University of Leicester
This PhD thesis provides a multi-layered analysis of Saxon rural fortified churches from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries in Transylvania. By examining the histories and archaeologies of these poorly studied but prominent medieval survivals, the thesis explores the processes by which the Church transformed Saxon social structures and considers how far structure and form reflect that society and its evolving identities. The timeframe spans the primary Saxon colonization of Transylvania until the occupation of the region by the Turks after 1526. Critically, almost all of the Saxon villages and churches originated and were subsequently fortified during this period and many have remained relativity unaltered since. Three major research strategies are employed: (l) a quantitative analysis of data for the representative regions of Brasov and Sibiu Counties; (2) detailed analysis of the form and function of the built units; and (3) detailed assessment of two major case studies. Data were collected from published and archival reports and sources, plus interviews, newspapers and site surveys. Core to the whole is the creation of a Gazetteer of Saxon sites in Braşov and Sibiu Counties. The thesis considers Saxon fortified complexes in their site and landscape setting, but first reviews medieval to modem Saxon Transylvania, evaluating the impact of events on the Saxon peoples, and then details the nature of Saxon rights, privileges, and administration in their lands and settlements. The roles and development of the Saxon fortified churches are next explored, assessing topographic, defensive, material and economic considerations and evolutions. The final part of the thesis analyses the morphology, domestic, cultural and social life of the Saxon fortified church and village, through which we may assess other angles of evolving Saxon identity. In addition, the thesis has considered the heritage of complexes – how viewed, how maintained, issues of access, of decay – and their recognition by UNESCO and European Union departments. The thesis reveals a specific Saxon colonial form which adapted to a near constancy of threat and uncertainty. The survival of so many components of this distinctive past requires far more attention from scholars to appreciate fully the Saxon contribution.