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Church On The Hill

Sighisoara, Romania

The highest point, 429 meter high, of School Hill in Sighisoara is crowned with the so-called Church on the Hill, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and without any doubt one of the most iconic landmarks of Sighisoara. One can reach the church by climbing the 176 steps of the covered staircase (the Pupils’ Stairs), or by following the road that comes up past the school, or deviating from the road half-way up and coming through the Lutheran cemetery another unique site for tourists.

This Evangelical church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, was built in several stages, with construction works starting as early as 1345 and ending only by 1525. The stages of its construction correspond, roughly, to various architectural styles. Thus, between 1200 and 1250 the church was in its Romanesque stage (it was actually a chapel of somewhat uncertain origins); the early Gothic stage followed, between 1250 and 1300, when the west end tower was erected; next came the Saint Nicholas church, between 1300 and 1429, which saw the construction of the three-nave basilica; finally, between 1429 and 1483 the church was brought to the appearance that is has preserved to this day.

Most of the paintings inside the church were authored either by Valentinus Pictor (the ones in the choir and the triumphal archway), which would date them in 1483 or by Jakobus Kendlinger (the ones in the north-south lateral nave), which would date them in 1488. All the frescoes were covered with white paint in 1544, but some of them were uncovered during restoration works.

As far as structure is concerned, the Saint Nicholas Church on the Hill from Sighișoara is a hall church with three naves, reaching an impressive length of 53 m. The two lateral naves were not part of the original construction, but were erected at a later date and with different sizes: the northern one measures 5.2 m in height, whereas the southern one only 3 m. Inside, the church has an amazing feeling of volume created by the very high ceilings, supported by octagonal pillars. It also hosts a number of baptisteries, tombstones, and altars, retrieved from other places of worship that have been abandoned. Its own polyptych altar dates from the XVI century and is decorated with paintings of Saint Martin.

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