The fortified churches are very typical of Transylvania. The Hungarian kings invited Saxons from Germany to settle in the C12th to help defend the area against increasing attacks by Tatars, Turks, Mongols, Cossacks and Moldavians.
The churches were fortified with a big wall to act as a place of refuge and safety in case of attack. The villagers would bring their animals and belongings into the church only returning to their homes when the threat was over.
There were originally over 300 fortified churches but now less than half are left.
The churches were built on the highest point of the village. and their size reflected the size of the community. The smaller churches, like “Viscri”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viscri_fortified_church#/media/File:Biserica_fortificata_din_Viscri.svg just had a single wall round them. “Biertan Fortified Church”:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Biserica_fortificata_din_Biertan.jpg had three defensive walls along with towers, with the church at the centre. The towers were used for storage but also as lookouts as they gave good views of the surrounding countryside. There was a large gateway for carts with a smaller pedestrian gateway.
“Prejmer”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prejmer_fortified_church#/media/File:Biserica_fortificata_din_Prejmer_v1.jpg is one of the best fortified churches in Romania with a defensive barbican. Being the furthest east it was at the forefront of attack. Although the village was destroyed over fifty times. the Church was only captured once when the inhabitants ran out of drinking water. It was last used in 1783.
It is unusual as there are over 300 rooms in the walls of the inner courtyard which were accessed by wooden steps and balconies.
Each room was numbered and allocated to a family in the village to be used in time of attack. They were responsible for the upkeep of the room, furnish it and provide enough food to last for several months.
Most tourist itineraries to Romania include Biertan and Prejmer Fortified Churches, but they can be seen in nearly all the villages as you drive through. They are very characteristic of the area. My full report and all the pictures of my ten day trip to Romania can be found “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/romania/index.html