Let's travel together #210 - Biserica din Deal (The Church on the Hill)
While in my previous post we got excited for our little journey through the largest covered wooden stairway from the world, it's time to make one step further and also find out where those stairs led us to and what we can explore nearby.
Along with the school that was the main point of interest back then, our attention was firstly caught by a big and imposing church on top of the hill that felt like it has a lot more things to say than we were expecting - and that's exactly where a new journey began.
Biserica din Deal (EN: The Church on the Hill) is also known as St. Nicholas Church and it represents an evangelical church that dates since the beginning of the 14th century.
Since Sighisoara is one of the most medieval and historical cities you can visit while you are in Romania, I was sort of expecting the church to be there for a long while now, but the interesting part about it, is that being such a big construction, its realization was only possible by following several stages starting from 1345 until 1525 when the last touches were made.
In plus, Biserica din Deal is considered the most valuable architectural monument from Sighisoara, because it's the 3rd gothic church from Transylvania judging by its dimensions.
Though, its size is not the most interesting part while back in 1631 the principles of Romania and Hungary met in this place to decide who should lead Transylvania further. So there is no doubt that the church represents a genuine piece of history that can still be lived as soon as you open the big doors.
Actually, the first official attestation about this place was found in 1345 in a document that was belonging to Louis I that was the king of Hungary and Croatia and who related through the paper that the citizens of Sighisoara are faithful to him and they started building a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas.
At the beginning of this post, I was saying that this place makes you feel like having the world on your feet because from here you can see, literally, the whole city.
In plus, just like we were expecting, no matter where you are in the city, you will always be able to notice the Church on the Hill, which gives you a unique feeling, like you are always being protected and overseen by someone who will take care of you no matter what your destination is.
Actually, as soon as you make your first steps away from The Covered Stairway you will be spiritually embraced by an energy that you will feel closer and closer until you enter the church and learn all the mysteries and stories it's sheltering.
Being such a big building, it's impossible to feel alone even if you are the single one in the church because whenever you speak a little bit louder, you will notice an echo that is repeating everything you are saying just so no one crossing the threshold of the church won't be alone.
The placement of the church on top of the hill is not randomly chosen because the altitude of 429 meters represents the last defensive point for the fortress of Sighisoara which always considered that both religion and education are at the same level and that a church and a school should be placed in a safe place. From here also the explanation of The Covered Stairway that was created around 100 years after the completion of the church construction.
As soon as we entered the church, there were a few elements that caught our attention, such as the huge bells, storage chests and unusual graves that we met before when we visited The Fortified Church of Biertan, which is also in Transylvania.
The usage of the storage chests plays the same role they did when we found them in other fortified churches, fortresses or even defensive towers, namely to keep fresh the ham and different types of food that people could consume in case the city was invaded by enemies and they were forced to gather together in the same place to stay safe.
These invasions could take even a few months long and each family used to have one chest where even the spikes were made of wood. The oldest such storage chest is 552 years old.
Before entering the church you are needed to purchase a visiting ticket which is 8 RON (1,62 EUR) per adult but where it's also included a short conversation with a guide that will tell you some more things about Biserica din Deal so you sort of have an idea of what you are seeing at every step.
You can find guidance in both Romanian and Deutsch. I'm not sure about English but most likely there is one for this language too as I've seen a lot of foreign tourists in Sighisoara.
From the sayings of the guide, we also found an explanation to the religious paintings that were mostly destroyed by parishioners after the renovation from the 18th century when there was too much pressure from the authorities who wanted this place turned from gothic architecture to a Roman Catholic one.
Of course, this thing wasn't fully achieved because you can still notice some specific gothic elements even in 2021, but you will, most likely, won't visit the church without noticing the ruined paintings which are arousing a lot of curiosity from the tourists.
Another thing that makes the church so important for both Sighisoara and Transylvania, it's that such a big building which was placed strategically above the city made it become a shelter for altars and various valuable handicrafts of other evangelical churches from the neighbouring villages that were in danger to be stolen or destroyed by invaders.
The total length of The Church on the Hill is of 53 meters, where a third of it is represented by the main altar and the choir where the prayers were held.
All the books used by the chorus were exclusively written in Deutch, which shows what a big power the Saxons had when they were dominating the lands of Transylvania, but also the thing that there are not a few who are still living on this part of Romania and that religion can unite people just like the love does.
Before reaching the last third of the church where we found the main altar and chorus area, there was an uncommon opening on the floor that seemed like it's going to take you on a different world.
We did see a few tens of medieval and fortified churches but this was a completely new thing even for us.
The guide explained to us that we are staying in front of a crypt that will take you under the nave of the church and which represented the chapel back in the 16th century.
Though, the thing that surprised us the most is that you can still find some graves down into the crypt where the people who are resting in that place represented those who really fought for this place to make it as beautiful and imposing as possible, so having their coffins become part of the walls was a thing of honor that used to serve as a positive example for the communities.
There are only two graves that weren't occupied but left empty so people can see how everything looks like behind the brick and cement walls.
To me, it was sort of a strange feeling to walk through the graves like that, since we are used to do this only in cemeteries but I always loved learning new things and especially exploring places that come with something new in plus with the others. The total number of graves is of 60 and they are dating since the 16-18th centuries.
When we got out of the crypt, there were a few statues that caught our attention which represent the four evangelists of the church which from the distance you can easily think we are talking about statues made of stone.
The statues are dating since 1630 and they are entirely made of Linden wood, having just the front side completed while inside they are empty for easier transport and a lower weight.
This is a thing specific to Sighisoara that most likely you won't meet in other parts of Transylvania or even Romania.
On the way to the exit, we noticed a pipe organ on the next floor of the church which our guide told us that it's dating since the 19th century and it's composed of 700 tubes being used during the summer every Friday for different concerts.
There was another pipe organ before this one but which was confiscated by authorities because it was used during the wars to send different messages, so the one from the 19th century came with tubes made of Zinc that didn't allow this practice anymore.
Before leaving Biserica din Deal I stopped to share some thoughts on a book that is left open for any tourist that is coming to this place and want to tell further different impressions.
From what I understood the church can be visited any time of the year, from Monday to Sunday between 9 AM and 6 PM but the schedule might differ depending on the season or if there are any important holidays with days off.
There are also prayers that are being held from time to time and that might make the church unable to be visited by the tourists other than taking part to the religious service.
The most recent renovation lasted 11 years and in 2004 Biserica din Deal won the 1st prize of Europe's Top Heritage amongst other 99 historical monuments as a reward for keeping history alive and not letting important pieces of it fall apart.
To make it to the Church on the Hill from Sighisoara, you have to first reach Scara Acoperita that you can find on Str. Scara Şcolarilor and then follow all the way to the up.
SEE YOU IN THE NEXT TRIP! 🗾
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