The Viscri village in Braşov County has a touching story. The village founded by the Saxons in the Middle Ages almost became a ghost town under the rule of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Fortunately, the village was revived due to the help of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles of Wales, heir to the Crown of the United Kingdom. The Romanian name of the village comes from the German Weisskirch or White Church. In fact, the first mention of the village, in 1400, appears in Latin: Alba Ecclesia. The fortified church, part of UNESCO’s heritage, is one of the very few churches in the Romanesque style in the country. A similar church can only be found in Homorod; however, we have a church in Crit that makes the transition from the Romanesque to Gothic.
The origins of the Viscri Church can be found in a limestone chapel built by the Székelys who lived in the village before the Saxon colonization. The Székely chapel had a rectangular shape with a semicircular apse to the east. The Transylvanian Saxons have added a west grandstand with four semicircular arches supported by three cylindrical columns. The greavii Saxons of Viscri erected a tower house, four metres away from the chapel. The church was extended in the thirteenth century, and was fortified in the late fifteenth century.
The villagers extended the church walls up to the stronghold-tower, which was later embedded into the ecclesiastical ensemble. They constructed an oval fortress with two bastions, two towers and a gate tower. During the fortification works, the Saxons raised the tower wall one metre, while the keep and church walls were reinforced with buttresses and additional arches. In the eighteenth century, the locals built a second enclosure wall, one metre high, now only preserved in fragments. This second site was meant to boost the resistance of the peasant fortress when facing upgraded artillery. The south tower and southern bastion were connected through a covered corridor.
In the nineteenth century, the eastern bastion lost its defence loft. The lower floors were converted into apartments, and the top was used as a storage place for pork fat until 1960. Within the inner enceinte, the defence corridor was transformed into a shed with a mono-pitched roof.
Prince Charles’ Village
During the communist era, the village was abandoned by the Saxons who fled to Germany. Viscri was on the verge of becoming a ghost town. But in 1996, Prince Charles was charmed by the village and bought the house at number 263. He promoted Viscri as a tourist destination, and now the village attracts over 15,000 visitors each year. Many of the homes in Viscri have become hostels, and people who are not working in tourism are manufacturing handicrafts, such as braided wool socks, exported to Germany, or jam, exported to Britain. When Prince Charles is not staying in Viscri, his house can be booked as a guesthouse.
Travel info: The distance from Bucharest to Viscri is 263 kilometres. Between Cluj-Napoca and Viscri the distance is 198 kilometres.
Foto: George Trandafir, [url=http://]www.touringromania.com[/url]