Sighişoara, the best preserved medieval citadel in Transylvania, is the place where the historical character Vlad Tepeş was born, the one who inspired the most famous vampire story in the world, Dracula. Sighişoara is a beautiful place with an incredibly romantic vibe. The medieval fortress withstood fires and sieges, waves of plague, including cholera, Tatars and Turkish assaults. The old Saxon city was and still is a real historical gem, because little has changed over the centuries. Sighişoara is important not only for its military history, culture and the arts, but also for viticulture. Here was discovered for the first time in the interwar period, the most famous variety of Romanian grape-vines, Fetească Regală, from which the best Romanian white wine is produced. The heart of Sighişoara is located at a height that overlooks the valley of Târnava. In antiquity, there was a Roman fort nearby. In the early Middle Ages there was a ground fortress, which had in its centre a Romanesque chapel built by Székely warriors sent by Hungarian kings to defend this part of Transylvania from the Cuman invasions. Subsequently, the Szeklers were moved eastward, to guard the passages into the Carpathian mountains. The Hungarian king gave this land to the Saxons, a Germanic population formed from colonists that came from Franconia. The Saxons were not only given land, but also rights and privileges, including that of organizing themselves autonomously inside the medieval system of Transylvania. The German colonists took this permission and assembled in an original formula, known as Latin Universitas Saxonorum, which included seven German cities, allied in accord to the model of Hanseatic League of Cities.
Sighişoara was one of the most important cities in Transylvania. The settlement is first mentioned in 1280 under the name of Castrum Sex. This is because the Saxons first raised a fortification designed to defend them against the Mongol invasions, which were ravaging Central Europe in 1241. The settlement received city status in 1367. By that time, Sighişoara was already defended by a strong fortress with a length of 950 metres, whose construction began in 1350. Initially, the height of the fortress wall was four metres. Later, in the fifteenth century, the wall was strengthened and raised another 3, 4 metres, due to the increase of the Ottoman invasions and development of artillery. The medieval fortress had 14 towers and four bastions. Each tower was defended by one of the city’s guilds. Currently, there are three bastions and nine towers.
The Clock Tower, the symbol of the City
The most notorious of these towers is the Clock Tower. With a height of 64 metres, it watches over the entry gate of the city. In the eighteenth century, the tower received its present roof form, a baroque canopy which is reminiscent of the St. Vitus Cathedral. By 1556, the great hall on the ground floor of this tower served as a Town Hall. Among other things, some of the most important trials took place here, including the delivery of death sentences. In the early seventeenth century, a clock was installed in this tower. It was later restored in 1648 and adorned with statues of Roman gods, carved in linden wood, 0.8 metres high, which marked the weekdays. The mechanism of the clock was restored in 1906.
The city of Dracula
Sighişoara is also famous for the fact that Prince Vlad Tepeş was born here. He inspired the character of the Irish writer Bram Stoker, Dracula. The father of Prince Vlad the Impaler, the prince of Wallachia, Vlad Dracul, lived in Sighişoara between 1431 and 1435 while in exile. Vlad Tepeş was born in 1431. The house where he lived is now a famous tourist attraction. The princely family of Wallachia chose Sighişoara as a place of exile because the fortress was one of the strongest in the region. Sighişoara was a dynamic and prosperous city, both due to its artisans and craftsmen work and on account of its trade. The city had the right to hold a weekly market, and three annual fairs, which brought Sighişoara significant revenue. Here was also the seat of a Saxon Chair, which includes 16 villages. The trade and product quality were closely supervised by city authorities.
Those found guilty of theft, deception or sale of poor quality products were severely punished. They were incarcerated, beaten or tied to a "wooden donkey" with two heavy weights attached to their feet. This was a severe punishment that involved agonizing physical pain, while the convict was subjected to the public’s opprobrium.
Sighişoara had seen darker years. In 1601, the city was cunningly occupied by an army of Székely. The townspeople had to pay a huge indemnity of 50,000 gold florins. The Great Fire of April 30, 1676 destroyed most of the Lower Town and Citadel. Only the Church Hill and five towers were left standing. Subsequently, Sighişoara was rebuilt with brick houses. The impregnable fortress withstood the Kuruc War, when the city became one of the most important points of resistance, partisan to the House of Austria. The guilds continued to play an important role in the city until 1884, when they were finally abolished.
Their memory is preserved in the 164 houses and 13 public buildings inside the old city. Among the most famous monuments we can mention is the Hill Church, built in 1345. The Hill School was built next to it in the year 1522. The famous School Staircase leads to this ensemble, which was covered to protect the young students from unfavourable weather. Monastery Church, built in the XIII century, the former convent of the Dominicans is also noteworthy. We must mention the Blacksmith Tower, The Furs Guild Tower and The Butchers’ Tower, The Rope Rower or that of the Tanners. Sighişoara is part of UNESCO since 1999.
Travel info: The distance between Bucharest - Sighişoara is 303 kilometres. Between Cluj and Sighişoara it is 155 kilometres.