherings, are also part of the ensemble. All of these convey something of the Spirit of Transylvania, which builds around the words community, respect, culture and endurance. Abandoned vicarages are now guest houses open to anyone looking for a special atmosphere.
A leading roll plays the cycling tour Bike & Like, which aims to promote a mode of visiting other than mass tourism. The amateur tour is sponsored by Discover the Spirit of Transylvania and Nostress Triathlon. In this way different regions of the fortified churches landscape get a turn in the spotlight. Bike & Like offers more than just an athletic competition, it also delivers cultural recesses for the bikers and their families and friends. They become guests in selected fortified churches
Technische Universität Berlin and the Coordination Office for Fortified Churches, on behalf of the Evangelical Church have developed a Smartphone app containing basic information, to facilitate the access to the church castles. Furthermore the church released a cultural calendar and offers trip information for Incoming Agencies. Last but not least, the Transivania Card was introduced, to make you feel as a truly welcome guest. Revenues form the card as well as all the other programs organized by Discover the Spirit of Transylvania are used entirely for the preservation and development of the church castle landscape of Transylvania.