The town of Sighisoara probably comes closest to what most
visitors think an old Transylvanian town should look like. Nicknamed the "Pearl of Transylvania,"
it was settled in 1280 by the Dominican monks. The city is still surrounded by medieval
ramparts, and the winding streets are lined with old buildings. One of the seven major
Saxon cities that gave Transylvania its German name, Siebenb�rgen, could be compared in the
15-16 centuries with any major town of Germany. At that time it had more than 25 guilds and
a flourishing commerce. The medieval upper town of Sighisoara is one of the few citadels of
Europe still inhabited and probably it is the most beautiful Saxon heritage of Transylvania.
With its old houses, narrow streets, churches and defending ramparts
and towers Sighisoara recreates a very romantic medieval atmosphere that in other places it was lost
long ago. The 15th and 16th centuries are the times of great prosperity for the town. The craftsmen,
well-organized in guilds, and traders, taking advantage of the major commercial routes passing through
the town were the agents of this progress. The town was the first of the settlements in Transylvania to
gain the status of a town in 1517, and even legal autonomy. The market places, streets and houses inside
the castle bear the typical traces of a craftsmen' town. However, there are some houses which belonged to
the rich aristocracy of the town, like the House of the Antlers, the Venetian House or the Vlad Dracul House.
The two churches - the Hill Church and the Monastery Church - were both built in gothic style,
to which baroque elements were added later. Local craftsmen, painters and sculptors as well as
famous ones coming from K�nigsberg, Salzburg, Bohemia or Tirol have used their skills in building
these churches. The school, also built on the top of the Castle Hill, was first documented in 1522,
but is most likely older. Two centuries later the covered stairway with 176 steps was made in order to
protect in times of siege the children while going to school and believers going to church.
The Saxons were aware of the fact that a civilization can be maintained only by its church and school.
The fact that good education was given here is proved by the 95 students from Sighisoara learning at the
Universities of Wien and Krakow between 1402 and 1520.
Parts of the defensive wall that surrounded the whole citadel and
the 9 of the initial 14 defensive towers can still be seen. The wall and the towers were raised,
repaired and defended by the craftsmen' guilds and still bear their names, like the Goldsmiths,
Locksmiths, Ironsmiths, Tinners, Tanners, Ropers, Butchers. The most outstanding among these towers
is certainly the Clock Tower, also the symbol of the town and its autonomy, a privilege that few
towns of those times could claim.
Unfortunately, Dracula and its legend has overshadowed the great
names that made Sighisoara famous: the mayor Stephanus Mann, the historian Georgius Krauss,
the chemist Andreas Bertram, the journalist Ilarie Chendi, Michael Freiherr von Melas - the
commander in chief of the Austrian army in the battle of Marengo or Hermann Oberth - the man
of science who passed from the school of the Castle Hill into the cosmos. The city, however,
has remained quite surprisingly unspoiled by tacky Dracula commercialism. (Plans to build a
Dracula theme park there have been rejected - the park will be built in Bucharest, if at all).
Owing to its location and history, simple architecture which has been preserved in spite of many
changes, Sighisoara will remain one of the most remarkable places in Europe, today protected by Unesco.