Transylvania is home to a large collection of fortified churches, with over 150 still standing today. Built by the Saxons between the 13th and 16th centuries, they served as both places of worship and defensive fortresses. The blend of religious and military architecture reflects the region’s turbulent history, marked by frequent invasions and conflicts. These Transylvanian fortified churches have survived many attacks. They feature thick walls, defensive towers, and even storage areas for provisions. Here is a list of fortified Churches to visit in Transylvania that are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Exploring them offers a glimpse into the medieval past of Transylvania. You also get to discover the surrounding villages, enjoying both history and nature.

1 – Calnic – The Church on the Hill

Brief history

The Evangelical Church is known by locals as the “Church on the Hill”. The current structure dates back to the 15th century and was extensively modified in the 19th century, giving it a Neo-Gothic appearance. Inside there are two tabernacles and the Gothic portal of the sacristy.

Why visit?

You can also visit the fortress of Calnic. Built around 1270, it features a keep, defensive walls, and a surrounding water-filled moat. Access was possible only via a drawbridge. After the Saxon community took over the fortress, they constructed a second fortification wall and a tower on the southern side.
You can also spend the night here, immersing yourself in the historic ambiance of the site. Imagine waking up to the picturesque surroundings of the village, within the fortified church itself.

Biertan fortified church foggy - fortified churches to visit in Transylvania

2 – Biertan

Brief history

The medieval architectural complex in Biertan consists of the church and a surrounding fortification belt, all situated on a hill in the center of the settlement. The hall-type church, built between 1490 and 1520 in the late Gothic style, is the last one of its kind, in Transylvania. This monumental structure features three naves of equal height. The entrance is through three gates: west, north, and south.
You can also visit the museum, the Ham Tower—named for its use in storing food during attacks—and the Matrimonial Prison. Here, couples who were not getting along and wanted to divorce had to stay together. They had only one eating utensil and one cup. After this experience, a single couple still wanted to divorce, while the rest reconciled.

Why visit?

Today, visitors can explore the church’s interior, admire its architectural features and decorative elements, and learn about its rich history through guided tours and informational exhibits. The surrounding village of Biertan offers traditional houses, and artisan workshops showcasing local crafts and traditions. Nearby you can also visit the Medias fortress, Sighisoara medieval town or a number of other fortified churches in the neighboring villages or Richis and Copsa Mare. You can read more about Sighisoara here.

viscri fortified church

3 – Viscri Fortified Church

Brief history

Viscri is renowned for its highly fortified church, originally built around 1100 AD by the Székelys. It’s one of the best-preserved fortified churches to visit in Transylvania. The white Romanesque chapel was taken over by Saxon colonists in 1185, leading to the relocation of the Székelys. In the 14th century, the eastern part of the church was rebuilt.
In recent centuries of peace, the fortified rooms and corridors have been used for storage or as classrooms. The dance ring in the church’s outer yard, with its lime tree and wooden benches, remains a village meeting point for festivities and dances.

Why Visit?

The village of Viscri is a quiet place where the hustle and bustle of modern life seem to fade away. It attracts those in search of peaceful retreats. You can also visit the property owned by His Majesty King Charles, which is open to the public. King Charles, who has made over 20 visits to Romania, regards Viscri as a place where time stands still, echoing its enduring charm.
For panoramic views we recommend a climb up the church tower where you can see the surrounding area. Additionally, while visiting the church there is also a museum in the inner courtyard. It showcases an array of artifacts, paintings and embroideries. You can stay at this guest house in Viscri.

It is included in our Guided Tour of Transilvania that you can have a look at.

4 – Darjiu – The Bacon Citadel

Brief history

Originally constructed in Romanesque architectural style during the 14th–15th centuries, the church underwent a transformation into a Gothic structure in the latter part of the 15th century. The semi-cylindrical rib-vaulted arches, extending into both the nave and choir, were added in the first half of the 16th century. These vaults are upheld by corbels adorned with intricate carvings. These are depictions of a pelican with chicks, the sun, the moon, masks, and a symmetrical plowshare.
The 15th-century mural paintings represent the most precious values of the monument. The most important is the series of paintings depicting the legend of Saint Ladislaus. It has remained in very good condition.
Among the attractions of the church is the brick with Szekler runic writing, found in 1929. The inscription on it can still be seen today. The content of the inscription is subject to discussion, one version of the text being: “Miklós Derzsi apa-pap” (Miklós Derzsi father-priest).
Every family in the village has at least one wooden nail in the tower, where meat, sausages, lard, and smoked ham are stored. The nails are passed down from generation to generation and are not alienable. The number of nails held indicates the social status of the respective family.

Why visit?

Every Wednesday, at the cock crowing – according to the rules established in the medieval era, still in force today – the bell begins to ring, announcing to the villagers that the gates of the citadel are opening, and they can come to stock up for a week.
Visitors can take part in the “bacon ceremony” every Wednesday of the week, provided they announce their intention a few days in advance. It is also unusual that interested parties can register by phone, even from abroad, for this ceremony and, in exchange for a fee, can taste at the “bacon feast”. This always begins with a plum brandy that whets the appetite, sheep cheese, ham, traditional smoked bacon, other local gastronomy delights, and homemade wine.

5 – Prejmer – The Oldest Triptych In Transylvania

Brief history

The Prejmer church fortress stands as one of Transylvania’s paramount medieval historical landmarks. Its construction commenced in 1218 under the patronage of the Teutonic Knights’ Odin. The church, devoted to the Holy Cross, was constructed based on a central Greek cross layout, which underwent alterations in the 16th century. Initially, the structure comprised four identical arms.
The oval-shaped enclosure wall spans approximately 72 meters in diameter. Its formidable structure, measuring 3 to 4 meters in thickness. It is fortified by four towers—three circular and one polygonal—as well as the gate corridor (32 meters long) and the subsequently constructed castle.
Crowning the defensive wall is a broad street corridor, facilitating the passage of multiple individuals. Access to this corridor was from the upper rooms, enabling swift occupation of defensive positions.

Why visit?

Above the gate corridor, the tax warehouse was constructed in 1793, now serving as a small museum. Here, visitors can explore a diverse range of items, from agricultural to blacksmith tools.
The fortified church exhibits some precious artefacts like the organ, the altar, the pulpit and pews.
It is very close to Brasov so if you are in the area it is well worth a trip. History enthusiasts will appreciate it even more so. We highly recommend it as a fortified church to visit in Transylvania.

6 – Cincu

Brief history

Although not part of UNESCO world heritage sites we still mention this fortified church because of its historical significance.
The Evangelical Church in Cincu was originally built in the 13th century by German settlers, later rebuilt in the first half of the 16th century in Gothic style, and further renovated in the 18th century. Unlike many other churches, it was dedicated to two saints, the Virgin Mary and Saint Paul.

The walls that once surrounded the fortification have undergone a long process of deterioration and wear. This reduced their height to 2 – 3 meters on three sides, and even less on the western side. Initially, the fortification had five external observation and defense towers. They faced the north, south, east, northeast, and southeast. Today, only the southern tower remains standing. Notably, in the 19th century, after the destruction of the Bacon Tower in 1789, the community of Cincu built storerooms inside the fortification with the same purpose.

Why visit?

Being located on a lovely rural area you also get to enjoy the view of the mountains. You should definitely go up the tower especially when the bells are ringing for an even better atmosphere.
History enthusiasts will enjoy this church so if you are in the area around Fagaras you can include it in you list of fortified churches to visit in Transylvania.
They stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era, offering a glimpse into the history, traditions, and beliefs that shaped the region. They tell a story of resilience, faith, and community spirit. As you explore these monuments you will admire the craftsmanship of those who built them, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the cultural heritage that has endured through the ages.
With a selection of over 150 fortified churches to explore, you have ample opportunity to either create a list and visit them individually or integrate them into your itinerary while exploring Transylvania’s key towns like Sibiu, Brasov or Sighisoara. Traveling between them will also make for a good road trip on county roads especially if you are a cyclist or motorcyclist. In this case you can have a look at hour cycling tour which includes some of these churches.
So also check out the following fortified churches in Cristian, Harman, Alma Vii, Mosna, Valea Viilor, Richis, Copsa Mare, Cincsor, Dealul frumos, Agnita and Carta.

 

Alma Vii fortified church to visit in Transylvania