The treasure in the Târnava Region: the fortified church of Ormeniș

Not even ten years ago, the prospects and chances for the Ormeniș fortified church did not look very promising: Extensive renovation work was last carried out in 1937 and the ravages of time had taken their toll on the venerable little church. The roof in particular was crying out for renovation. The relatively remote location on the map and the lack of a lively local church community made the situation even more difficult.

The fact that the passionate commitment of individuals to the preservation of monuments can be decisive for the fate of a building is visible in various examples in the fortified church landscape. Helga Knall plays a particularly important role for the Ormeniș fortified church, especially since there is no formal hometown community (HOG) active. Helga Knall is supported in her efforts by the Arcus Association, the Fortified Churches Foundation and the parish priest responsible, Johannes Halmen. Everyone agrees: “The Ormeniș fortified church must be preserved!”

In 2016, Mrs. Knall’s initiative had a first, remarkable success: In an emergency security action by the Fortified Churches Foundation, the locks were renewed, bars were installed on the windows and an alarm system was installed to keep uninvited guests out. At the same time, expertise on the plaster and wood were also carried out as part of this work, during which wall paintings were finally discovered in 2017. Restorer Lóránd Kiss, who is well known to many friends of the fortified churches landscape, mainly through his activities with the Arcus Association in Filitelnic, and Sebastian Bethge from the team of the Fortified Churches Foundation consulted with Mrs Knall and it was quickly agreed that the discovered paintings were an enormous art-historical enhancement for the church and that larger and more sustainable safeguarding work would subsequently be necessary.

While work continued on the reinstatement in 2017 (ring wall) and 2018 (cleaning work), it was decided at the same time that basic renovation of the church roof would first be necessary to safeguard all the valuable interior, including the wall paintings in particular. This was finally carried out in 2021 and 2022 as part of the roof programme of the Fortified Churches Foundation.

All of this would have been impossible without the persistent and determined support of Helga Knall, who ceaselessly solicits donations from compatriots and friends for the work in Ormeniș.

Maintenance programme ensures improved condition

Wetness has always been a problem in Ormeniș, which is why work on a drainage system was already underway during the roof programme. Because the timely identification of structural defects caused by rainwater, for example, is always crucial for the preservation of historical buildings, in 2022 the Fortified Churches Foundation has concluded an agreement with Lóránd Kiss of the Arcus Association as part of the fortified church maintenance programme for Ormeniș. In this way, it is now ensured that at least the current condition of the fortified church is preserved through regular maintenance measures. A major challenge in Ormeniș, which can probably only be met in cooperation with the mayor’s office, is damage caused by flooding due to the lack of a functioning regulation of the village’s drainage. The fortified church is affected in two places (on the road side and on the bank of the stream).

Helga Knall is pleased about the progress of the work of the past years. But she is not content to sit back and relax: in the current calendar year, window panes have been replaced and security work has been carried out on the tower to prevent contamination by intruding birds. Thus – thanks to the donations acquired through Ms Knall’s support, which now amount to a higher four-digit euro sum – a treasure in the Târnava region that was “unearthed” until recently is developing step by step into a cultural-historical pearl.

Text and Photos: Stefan Bichler