Historic Centre of SighişoaraFounded by German craftsmen and merchants known as theSaxons of Transylvania, Sighişoara is a fine example of asmall, fortified medieval town which played an important strategicand commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for severalcenturies.
Sighişoara, an example of a small fortifiedcity in the border region between the Latin-oriented culture of central Europe and theByzantine-Orthodox culture of south-easternEurope, is outstanding testimony to the fast-disappearing culture of the TransylvanianSaxons.The city, which lies in the heart ofTransylvania, developed on a plateau, and isdominated by a hill overlooking a bend in theriver Tirnava. In the 13th century, Germancraftsmen and merchants, known as Saxons,were ordered by the Hungarian sovereigns tocolonize Transylvania and protect the borderof the Carpathians against the steppepeoples. They settled on a hill, called the CityHill, which has revealed traces of occupationgoing back to the Palaeolithic period.
Following incursions by the Tatars in 1241, thefortified settlement was reinforced withwalls, guarded by towers, later extended tosurround the entire plateau. The town, known in1280 as Castrum Sex, developed commercialactivities thanks to the powerful guilds ofcraftsmen. Each guild was responsible for theconstruction of a tower and its defence. Theimportance of the town was recognized in 1367when it obtained the title Civitas and became thesecond national political entity of Transylvania.Under pressure from the Turks between 1421 and1526, the city heightened its walls.The historic centre of Sighişoara is composed of afortified site spread over a steeply sloping plateauand dominated by City Hill, and the Lower Townwith its woody slopes lying below. These twosectors form an indissociable group corresponding
Apart from 19th-century settlements, the historic centre ofSighişoara has kept its original medieval urban fabric withits detailed allotment of building plots, with some variationsdepending on the successive development phases of thesite, as well as its network of narrow streets lined withclosely aligned rows of houses. The Citadel is composedof three roads running lengthways, cut by passages atright angles. The houses, most of them the simple homesof craftsmen of two or three storeys, were built from stoneor brick, covered in coloured roughcast, and topped by ahigh tiled roof.
They have a distinctive plan, with anarrow facade along the street, an L- orU-shaped layout, dwelling tower, linkedrooms, etc. The houses with compactlayouts, probably the oldest ones, arecharacterized by a lateral vaultedentrance gallery. This entrance galleryis sometimes shared by two adjoininghouses because of the small plots ofland. Many of the houses still have abarrel-vaulted basement, workshops onthe ground floor with a wooden ceilingor brick vault, and the living rooms onthe upper floors. A few facades have amore aristocratic architectural style ofBaroque inspiration
A group of houses between Citadel Lane and Hermann OberthSquare stand out because of the way the storeys have beenarranged to fit the configuration of the sloping ground. A wall, 93 mlong and with interval towers, encloses the Citadel plateau. Thedifferent phases of construction from the 12th to the 16th centuriescan be clearly identified. It rises to a height of 8-10 m between theRopemakers Tower and the Butchers Tower, the best-preservedsection.
Nine towers of the original 14 stillstand and can be distinguished bytheir shapes. The imposing ClockTower plays a special role as thesymbol of the town, for it wasplaced under the responsibility ofthe city council, which held itsassemblies there until 1556.Situated in the middle of thesouthern fortification wall, itdominates the three squares of thehistoric centre and protects thestairway connecting the uppertown and the lower town. It nowhouses a museum.
Notable among the monuments in the historic centre ofSighişoara is the Church of St Nicholas, an edifice typical of theGothic architecture of Transylvania. Perched on the hill, it can bereached by a ramp staircase of 175 steps. It has been protectedby a wooden roof since 1642. The decorative sculpture on thefacade reflects Central European influences. The Church of StMary belonging to the Dominican monastery, demolished in1886, is a 13th-century Gothic monument of the hall type withbare facades. The Dominican monastery and the Coopers Towerin the south-west of the Citadel, and the Locksmiths Tower andChurch of the Franciscan convent in the north, made wayrespectively for the huge neo-Renaissance style City Hall (1886-88) and the Roman Catholic Church (1894).