Situated in the historic region of Transylvania, în România, Sighișoara is amongst the oldest inhabited walled cities. Founded by craftsmen and merchants of German ethnicity in the 12th Century, the city stood on the site of an old Roman Fort as a ‘six-sided camp’ consisting of two parts, a Citadel, crowning the top of a hill, and a local town established on a subsequently lower level.
Primeval military writings mention the existence of a four-meter wall surrounding the city in the 11th Century. As hostility from the Ottoman empire escalated, these barriers soared in height and were slowly converted into bastions with armed fortresses on top.
By the mid 13th Century, the city became a prominent center of defense, art, and economy. Today, this World UNESCO Heritage captivates its visitors via medieval fortresses, orthodox churches, and multilingual commoner dwellings.
Here are 15 places for you to visit in Sighișoara:
1. Clock Tower of Sighișoara
Marking the entrance to the ancient Citadel, the Clock Tower of Sighișoara is the oldest and the most eloquent building in the entire complex. Built in River Stone with solid oak doors and metal gratings on a rectangular base, the present-day structure houses the History Museum of Sighisoara.
The facades facing the Citadel and the City carry large clock dials adorned with seven symbolic figurines representing the seven ancient gods, planets, and metals. Due to its strategic position, the balconies of the majestic tower exhibit a panoramic view of the Citadel and the City below highly favorable in skirmishes or fires.
Contrasting with the neighboring towers, the Sighișoara Clock Tower demonstrates coherent characters of public authority in the form of statues and four turrets on four corners worth witnessing at least once in a lifetime.
2. History Museum of Sighișoara
Perching inside the primitive Clock tower of Sighișoara since the 19th Century, the History Museum is an incredible collection of artifacts of the bygone era. The three-storeyed treasury exhibits a comprehensive scaled model of the fortified city. The scaled model showcases two crossings commencing from the Clock Tower to the lower town. These crossings were divided into five levels and maintained an open gallery on the last level.
Apart from the model, the complex imparts critical insights about the domestic culture via furnishings, textiles, ceramics, and hieroglyphs on glass and timber panels. The museum also accommodates a reservoir of arms and ammunition such as knives and firearms along with pharmacy and medical instruments.
Towers of Sighișoara
The prehistoric city of Sighișoara inhabited fifteen guilds who built fifteen towers, of which nine remain today for safeguarding the citadel. These towers functioned as independent entities and also as undefeatable allies in combat.
3. Tailors’ Tower
Seated opposite the Clock Tower, lies the dense Tailors’ Tower. Built over a bastion, the arched apertures secures the second main entrance to the citadel. Dating back to the 14th Century, the massive scale of the fortress, groin vaults, use of semicircular arches, and attenuated openings connote the construction in Romanesque Style.
Many military archives disclose that the extended bastion and the entrance portal were constructed during the 12th Century and later on the tower was cast in the 14th Century. After the Fire of 1676, the tower lost its military importance and was used as a warehouse till 1935.
4. Tinsmiths’ Tower
Located next to the Clock Tower, the Tinsmiths’ Tower is a remarkable feat of defense architecture. The twenty-five meters high fortress is amongst the oldest shielding systems constructed to screen the Citadel. Unusually, the four-storeyed tower flaunts a different form of a plan on each level. On the ground level, the fortress is square in plan, probably derived from the remains of an old fortress.
On the Bastion tier, the base of the tower is pentagonal in plan. On the third tier, the superstructure suddenly widens into an octagon, making the third tier the largest of all tiers. Finally, the fourth level supporting the slightly imbalanced hipped roof is hexagonal in plan.
The interior of the fortress features extensive timber work forged by Sighișoaraisn carpenters. Various parts of the tower retain bullet marks from the Hungarian Siege of 1704 compounding the historical significance of the tower.
5. Ropemakers’ Tower
Sprawling along the North-Western edge of the Citadel, the Ropemakers tower is the only inhabited tower in the city of Sighișoara. The tower rests on a square base and is covered by a clay-tiled prismatic roof. The traces of sealed loopholes in the basement are a suggestion of the soaring walls of the fortress belonging to the bygone era.
The tower has very few narrow rectangular openings as it was intended to guard the Citadel. Although entry inside the tower is prohibited, one can pass through a portal of two gigantic semicircular arches situated at the base of the fort. Hence, the thick walls, slender openings, prismatic roofs, and soft semicircular arches hint at the conception of the tower in Romanesque Style.
6. Bootmakers’ Tower
Since the 15th Century, the Bootmakers’ Tower has been guarding the North Eastern margin of the Sighișoaraisn citadel. However, the original tower was destroyed in the Fire of 1676 and the present-day structure was erected in the 17th Century in Baroque style. The truncated structure is pentagonal in plan and is sheltered by a steep-sloped pyramidal roof.
Despite its low height, the tower maintains two inventive observation towers one facing the South East and the other facing the North West. In restoration implemented in the early 2000s, a wooden staircase was added to the existing mass to increase accessibility to the tower.
7. The Scholars’ Stairs
Originally intended to link the Lower Town to the Citadel, the Scholar Stairs are a series of three hundred steps of which a mere hundred and seventy-six exist today is a salient motif of the walled city of Sighișoara. Apart from dispensing easy access to the School and Church on the Hill, the enclosed staircase sheltered its pilgrims from the seasonal malaise for centuries.
The doorway flaunts a segmental arch adorned by pilasters and an unending estimation of treads to ascend ahead. The staircase is a manifestation of stone plinths sheathed by Gabled Roofs on top and an alternating arrangement of timber battens on the sides.
In the course of ascent, halting and glimpsing the source of light shining brightly at the end of the long, contoured tunnel is an enthralling experience.
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Churches of Sighișoara
The presence of churches of various cults constructed over a monumental period is a notion of the city’s tolerant approach. Due to the need for fortification and a deficiency of finances, most spiritual spaces remain girthy and unadorned.
8. The Church on The Hill
Biserica din Dil, colloquially known as the Church on the Hill is the third-largest church dominating the Transylvanian Land. As the name suggests, the uplifted terrain of the building aggravates its visibility conveying the significance and sublime status in the society. Unlike its gothic contemporaries, the elevation of the church exhibits bare walls and an overall elementary plainness.
Slight variations in proportions of the Bell Towers and the Choir is a suggestion of incremental evolution in the architecture of the robust Sighișoaraisn church. The exterior of the church is partially painted whereas the interior showcases a wide range of paintings by Gothic and Renaissance artists of the middle ages.
The restoration work undertaken by Restauro Masserscschmidt preserves the spirit of the space while strengthening the building for future generations to relish.
9. The Church of Dominican Monastery
Located in the vicinity of the Clock Tower, the Monastery Church is an unornamented edifice that was first constructed in the 13th Century for a neighboring Dominican encampment. This archaic monument has persisted through multiple sequences of restorations which continued for centuries.
A crucial restoration was executed in the 16th Century wherein the church was remodeled in Late-Gothic Style. It encompasses two naves and two rows of pillars distinct to the Gothic elegance. The pure off-white walls of the complex compliment the walnut-shaded ribbed vault.
The Sighișoaraisn church also discloses an intricate assemblage of Baroque details on the altar and restricted traceries in the tapering windows. Hence, the former Dominican Order Church portrays a balanced fusion of an elapsing and upcoming system of architecture.
10. Holy Trinity Church
Located along with the Northern Bank of Tarnava Mare River, the Holy Trinity Church is a remarkable example of the Neo-Byzantine style of architecture. Built in 1934, the structure was accomplished during the peak of the Byzantine Revival. The church is capped by a massive dome and lets in maximum light from semicircular clerestory windows.
The interiors of this marvelous edifice are characterized by golden frescoes and tempera paintings. The elevation of the church resembles a prodigious mass focusing more on the semicircular arches and the vertical proportion of the built form.
On an extrinsic front, the church unveils segmental punctures abutting pilasters which at times behave as openings and at other times are sealed by frescos. The propulsive framings crowing the openings impart a graceful temperament to the church.
Apart from its military architecture and churches, the city of Sighișoara is also acclaimed for its striking streets dotted with soft-hued houses leading to the main square. Majority of these dwellings stage intermingling of Eastern European architecture with native Transylvanian culture.
11. Piata Cetatii – The Central Square
Surrounded by closely clustered pastel abodes bordering the narrow streets, lies a Public Square in the center of the city. Indigenously known as the Piata Cetatii, the polygonal planned plaza employed weekly markets, craft fairs, public executions, and witch trials during the Middle Ages. Sighișoara’s high altitude contributes to the slight inclination of the Square in the North-South Direction.
Today, Central Square occupies restaurants, souvenir shops, and a picturesque view of tinted buildings. A central mound bedecked with flowers is not only a significant pause point in the plaza but also directs the traffic in the massive landscape.
12. Vlad Dracul’s House
While approaching the main city square of Sighișoara one comes across a marigold-colored building nestling at one end of the street. Differing from its lively appearance, the building once was the birthplace of a notorious ruler of Wallachia, Vlad The Impaler. The residence of Romanian braveheart, the inspiration behind the legendary character Count Dracula, intrigues tourists centuries after his death.
Although rooting from the medieval style, the building displays an unusual character embracing a single buttress on one side and occasional semi-circular arches teeming with rectangular entrances. The thick walls and meticulous rectangular windows behave as tokens of native Transylvanian architecture.
13. The Venetian House
Withdrawing from the Sighișoaraisn style of architecture, lies the Venetian House in the citadel of the city. Its patron, Stephanus Mann, a mayor of the city refurbished his residence paying homage to the Venetian ancestry of his wife. Resembling the Italian Gothic Style of the City of Venice, the polygonal massing demonstrates a wide range of Byzantine and Islamic influences.
The couplet of trefoil arched openings extruding extended sills adorned with filigreed metallic railing imbibes delicacy to a solid building. The geometric stone framing above the pointed openings delivers a classic Venetian aesthetic prevailing in Europe during the 16th Century.
14. The Stag House
Positioned in the main plaza of the citadel, the Stag House is a typical example of Transylvanian style Renaissance architecture. The unconventional name of the structure derives from the head of the stag, protruding from the North West Corner of the building. Restoration carried out in the early 2000s outlines the body of a stag via a mural.
The facade of the building is dominated by well proportioned, symmetric windows and dictates a static rhythm. Despite the strong intercultural influences the hotel incorporates hipped roofs and dormer windows native to Sighișoara. Hence, the Stag House is a unique blend of immediate regionalism and hybrid experimentation.
15. Breite Oak Tree Reserve
Spanning across the northern end of Sighișoara, the Breite Oak Tree Reserve is the oldest living example of Transylvanian culture. The expanse spreading across a hundred and eighty acres formulates the largest grassland in Eastern and Central Europe. The sanctuary is home to over five hundred Hornbeam and Oak trees aging anywhere between two hundred to eight hundred years.
Hence, these humble species have persisted through changing chieftains, ravaging fires, and devastating earthquakes for more than eight centuries. Rare species of eagles, owls, bee-eaters, bears, and wolves are a few of the many animals residing in the forest. Hence, the Breite Oaktree reserve is an innate aspect of the genealogy of Sighișoara.
Thus, the city of Sighișoara is an archive of the Transylvanian heritage of the Middle Ages. Via the architecture of defense mechanisms, churches, domestic settlements, and town planning principles, it is possible to gauge how the manner of living affects architecture and in turn how architecture affects the manner of living.