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Harman Fortified Church

Harman, Romania

Harman Fortified Church is one of the 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Romania.

The fortified church from Harman is one of Transylvania’s must-see medieval monuments and one of the best-preserved fortifications used by the Saxon colonists centuries ago when enemy attacks were a constant threat. The church is located only 10 kilometers from Brasov, in the village of Harman, known as Honigberg in German and Mons Mellis in Latin, translated literally as the Mount of Honey.

The history of Harman goes back many hundreds of years, to the early 13th century when the Teutonic Knights were given the area of Brasov by the Hungarian King Andreas II. Their rule ended abruptly in just a few years and, in 1240, Harman was donated by the Hungarian king, along with other churches, to the Cistercian Monastery of Carta. The donation document represents the first written mention of Harman and of its church that dates from the 13th century.

Like most of the villages from the south and east of Transylvania, Harman witnessed many Ottoman attacks and sieges during the medieval centuries, even more given its location at the border of the region. The main defensive solution was in this case also the fortification of the village church that began in Harman in the 15th century.

This was a long-lasting process as the fortification elements were added or adjusted depending on the evolution of military techniques and the intensity of the Ottoman threat.

Harman Fortified Church proved its strength in 1612, but this time in front of the attacks of Gabriel Bathory, a despotic prince of Transylvania that set on fire and destroyed many of the Saxon fortifications and towns. The monument of Harman was one of the few that escaped unconquered.

Similar to the nearby fortified church of Prejmer, the fortification is represented by the actual church, surrounded by the strong defensive elements: circular walls up to 10-12 meters with a wall-walk with loopholes. seven towers around 20 meters high, gates plus portcullis and, back in the day, a moat 3-4 meters deep that surrounded the entire construction. Up to 800 locals could find shelter inside the fortification that still preserves some of the rooms built inside the circular wall or directly on the outdoor wall of the church.

Only partially influenced by the Gothic style promoted by the Cistercians — the four lobes windows and the two chapels around the choir — Harman Fortified Church has more of an eclectic aspect, presenting also late Romanesque and Renaissance elements. Dedicated to Saint Nicolas, the monument is one of the few in Transylvania that still has pre-Reformation frescoes.

You can see the paintings in the Chapel Tower that gets its name from an older Catholique chapel incorporated into the circular wall. The representation of the Virgin Mary is unique in the region, and most of the scenes related to the salvation of souls and the ultimate judgment are illustrated with Bible tales and elements that symbolize both hell and heaven.

The church itself has a 19th-century organ and font, a small collection of Oriental carpets and a Baroque-style altar. The most impressive element is its 56 meters tower, the tallest in the historical Barsa region. You can go up to the top using the stairs inside the church.

One of the hundreds of fortified churches built by the Saxons of Transylvania, the site from Harman is, nonetheless, one of the most spectacular representations of this original architecture so well-preserved in the region. Don’t miss a visit here, together with the nearby fortified church from Prejmer, it offers one of the best half-day trips options from Brasov.

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