Cultural Treasures: Harman Fortified Church in Transylvania

Harman Fortified Church

The second Saxon fortified church on my list is called Harman or Honigberg in German, meaning ‘honey mountain’. The village is easily accessible by bus from the city of Brasov and the church is a wonderful example of the Saxons’ talent in building long lasting fortresses to protect their land during the invasions of the Turks and Tartars in the Middle Ages.

The Harman Fortified Church and its Beginnings

The reason I chose to introduce the readers to the Saxon fortified church of Harman is its peacefulness; also, a few of its features make it a wonderful stop on a trip to Transylvania; travelers who choose to visit Brasov, can take a bus going 10 kilometers east of the city and easily reach the village of Harman.

The main attraction here is located right in the center of the village. Its 50-meter-high tower greets you from afar and guides you to the walls of the fortified church. There were originally three walls protecting the church, now there are two left; the first one is shorter and it was once surrounded by a moat.

The church was built in the 13th century, in the Romanesque style, so popular at the time; but since enemy attacks damaged it often, the parts that were destroyed were later rebuilt in Gothic style. It was fortified in the 16th century and after the Saxons switched to Protestantism, the church became Evangelic Lutheran. The mural paintings were covered at the time, but today some of them have come to light once again.

On one of the portals there is a painting of a pelican, which according to legend, in times of scarcity would feed its young with the blood from its own breast; in medieval Europe, this became the symbol for the Passion of the Christ.

After passing through the barrel vault gallery, travelers come face to face with the church; the storage rooms were built onto the walls facing the courtyard, but more interestingly onto the walls of the church itself. This is one of the Saxon fortified church’s unique features.

The Inside of the Saxon Fortified Church of Harman

The inside of the fortified church is modest, but charming nonetheless. The pews in the central nave are original, dating from the end of the 16th century; they have no back rests, as the traditional dress of the Saxon women had a ribbon in the back and that way it would not be crushed when sitting.

There is a collection of Oriental rugs, brought by the Saxon merchants in order to thank God for keeping them safe during their travels.

The beautifully ornate Baroque altar catches the eye; it was brought here in the 18th century, together with the organ, the second largest in Barsa Land (southeastern part of Transylvania), after the one belonging to the Black Church in Brasov.

The pews on the sides were used by the men, who had to keep close to the exits and protect the women in case of an attack.

Walking thorough the church, I always get the feeling of peacefulness and admiration for the people who designed this cultural treasure for us to admire today; of course they did not walk with the feeling of serenity, but with increased anxiety and determination to protect their lives and their lands.

Travelers venturing into Transylvania, always start their quest in Brasov, the undeclared capital of the region. The city is within easy reach of many popular attractions such as Bran Castle, the so-called Dracula’s Castle or the least famous but very luxurious Peles Palace in Sinaia, the summer residence of the Romanian Royal family; if you are traveling by bus or train and don’t have a lot of time in your hands but would like to visit a Saxon fortified church, Harman is one of your best options for a day trip from Brasov.

Transylvania has a lot more to offer aside from all the vampire myths and legends that were born here together with Bram Stoker’s book; you can’t really say you have experienced its diversity and history without tasting a bit of the culture of each of its main ingredients: Romanian, Hungarian and Saxon.