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Harman fortified church – a must see in Transylvania

Need to know

How to get there by car: 10 km on DN11 from Brasov
County/Area: Brasov County/central Romania, Transylvania
Entrance fee: adults/pupils/children:15 lei (3 euro)/10 lei (2 euro)/5 lei (1 euro).
Visiting programme: daily in high season (April-October) 9-18, on Sundays 10-18; daily in low season (November-March) 10-16.
Website: https://eng.harmaninfo.com

Harman shines in splendour; photo: @daniel.ciuca.ro

2 years ago, I was a complete beginner in fortified churches… I had barely heard of them before!

Don’t get me wrong, I still am.

Only that, in the meanwhile, I learned that these fortified spaces served as shelter, sacred land and pantry for the goods. Besides, I did my blogger duty, that is, to serve my audience.

So I read. And compared. And put together everything I’ve seen on these Transylvanian/Saxon constructions.

Thus, I came up with the personal conclusion that Harman fortified church is an absolute must.

Why? will you ask…

Because it is absolutely splendid, well-preserved, contains rare pre-Reformation paintings, is home to a sort of village museum and is placed in an area of natural beauty.

And is one of my favourites…

Show contents

Name
History in a nutshell
The church and fortifications
Chapel tower and ethnographic museum
Other attractions in the area
Accommodation

Name

Well, school taught me that names aren’t random. It appears to be true. The initial name of Harman was Mons Mellis in Latin, translated literally as the Mount of Honey. Later, it was called Honigberg in German, making reference to honey one more time. All in all, it seems that the responsibility belonged to the beehives from the nearby hill.

Bees, flowers and a sacred construction …

History in a nutshell

Historians believe that the origin of Harman is linked to the Teutonic Knights, dating back to the 13th century. Despite their short stay in Transylvania, the order of the Teutonics built castles and founded settlements. It appears that Harman was founded during this period and first mentioned in 1240. Together with other churches from the vicinity, Harman was awarded to the Cistercian Order, the one that founded the Cistercian Abbey of Carta.

Like most south-eastern Transylvanian villages, Harman also underwent a lot of Ottoman sieges. As a defensive solution, the Saxons had this trick of building high walls to reinforce the church. The fortifications were built beginning with the 15th century, and yes, they proved rock-solid, even in front of Gabriel Bathory’s siege, the dictatorial prince. Harman was though the only commune in the region that could defend itself.

Fortifications that stood strong over the centuries

The church and fortifications

Although we have no exact date as for the church, it already existed by 1240, when the Cistercians took it over. It is a mixture of Cistercian elements and other various styles, such as early Gothic or late Romanesque, creating more of an eclectic aspect.

In the church you will observe the women’s benches made deliberately without backrests. They were designated for married women, who could not lean back on account of their stiff attire. The choir walls are decorated with Oriental carpets, just like the Black church in Brasov.

The most impressive element is the 56 meters tower, the tallest in the area, where the four corner turrets stand for Harman’s right to inflict death penalty.

A glimpse into the church

Insider tip! Climb your way up to the bell in the tower (and watch your eardrums if you’re up when the chimes ring out!)

Watch your eardrums!

The church itself isn’t fortified, but it is protected by two concentrical walls and a defensive moat, with the inner wall reaching a height of 12 meters. The fortifications also include seven towers around 20 meters high, gates plus portcullis.

You can see the size of the fortifications; @ana.partene

The size is impressive even nowadays. We are talking about 800 locals that could be sheltered inside the fortification. After losing their defensive capacity, the fortifications continued to serve as the village pantry where everyone would store their goods. In bad times, they also served as space for living.

The pantry where the lard and other goods were stored

The whole complex underwent restauration and it looks fantastic to welcome visitors.

Insider tip! Walk around the fortifications and towers and observe the firing chambers.

Chapel tower and ethnographic museum

The small chapel has magnificent frescoes from the 15th century that were covered with limestone and uncovered only almost 500 years later. The main theme of these pre-Reformation paintings relates to the salvation of souls and the ultimate judgment, as well as elements that symbolize both heaven and hell.

Insider tip! Don’t miss climbing the stairs to the small chambers that recreate a Saxon ethnographic museum. You’ll find there on display traditional furniture, costumes and lots of elements that made up Saxon lifestyle in the past.

Old biblical scenes in the chapel
Old Saxon lifestyle

Other attractions in the area

Harman is situated close to Brasov, one of Transylvania’s biggest cities. You can plan a half-day tour for Harman and Prejmer UNESCO fortified church, really close to one another. If you love exploring churches, you can also go to Sanpetru, Cristian or Vulcan.

Rasnov has an impressive fortress, while just a few km away there’s the famous Bran Castle.

If you are a nature lover, go to Moieciu area, one of the most picturesque areas in Romania. On the one side, you have Piatra Craiului Mountains, while on the other there’s Bucegi mountains, so you can always enjoy a hike if you love mountains.

Anyway, nature is fabulous in the area.

To make an idea of the surroundings; @stefan.hogea

Accommodation

The Good House and Gastehaus Honigberg are good choices if you want to spend the night in Harman and start afresh.

If you accommodate in Brasov, you have lots of options. Shard Boutique Hotel, (magnificent view over the city), Casa Rozelor, or George Enescu Guesthouse are good and cosy  guesthouse suggestions.

Recommended by TTF:

  • A wonderful and well-preserved fortified church (which stands as an emblem of Transylvanian churches)
  • Contains small chapel with rare old paintings, you can climb up to the bell in the tower, enjoy the ethnographic museum or just admire the nature.
  • Nature in the area is beautiful; there are so many options around.

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