Daily Archives: July 29, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #139: Historic Centre of Sighisoara

Posted by on July 29, 2011

UNESCO World Heritage Site #139: Historic Centre of Sighisoara

UNESCO World Heritage Site #139: Historic Centre of Sighisoara

From the World Heritage inscription:

Sighisoara, an example of a small fortified city in the border region between the Latin-oriented culture of central Europe and the Byzantine-Orthodox culture of south-eastern Europe, is outstanding testimony to the fast-disappearing culture of the Transylvanian Saxons.

The city, which lies in the heart of Transylvania, developed on a plateau, and is dominated by a hill overlooking a bend in the river Tirnava. In the 13th century, German craftsmen and merchants, known as Saxons, were ordered by the Hungarian sovereigns to colonize Transylvania and protect the border of the Carpathians against the steppe peoples. They settled on a hill, called the City Hill, which has revealed traces of occupation going back to the Palaeolithic period. Following incursions by the Tatars in 1241, the fortified settlement was reinforced with walls, guarded by towers, later extended to surround the entire plateau. The town, known in 1280 as Castrum Sex, developed commercial activities thanks to the powerful guilds of craftsmen. Each guild was responsible for the construction of a tower and its defence. The importance of the town was recognized in 1367 when it obtained the title ‘Civitas’ and became the second national political entity of Transylvania. Under pressure from the Turks between 1421 and 1526, the city heightened its walls.

The historic centre of Sighisoara is composed of a fortified site spread over a steeply sloping plateau and dominated by City Hill, and the Lower Town with its woody slopes lying below. These two sectors form an indissociable group corresponding to the historic boundaries of the medieval town.

Sighisoara is best known, not for its history as a Saxon town, but rather as the birth place of Vlad Dracul and Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). Although the historical Vlad the Impaler has nothing to do with vampires, the popularity of vampires in popular culture has made Sighisoara a popular tourist spot in Romania. Given the medieval nature of the town and the cemetery on the top of the hill, you could totally see a vampire movie being shot here.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.