Viscri Village is one of the most beautiful Saxon villages in Transylvania, part of the UNESCO World Heritage. The construction of the fortified church in the village centre began in 1100 A.D., a fact confirmed by the tombstone inscription in the cemetery that surrounds the church. In 1185, the Saxons colonised the church, the Hungarians inhabitants being forced to leave the village and settle in the south-east of Transylvania.
The Viscri settlement was officially named in 1400 under the Latin title of Alba Ecclesia, or “White Church”, its German equivalent being “Weißkirch.” The church gave the village its name – as it was one of the most impressive in all Transylvania. The first towers were added around 1525. In the 18th century, a second defensive wall and a covered passageway were added to the construction. The centre piece of the altar, a 19th century classic, was the painting “Blessing of the Children,” by Rupean painter J. Paukratz. In the 18th century, a group of Romanian shepherds settled in Viscri.
After the 90s, only a few Saxon families remained. Nowadays, inside the church museum you can admire woven and embroidered textiles, pottery, and handmade agricultural tools, as well as traditional clothing and furniture. From the fortification’s towers you can admire the village scenery, with its hills and meadows, as well as the authentic hand-tiled roofs of the houses and barns. Many of the traditional buildings have been salvaged and restored since 1999.
The Mihai Eminescu Trust has more than 300 projects in the area – including restoring the buildings, paving the roads, providing school transportation for the children, and supporting local entrepreneurial development. In the village there are two blacksmith shops and a brick and tile oven. In the near future, a community kitchen is to be launched, for the manufacturing of locale jams and canned goods. The people of Viscri are well known for crafts like embroidery, basket weaving, bread, wine and jam making. A Viscri specialty to serve the village guests is the traditional wedding soup, with chicken and homemade noodles.
A less-known recipe, characteristic to the area, is a delicious bean soup with dried prunes. In Viscri, a female artisanal community handcrafts knitted clothing and decorations, using techniques passed on by the village elders. In the village surroundings you can witness a centuries-old craft still being practiced: the making of charcoal by slow-burning wood found in the soil. A horse-drawn carriage ride through the valley of the coal-makers is an experience not to be missed.
The village blacksmith workshop takes you back in time. Here you can witness iron horseshoes and tools being made from century-old models. Another craft that you can still see practiced in Viscri is smith’s work. In his workshop, which you can visit, Istvan – the village blacksmith – makes horseshoes, window and door locks, nails and hinges, and any other iron product needed in a household or in a renovation project.
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The brick and tile-making oven on the south hill of the village was built by the MET as a traditional construction material source, needed for the restoration of historically and architecturally important buildings. In 2006, MBE Colin Richards, a British restoration expert, came with his team to Viscri to build the oven. Now, Gheorghita and his family, along with nine other villagers, maintain the oven, light it three to five times a year, producing each time over 6,500 bricks and 12,000 tiles. If you visit Viscri, the brick oven is an attraction not found anywhere else.
Read about other beautiful traditional Transylvanian village, Rimetea Village