Câlnic is one of the most interesting fortress-churches in southern Transylvania. It is one of several fortifications established here by the Saxons. The citadel was first mentioned in a document in the year 1267. More precisely, when one of greavii, a leader of the Saxon community, Chyl of Kelling, began the construction of a keep that would also serve as a tower-house. The keep was completed in 1272. The building, enlarged and strengthened, still stands today, and is known as the Siegfried Tower. The church of the village was built next to this medieval tower. Initially, the church was Roman Catholic, then Evangelical-Lutheran, serving both the noble Greava family of Kelling, as well as the community. Originally, the tower-house had a height of 14 metres. Later, the building was raised to a 20 feet height, and at a later stage, Saxon builders added a pitched roof with a height of seven metres. We can only talk about a citadel in the true sense of the word after the greavii of Câlnic, who bought other settings in the meantime, such as Blaj, Cut or Vingard, decided to surround the tower area and the church with a fortified wall. The wall is made of limestone, river stone and brick, rising seven metres high. This wall also had a tower gate.
To make it more difficult for potential invaders to get inside the castle, the Saxon builders constructed a barbican, which is a fortified access tunnel that could be used by the defenders of the city. Also, there is a second defence tower. The first enceinte of the city was defended by a moat three metres deep and 10 metres wide. The Greava Kelling lineage died out in 1388, when the city passed into the possession of noble relatives on the female line of the Vingard greavii.
A citadel for the entire community
In 1430, one of Vingard greavii, Johann Gereb, decided to sell the fortified church of Câlnic to the Saxon community. Thus, the Saxons from Câlnic decided to extend and adapt the fortification to withstand the new fire guns. They built a second enclosure wall, only three metres high, oval-shaped, which also had a bastion-tower. Within the inner court, the locals built a system of chambers, placed against the defence-wall; here they would store the food of all the families in the community.
During the sieges, these chambers would shelter the members of the local Saxon families, while their men served on the ramparts. An interesting detail is that this citadel was not built on top of a hill, but on the bank of the Câlnic brook. The fortress is still standing to this day. Restored in 1960, it entered the UNESCO list in 1990.
Travel info: The Câlnic Fortress is located near Sebes, Alba County, at a distance of 331 kilometres from Bucharest. The distance from Cluj-Napoca to Câlnic is 126 kilometres.
Foto: Mircea Rareş Ţecu