St James’ Church in Șoarș secured after nine years

The Protestant church in Șoarș near Făgăraș has been the focus of the Fortified Churches Foundation team’s activities for nine years. From summer 2023 to March 2024, the final stretch of the work to secure the church was completed – an occasion for a positive interim summary.

Ursula Hummes, Chairwoman of the Saxon Hometown Community, has worked tirelessly since the mid-2010s to preserve St James’ Church and was able to acquire large donations for the Fortified Churches Foundation’s work on the monument. In 2017, initial work began on the roof of the nave to ensure the safety of visitors and to prepare for further conservation work. Together with these donations, contributions from the responsible Făgăraș parish association, the Fortified Churches Foundation and the mayor’s office, a six-figure sum was invested in the church.

The most important steps towards preserving the church have now been finalised in the municipality in the Făgăraș region. After the responsible monument authority in Brasov had requested a special permit for the work on the supporting pillars of the façade, this was issued on the basis of comprehensive project documentation drawn up by stonemason Pia Prade (Sibiu). By resolution of the German Bundestag, the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media granted funding for this work. Since then, experts from Cluj-Napoca have renovated and secured seven supporting pillars. On the other parts of the façade, the cement plaster was removed and replaced with lime plaster without removing the historic plaster, which covers around half of the façade surface.

Fortified Churches Foundation and Saxon Hometown Community save church together

On the initiative of Ewald Bortmes, the Saxon Hometown Community organised a clearing campaign to restore the churchyard to its former glory. At the same time as the valuable tower clock was repaired, the clock room was also repaired last year. The Șoarș church clock, a rare work of art from the first half of the 19th century, was cleaned, repaired and thus saved.

‘We can say that after the intensive work that began nine years ago and not least thanks to the passion and perseverance of Mrs Hummes and everyone involved, the basis for the preservation of St James’ Church for future generations has been created with the official acceptance of the work in March 2024,’ explains Sebastian Bethge, monument conservator at the Fortified Churches Foundation. Of course, this is no reason to sit back and relax. Bethge is also looking to the future of St James’ Church, which dates back to the 15th century: ’So far, only the roof of the church tower has been repaired. Fundamental safety work would also be necessary here. Restoration work should also be considered for the interior of the nave in the medium and long term.’ – With luck, confidence and God’s help, there will still be plenty to do in Șoarș in the coming years.

Text: Stefan Bichler
Photos: Fortified Churches Foundation