Toarcla – working on a gem

Even many connoisseurs of the fortified church landscape are hardly familiar with the hidden village of Toarcla, although the ensemble harbours exciting cultural and historical treasures. Many therefore refer to it as a “gem near Fogarasch”. This autumn, the Fortified Churches Foundation took on the task of preserving this architectural monument.

At the beginning of November, Sebastian Bethge (Fortified Churches Foundation) set off with two volunteers from Gherdeal to dedicate themselves to the fortified church in Toarcla together with four local workers. The initiative came from a Transylvanian Saxon landowner from the village, who provided crucial financial and organisational support for the work and does not wish to be named. The picture that presented itself to the group was not a particularly pleasing one: after years of neglect, vegetation and wildlife had begun to reclaim the fortified church. Broken window panes, dumped rubbish, crumbling plaster and, last but not least, missing roof tiles had created a condition that was not only unsightly but also dangerous in some cases and had made it impossible to use the church for church services in recent years.

Unused school becomes a warehouse for building materials

Over the course of a week, the team was not only able to carry out necessary interventions on the roof covering and the battens of the nave, the side aisles and the choir area. The clearing of old building rubble and the sorting and organising of stored building materials alone created a friendlier and more accessible condition. A classroom in the former school located directly next to the church was converted into storage for building materials. Archive material from the parish’s collections, which had been stored in the tower hall, was also sifted through and saved. Finally, the churchyard was cleaned and mowed for the first time in a long time. To prevent more serious damage, the workers and volunteers also cleaned the gutters and created maintenance walkways in the roof truss of the nave for future work. The total cost of the work amounted to just over 10,000 lei.

Sebastian Bethge from the Fortified Churches Foundation team would like to see several major interventions in Toarcla in the future. “Both the nave and the aisles, the tower and above the choir would require major repairs,” explains the monument conservator: “This would require significantly higher investment, but in the medium and long term it would be the only way to save this gem.” The foundation has therefore prepared a call for donations for further work on the fortified church in Toarcla.

The Romanesque basilica of Toarcla is dedicated to St Catherine and originally dates back to the 13th century. The church was fortified around 1500. On the church tower there is a 17th century defense platform of extraordinary craftsmanship. The Romanesque west portal, which is very similar to those of Avrig, Hosman and Săcădate, is of great importance.

Text and Photos: Stefan Bichler