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Prejmer, UNESCO heritage – the ultimate Transylvanian fortification

Need to know

How to get there by car: 17 km on DN11 and DN10 from Brasov
County/Area: Brasov County/central Romania, Transylvania
Entrance fee: adults/pupils:15 lei (3 euro)/7 lei (1,5 euro)
Visiting programme: daily in high season (April-October) 9-18, on Sundays 11-18; daily in low season (November-March) 9-16.

Overview of Prejmer; photo: instagram @transylvaniaoffroad

Prejmer is the ultimate fortified church.

Upon visiting it, you ask yourself if it’s more of a church or a fortification. Its walls are so thick and protective that it looks impenetrable.

And it was. Most of the times.

So, let me take you on a journey, on a beautiful summer day with clear skies. We are in front of one of the 150 fortified churches from Transylvania.

But why Prejmer? What makes it so special?

It is the best-preserved fortification in Romania, and a UNESCO site. Besides, it is a 3-star monument awarded by the Michelin guide.

So, will you join me?

Take off your blindfold and give me your hand. Let me be your guide!

The entrance doesn’t give it all away

Show contents

History in a nutshell
The Gothic church
Solid fortifications
What’s on display
Other attractions in the area

History in a nutshell

It all starts with the core: Prejmer church (Tartlau in German). Founded by the Teutonic order who was granted the right to settle around Tartlau, the knights started building a Catholic church (turned into Lutheran in the 16th century). After being expelled from Transylvania in 1225, the church is taken over by the Cistercian order who will finish the construction by giving it a Gothic touch.

But the Cistercian supremacy is short-lived also. The church is then moved in the authority of the local Saxon community which takes care of it, but also manages the numerous attacks of the Turks and Tatars.

The church stands tall in the middle of the fortification

The Gothic church

Right in the middle of the fortifications lies the church. Its construction started in 1218 and has the shape of a Greek cross-plan with three equal arms. The interior of the Gothic church is simple and plain; however, it boasts the oldest triptych altarpiece in all of Transylvania, dating from around 1450. It features scenes from the Passion of Christ.

In the back, there’s an old, but still functional organ. The ceiling has the typical Gothic beehive look.

Church on the outside
Gothic interior of Prejmer church

Solid fortifications

From all the churches visited, this has by far the thickest walls. Walls that circle the church so closely, just like an embrace.

But everything happens for a reason. And in our case Tartlau is the most eastern village founded by Transylvanian Saxons. It translates in Prejmer being often in the first line of attacks, which means that this church had to endure more sieges than similar ones in the area.

Fortifications all over; @transylvaniaoffroad

The fortress was attacked 50 times by the Ottomans. The story says that it only surrendered once when the conquerors came as friends, then turned into foes.

That’s why Sigismund of Luxemburg ordered in the mid-15th century the fortification of the church with walls as thick as 5 meters and tall as 12, surrounded by a water-filled moat, making conquest more difficult.

Other elements include five towers built outside the walls, a battlement and a strong entrance gate.  

You can see the thickness of the fortification and the way it embraces the church; @transylvaniaoffroad

Fortifications served several purposes, that here in Prejmer are perfectly preserved. The outside of the walls equalled defence, while the inside served as storage space and rooms for living under siege, just like in Harman. People used to store here food long after the invasions stopped.

What is more interesting though, is the beehive of about 270 rooms, ready to shelter 1,600 people in case of attack. They look like the ancient predecessor of blocks of flats with several entrances, being disposed on 4 floors. Every room in the fortification had the same number as the corresponding house in the village. Moreover, they were inherited from one generation to the other.

Insider tip!: Don’t miss the opportunity of climbing to the villagers’ rooms! Some of them are open! It is a history and humanity lesson; besides, kids (not only kids) will love the freedom of exploration!

Rooms that served as shelters during the siege; there’s plenty of room for exploration!

As you walk inside the fortified walls, there’s another universe. You’ll see firing chambers, places to throw hot tar pitch or, the organ of death. This medieval instrument is a piece of wood with 5 shotguns on each side, that by turning, becomes a true machine-gun. It was responsible for creating a lot of damage in the enemy’s camp.

Insider tip!: Walk inside the walls and observe the organ of death, a serious killer instrument of the times!

A preview of the firing chambers;

What’s on display

The entry to the complex is made through a long tunnel protected by a portcullis strengthened by iron and oak doors.

The complex harbours a museum, where visitors can see the lifestyle of Transylvanian Saxons, having on display clothes, furniture, even an entire classroom. It was used when Prejmer was besieged, highlighting the importance of the educational process.

Preservation is the word at Prejmer. The fortress is one of the few monuments that were not only not damaged by the communists, but restored during that time. It is now being cared for by the Transylvanian Saxons Foundation.

Old Saxon furniture

Other attractions in the area

It would be quite a pity not to see Harman fortification, just a few km away, or Rasnov with its well-preserved fortress. The main city in the area is Brasov, a representative Saxon city. You are also very close to Bran Castle, the dark castle that inspired Dracula’s story. Peles Castle from Sinaia is also marvellous, less of a fortress, more of a noblemen residence.

The area is full of attractions, it’s up to what you like. If you love nature, make sure to accommodate in one of these nearby villages in Moieciu area. There are mountains all over, so if you are a fan of hikes, you can choose from Piatra Craiului or Bucegi mountains. Nature is completed by fauna, of course, so if you think seeing rescued bears in their natural habitat is your thing, you should absolutely pay a visit to Zarnesti Libearty Bear Sanctuary.

Rucar-Bran pass; @sebastiaen


Jasmine Residence or Diana Guesthouse are good accommodation options if you decide to spend the night in Prejmer.

Otherwise, you have many shelter opportunities in Brasov, such as Shard Boutique Hotel (magnificent view over the city), Casa Rozelor guesthouse (in the very heart of Brasov) or Hirscher Residence.

Recommended by TTF:

  • A lesson of history that teaches us about the spirit of community;
  • An arsenal of medieval attack and defence instruments;
  • One of the seven UNESCO fortified churches situated in Transylvania; Saxon heritage;
  • A very well-preserved fortification situated in a fabulous area.

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