Viscri Fortified Church is a Lutheran fortified church in Viscri, Brașov County, in the Transylvania region of Romania. It was built by the ethnic German Transylvanian Saxon community. Initially Roman Catholic, it became Lutheran following the Reformation. Together with the surrounding village, the church forms part of the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Background and church
The Weisskirch (“white church”) in the village’s German name refers to a chapel built by the Székely inhabitants who lived there prior to the Saxons’ arrival between 1141 and 1162, during the reign of Géza II. The building was rectangular, with a semicircular altar of greenish-white limestone. Four Romanesque capitals that survive in the choir, including one used as a baptismal font, also originate in this period. Coins and earrings found in graves both inside and outside the chapel were initially thought to date from the reign of Coloman (1095–1116), but a re-evaluation found that the oldest coin came from the late reign of Géza II, suggesting the remains were of Saxons rather than Székely.
In the 13th century, the Saxons built a Romanesque hall church that integrated the chapel but also introduced changes, such as a wooden seat gallery at the western end. The apse, its altar possibly of the Romanesque period, features a scalloped capital unique to Transylvania. The design was popular in 12th-century Germany but disappeared soon after reaching Austria, suggesting the church dates to no later than the first half of the 13th century.
In the 14th century the church became a community church. The apse was replaced by a larger trapezoidal choir. The church was fortified around 1500: the hall was lengthened and linked to the keep, formerly freestanding and probably belonging to the family of a count. Another level was added to the keep, used for bells and fitted with a battlement that stayed on corbels. The roof featured a sixth level with embrasures for firing. The choir’s defensive level was demolished in 1743. Due to the peaceful nature of the period, the church battlement was taken down after that time, replaced by grain storerooms for the villagers. The interior ceiling has a ceiling divided into squares, also from 1743, around which time the austere furnishings were put in place.
In 1999, Viscri, together with five other places, was added to the already-listed Biertan to form the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, the church is listed as a historic monument by Romania’s Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, with the following being listed as separate entries: the inner walls and towers, the outer walls, and a 19th-century outdoor space for festive dances.