August 19, 2015

0339, 1835 ROMANIA (Sibiu / Braşov) - Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania (UNESCO WHS)

0339 Biertan Fortified Church

Posted on 22.09.2012, 19.08.2015
In the 12th and 13th centuries, simultaneous with the advancement of the Kingdom of Hungary's border to the east and south-eastern Transylvania, until its stabilization along the Carpathians, Hungarian kings encouraged Germans and Székelys to colonize the areas newly conquered, in essence for economic and military reasons. The German colonists were named Transylvanian Saxons, despite the fact that most of them came from the western Holy Roman Empire. The influence, both political and economic and social, which they exercised in the last eight centuries in Transylvania was a major and beneficial one. Unfortunately after the WWII, but especially after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, many members of this community emigrated to Germany.

1835 Viscri Fortified Church

Being situated in a region constantly under the threat of the invasions, they built fortifications of different sizes. The most important towns were fully fortified, and the smaller communities created fortifications centered on the church, where they added defensive towers and storehouses to keep their most valuable goods and to help them withstand long sieges. At its peak, were about 300 such fortified churches, but now are left around 150, most of them well preserved. Seven of them (6 in Saxons villages and one in a Székelys village) were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, under the name Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania.

Biertan (Birthälm), in Sibiu County,  was one of the first settlements of the Transylvanian Saxons, and received the right to organize a market, placing it in competition with Mediaş and Moşna; it was also the see of the Saxon Lutheran Church from 1572 to 1867. Built in the center of the town, on a hill (Hill of Berth), in Late Gothic style with Renaissance touches, Biertan fortified church was the last one erected in this style in Transylvania, between 1486 and 1524. It was limited by terrain configuration, the choir, 18m long, vaulted with a network of ribs, being built just after the old building ships were replaced by three ships of equal height.

Above the choir there was a defensive floor, equipped with ramparts and watch road. The piece de resistance is the polyptych altar, the largest in Transylvania, consisting of 28 panels made by a local painter. Enjoys international fame the vestry door, with a very complicated and original system of 19 locks, made by local craftsmen, which was awarded on the 1889 Paris World's Fair. The fortress consists of three enclosures, connected by gate towers. The first one, with six towers, dating from the 14th century, the second, marked by a series of arches reinforcement is the same period as the church and the third, also fortified with two towers, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Located on a side road away from the national road that links Braşov and Sighişoara, In Braşov county, the village of Viscri (Deutschweisskirch) is home to the Viscri fortified church, initially Roman Catholic, and following the Reformation Lutheran.  The weisskirch (white church) in the village refers to a chapel built by the Székely inhabitants who lived there prior to the Saxons' arrival between 1141 and 1162. In the 13th century, the Saxons built a Romanesque hall church that integrated the chapel but also introduced changes.

In the 12th century, fortifications began to be built around the chapel. Forming an oval and made of river and field stone, the south, east and northeast walls have survived; these are 7m in height. The entrance is through the southeast wall, to which two towers and two bastions were added in the 14th century. The south tower, built into the wall exterior, had three floors and a battlement resting on wooden corbels. The topmost level kept its parapets, with their oak border and moveable logs that could shut in defenders. The south bastion battlement and roof were joined with those of the south tower.

About the stamps
On the postcard 0339

This time I'll be talking more than usual about the stamp, because Mircea Ostoia, the friend from Focşani who sent me this postcard isn't only a tenacious collector of postcards, but also the author of some very interesting blogs (Postcard Travel Guide and Quality of Romania), on which I warmly recommend you, and even graphic designer. The stamp used for this postcard is one of those worked by him for Romfilatelia. This issuance, entitled International Children's Day, contains a single stamp (with the value of 2.40RON - unusual one), and was issued on June 1, 2012. Run printing was 185,360 copies, but Mircea used a stamp with vignette, which was only one on each minisheet, namely 2,100 copies. Mulţumesc din suflet, Mircea.

Declared as a holiday by many governments after the World Conference on Children’s Protection and Welfare, which took place in August 1925 in Geneva, Children’s Day is celebrated on various days worldwide, but there are also the Universal Children's Day, celebrated on November 20th. In Romania, as in many other countries (like China, SUA, Bulgaria, Germania, Polonia, Albania etc), the International Children’s Day is celebrated on 1st of June, when are organized various events, and children receive gifts and have free entrance to some museums, zoos etc.

On the postcard 1835
The stamp, depicting the Romanian actress Valeria Gagealov (born 1931), is part of the series Golden Stars of Stage and Screen, about which I wrote here.

Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania - UNESCO official site
Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania - Wikipedia
Birten fortified church - Wikipedia
Biertan / Birthälm - Fortified Churches
Viscri fortified church - Wikipedia
Viscri / Deutschweisskirch - Fortified Churches

Sender 0339: Mircea Ostoia (direct swap)
Sent from Focşani (Vrancea / Romania), on 18.09.2012
Photo: M. Dragomir
Sender 1835:Carmen şi Cătălin Jucătoru
Sent from Râşnov (Braşov / Romania), on 05.08.2015
Photo: Mioritics