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The fortified church from Cisnădioara

I’ve always been fascinated by castles, fortresses and any other kinds of strongholds. I find it interesting to see how these evolved over time and how people found more and more ingenious ways of defending themselves against as ingeniously evolving siege weapons. I love discovering new ways of fortifying a place, both in terms of defensive structures, but also clever ways of allowing people to shoot, throw and use any other types of defensive mechanisms. Luckily, there are loads of such strongholds close to home. Transylvania is especially full of castles, citadels, fortified churches and strongholds. Of all these, I like the fortified churches the most. And this is how this series came to be 🙂 

Cisnadioara church

The fortress of Cisnădioara is located in a small town, just 6 km away from Sibiu. What impressed me the most was its location, set on the top of a hill and overlooking the whole town and its surroundings. It’s not hard to see how they picked this spot 🙂 The stronghold is enclosed by a wall. It’s not very high, nor very thick, but it does have shooting holes and what looks like remnants from an old wall-walk (that would be used by harquebusiers and archers). The ruins of two towers can also be seen. So I bet it looked much more impressive in its times! In the middle of the stronghold stands the stone church. I found it more impressive from the outside rather than the inside since only few of the decorations remain.

Here are my ratings of the stronghold 🙂

Location:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Strength:2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Comfort:1 out of 5 stars (1.0 / 5)
Storage facilities:1 out of 5 stars (1.0 / 5)
Attack:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Resistance to fire:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
Cool legends:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Current condition:2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Average:3.1 out of 5 stars (3.1 / 5)

The Saint Michael church is one of the oldest monuments from Transylvania that was built in a Romanesque style. It belonged initially to the Saxon prepositure in Sibiu set up in 1188-1191 and was later donated in 1223 to the Cistercian friars who kept it until 1454, when the Cistercian abbey was suppressed. Its aspect has remained unchanged from 1223 to the day.

The church is build from river stone and wooden slabs and is made of a central nave flanked by aisles, a square chancel and main and side apses. On its western façade, which holds a portal with a richly decorated embrasure, are the remains of one of the towers.


The portal is the main decoration of the basilica, unique in Transylvania because of its structure. The entrance to the church is flanked by a row of pillars and two blind arches on each side. The caps are covered with beautiful decorations.

Cisnadioara church wall

The inner walls of the Romanesque church were once covered with murals and the triumphal arch was adorned with images of saints. But unfortunately, only a few traces of these can still be seen today. The church is lighted by a few small semicircular windows.

The inside the church lacks furnishings and decorations, the slabs of several German, Austrian and Hungarian soldiers who fell in the fights at Sibiu during WW I are some of the only items to be found.

The church is said to have great acoustics, so I hope that some day I will get to listen to one of the concerts they sometimes play there.
Cisnadioara church inside

The church was later fortified by adding defensive walls and towers. The main entrance of the fortress, with a stone vault, used to have a residence tower on it, but it collapsed a long time ago, as the other tower

The fortress, like many others of its kind from Transylvania, was used by the villagers to defend themselves from the Tartars’ and the Turks’ raids. From what is left of the stronghold, it’s not clear if they had storage facilities inside or a place for all the villagers to reside in case of a prolonged siege of the fortress. The courtyard now only has a couple of benches for tourists 🙂

fortress walls

I like how all the entrances in the walls were set at a lower level than the rest of the fortress. I bet they were easier to defend like this! 😀

Fortifications at cisnadioara

In the churchyard one can see some huge cannon balls made of stone, which are said to weigh up to 100 kg. There was a tradition that said that when a groom wanted to prove his strength and assure the maid’s parents that he was able to support a family, he would have to carry one stone ball up to the church yard. The cannon balls were stored up there and thrown upon the enemy, in case of a siege.

Poor guys! They had a bit of climbing to do with those stones! But today, we get to climb with no stones and just admire the fortress and the view 🙂

view from the fortress

The stronghold is said to have resisted without major damages between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Pretty cool!

Which is your favourite stronghold?

Useful info:

  • the entrance fee is 5 lei (a bit over 1 euro)Cisnadioara church
  • to get in, you must ask for the keys from the keeper of the keys. It’s one of the villagers that lives close to the fortress. There are some directions on the door or you can ask around 🙂
  • if you want to spend more time in the area, a cosy place to stay is at the Sub Cetate guest house, the rooms are neatly decorated with traditional painted furniture.
  • if you are planning to visit more fortified churches from Transylvania, you should also check out the Transylvania-Card. With it you can get free entrance to many of the fortified churches 😉

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Info sources:

trip date: March 2015

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