The Citadel, or the old fortified town of Sighisoara, atop the hill and overlooking a bend in the Timava river, dates back to the 12th century when Transylvanian Saxons were ordered here by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the Carpathian frontier against the steppe peoples.
The town, in the heart of Transylvania and in the border region between the Latin-oriented culture of central Europe and the Byzantine-Orthodox culture of south-eastern Europe was an important strategic and commercial centre for several centuries.
Following incursions by the Tatars in 1241, the fortified settlement was reinforced with walls, guarded by towers and later extended to surround the entire plateau. Under pressure from the Turks between 1421 and 1526, the city heightened its walls.
These Transylvanian Saxons were German merchants and craftsmen of significant means. The memory of the crafts and trades guilds represented is immortalised in the names of the towers on the walls of the roughly hexagonal fortress. Originally there were 14 such towers. Of these nine remain.
The Clock Tower (Turnul Cu Ceas – now, as then, the landmark tower)
Blacksmiths’ Tower (Turnul Fierarilor),
Butchers’ Tower (Turnul Macelarilor),
Cobblers’ Tower (Turnul Cizmarilor),
Furriers’ Tower (Turnul Cojocarilor),
Ropemakers’ Tower (Turnul Franghierilor),
Tailors’ Tower (Turnul Croitorilor),
Tanners’ Tower (Turnul Tabacarilor),
Tinsmiths’ Tower (Turnul Cositorilor).
I will provide more detail on the towers in separate reviews.
The houses within the Citadel are mostly, with obvious aristocratic exceptions, the simple two or three story homes of craftsmen. They are built from stone or brick, covered in coloured roughcast, and topped by a high tiled roof. Many of the houses had (and some still do) a barrel-vaulted basement, with a workshop on the ground floor and living quarters on the upper floors. The streets have retained their beautiful old cobble stones – though this does have one disadvantage, i.e. they are not conducive to a quiet entry into the Citadel with a suitcase on wheels at 4.30am!
A small square lies at the heart of the Citadel. In former times, street markets, craft fairs, public executions and witch trials were held here. From this square, now surrounded mainly by small hotels and guesthouses, you can easily access the main attractions of Sighisoara.
The Citadel has, despite the passing of years, preserved in an exemplary way the features of a small medieval fortified city. Small wonder it been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The Citadel is relatively small in area, though hilly in parts, and my approach to viewing it (influenced, or was it dictated, by the 4.30am arrival?) was to – having dropped off my bags at the hotel – start with a full reconnoitre commencing at daybreak (just after 6am). While temperatures were sub-zero this turned out to be a fantastic walk as the whole place was deserted (apart for the odd dog and cat as you come to expect anywhere in Romania) with the colours of the buildings, etc, sharpened by the rising sun in a clear blue sky while the lower town remained shrouded in a morning mist. Beautiful.
This initial reconnoitre took about three hours – we were in no hurry. After this and a hearty breakfast we were ready to join the other visitors, who had had a bed to go to, for a more regular visit. Off course, second time round, building, café’s, etc were open.
In the absence of a helicopter or such like it is difficult to get good overview photos of the citadel. Perhaps my Reader will consider sending me money to hire a helicopter for my next research visit – purely for my Readers’ pleasure, naturally. In the meantime, do explore my other reviews for more detail on and photos of this beautiful and historically fascinating town.
I recommend at least a full day here, importantly including one night as the buildings/towers lit up at night are simply wonderful. I have written a separate review on Sighisoara at night.
Address: Citadel – top of the hill
Directions: You can’t miss it. Various entrances.