When you are staying in Sibiu, there are a lot of options for day trips. The churches found in the towns of Cisnadie and Cisnadioara are just two. The city of Sibiu is central to the region of Transylvania and a crucial transit hub. The main sights of this part of Romania relate to towns and villages settled by German Saxons during the middle ages, as Sibiu itself was. To the Saxons, Transylvania was known as Siebenburgen, referring to the seven fortified towns of the region which included modern cities Sibiu and Brasov.
While the regional name only referred to seven towns, there were many, many more villages with fortifications. Today, a new list of seven exists in the form of the UNESCO world heritage site “Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania”. These small villages, like Biertan and Prejmer, are home to examples of well-preserved medieval fortified churches.
But again, there are many more fortified villages aside from the ones listed by UNESCO, which brings me to the town of Cisnadie and the village of Cisnadioara. Similar in many respects to the UNESCO sites but not included in their ranks, both are home to fortified churches in the same vein as the others, but are far less visited by tourists. For both Cisnadie and Cisnadioara, there is little else to see beyond their respective churches but that is very much the case for some of the UNESCO listed towns as well.
The fortified church of Cisnadie is found in the centre of town, the church’s spire hard to miss in the small town. The day I visited Cisnadie, the main street of the town was decorated with patriotic bunting flags which gave the quiet town a little bit of life. The houses of Cisnadie were often old traditional ones, the same as found in the Lower Town of Sibiu. From the main square, there is a small tunnel that leads through into the church.
Inside the walls, you’re able to admire the brick and woodwork of the walls and explore the small gardens. As it was a Sunday, I was unable to enter the church as they still use it for services. With that the case, I only spent maybe 10 minutes inside there. Price of entry is 7 RON, paid at the other entrance (ie. not the one off the main square).
The walk from Cisnadie to Cisnadioara is quite a nice, peaceful stroll. It will take you past farms and small woods, with the road sheltered for much of the way. Sooner or later, you should be able to spy the church of Cisnadioara upon the hilltop in front of you.
The village of Cisnadioara is very small, although you do not need to go right into it to reach the church. As you near the centre of the village, you should see a set of stairs leading up into the thick forest that covers the church’s hill. After paying your entry fee ~8 RON, it’s a climb up the stair way to the remains of the fortified church.
At the top of the stairs, you reach a small door bringing you into the church’s crumbling, uneven walls. The church is in decent condition given that it was built in the 12th century and is fact the oldest Romanesque style church left in Romania. The inside of the church is quite bare relative to most churches, with a monastic plainness to it. The dim lighting though gives it a very solemn, pious feel.
A walk around the walls will help you appreciate the superior strategic position of the church, not to mention the great views all around. From the walls you can clearly see the town of Cisnadie. On a good day, you should see the Carpathian Mountains off in the distance, which still had a little snow when I visited at the end of May.
Likely part of the reason the two are not visited more is that there is no public transport that links them with Sibiu. This limits those without a car to either taking a taxi or walking there. From the centre of Sibiu to Cisnadie is 11km and onto Cisnadioara is another 3.5km, meaning walking from Sibiu to Cisnadioara and back will take you a staggering 29km. I actually did end up walking this and I was dead tired by the time I got back. The plan had been to walk one way and taxi back, but finding a taxi in Cisnadie can be challenging and requires patience.
Have you visited Cisnadie, Cisnadioara or any of the UNESCO listed fortified churches? Please share your experiences in the comments?