The Biertan Fortified Church is also known for its famous “Lovers Prison”. Read further for details.
The fortified evangelical church in Biertan is among the most beautiful, visited and famous fortified churches in Romania. It has been declared a historical monument and is also part of the UNESCO heritage. Built during the transition from the 15th century to the 16th century (1486-1524), the church was fortified with six defense towers, thick, solid walls and three bastions.
Built in the late Gothic style, it has remained a masterpiece of its kind, being internationally recognized.
Among the main attractions, besides the church itself, are the door of the sacristy – featuring an intricate system with 19 locks, and the polyptic altar.
Located on the top of a hill, the UNESCO heritage church-fortress of Biertan is a hall church with three naves – the last such church built in Transylvania, and was built between 1486 and 1524 by the ethnic German Transylvanian Saxons on the site of an earlier Romanesque church.
The altar has 28 painted scenes and a 16th century pulpit. The door to the sacristy was built in 1515, and the unique closing system is an engineering marvel of its time. To operate it, you must use a wrench for four of the 19 locks and a crank for the others. Once activated, all these mechanisms enter into some metal supports that are attached to the wall. The ingenuity of this locking system, together with the design of the massive oak door, were awarded in 1910 at the World Exhibition in Paris.
The Biertan Donarium is a 4th century Christian votive object found in 1775 in the Chinedru forest and it was part of the collections of Baron Samuel von Brukenthal, nowadays being part of the exhibits of the Brukenthal National Museum. Made out of solid bronze, it has the Latin text EGO ZENOVIUS VOTUM POSVI, which can be approximatively translated as “I, Zenovius, offered this gift”. The donarium is a historical evidence for the existence of a Latin-speaking Christian population in Dacia (the ancestors of Romanians) following the Aurelian Retreat.
Biertan also has a very interesting (and true) story about a method of combating divorces in the Middle Ages, also known as the “Lovers Prison”.
This was a unique kind of prison that was built in one of the towers and that was used for couples having trouble in their marriage and wanted to separate. The “prison of the lovers” served as their home for a short while, until they either decided to stay together or to go along with the divorce. The prison was basically a room with a single bed, a table, a chair, water and bread, and they had to share everything. Thus, for only three centuries, there was only one divorce.