Fortified churches meet fortified churches

Anyone who studies the topic of fortified churches will quickly learn that they also exist outside Transylvania. Some can be found in Germany, Austria and France, for example. Even in the Philippines, fortified churches were built at the instigation of the Spanish colonial rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries.

photo: Herbert Meinunger, Mellrichstadt

A particularly impressive building can be visited in Ostheim vor der Rhön, in the Franconian-Thuringian-Hessian border region. The town church of St Michael is surrounded by two ring walls from the first half of the 15th century and has a total of five defense towers and six bastions. With a total floor area of more than 5,500 square meters, the fortified church of Ostheim is the largest and best-preserved fortified church in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Exchange and network

On 8 March 2024, Philipp Harfmann, Managing Director of the Fortified Churches Foundation of the Evangelical Church A. C. in Romania, visited the Franconian fortified church at the invitation of the Friends of Ostheim Fortified Church Association. In initial talks with Udo Trabert, the first chairman of the association, and secretary Maritta Waldsachs, possibilities for cooperation on joint or similar challenges were discussed.

As in Transylvania, the monumental buildings were originally built as defenses. They proved their worth as fortifications for the village population, particularly dur


ing regional disputes and at the time of the Hussite Wars and the Thirty Years’ War. At present, the preservation of these large structures – in Franconia as well as in Transylvania – poses an enormous administrative and financial challenge for those responsible. According to Philipp Harfmann, networking within the respective regions, but also internationally, is therefore just as important for the colleagues in Ostheim as it is for us: “Both sides are striving for closer cooperation. I am delighted about this, as such a partnership not only promotes the exchange of knowledge, experience and resources, but also helps us to protect and preserve our cultural heritage together.”

One of the first results of the Transylvanian-Franconian networking is expected to be the presentation of the travelling exhibition The Transylvanian Landscape of Fortified Churches – A European Cultural Heritage in Ostheim vor der Rhön, which is planned for the future.

Text: Stefan Bichler