The site

Soon after their arrival to the “land beyond the forest”, Transylvania, in the 12th century, the first Saxon settlers built in the village a wooden church at the same place where we can today find the fortified church. Due to the rugged characteristics of the surrounding region, the town was named Hundertbücheln, an expression which in German is related to “hundred hills”; the village’s Romanian name is Movile and the Hungarian one Százhalom. Due to repeated attacks by the Ottomans as well as by armies of other warmongers in the following centuries, it soon became necessary to rebuild the largest building in the village from stones and to reinforce it with two mighty towers: the bell tower on the west side and the massive Pelsenturm on the east.

During these attacks, the villagers fled to their fortified church ensemble and defended themselves together against the enemies. In the course of time the village grew, and so did the fortified church. More and more stones had been carried from far away to the centre of the village, and each generation added some features to their life’s centre point. Around the year 1500, a high defensive wall was built around the central buildings and three more towers raised the defence capacity against the foreign warlords. At the end of the Middle Ages, the climax of defence architecture in Transylvania, another second protective wall with one or two little towers at the edges was built in a semicircle around the western side in order to be able to offer a shelter for the village’s cattle and to store the easily combustible forage safely. It is not known exactly how many times the villagers of Hundertbücheln had to flee into their fortified church to defend their lives and the ones of their neighbours shoulder to shoulder, but obviously their knowledge and skills of building were extraordinary.

Today most of the architectural features of this impressive fortified church remain. The only significant change is that – since the devastating attacks after the fall of the Ottoman Empire no longer took place – the outer wall was largely removed in the beginning of the 20th century in order to use the stones to build the new, spacious Parish House, which is today available as the village’s guest house. Moreover, the little prison tower(s) disappeared, and one of the larger towers collapsed and can be found as an atmospheric ruin at the south-east side of the ensemble.

After the great exodus of most Saxon people to Western Europe in the years 1990/91, the fortified church of Movile – like most of Transylvania’s architectural heritage – seemed to have lost their important caretakers. But in 2015, a group of friends from all over Europe founded the “Churchfortress Association” and started to maintain this impressive cultural heritage. In cooperation with emigrated Transylvanian Saxons and the Foundation for Fortified Churches in Transylvania, the association plans and implements measures to preserve the fortified church, its ensemble and the village Movile with the surrounding cultural landscape. On one hand the association aims to preserve the ensemble as a protected heritage site, on the other hand to develop opportunities for its subsequent use and therefore to provide creative space adequate to modern times. 


The project

The European Heritage Volunteers Project in 2022 will be a continuation of the European Heritage Volunteers Project that took place at the site in 2021 during which damaged parts of the defensive wall surrounding the fortified church ensemble were reconstructed.

The project in 2022 will have a major focus the improvement of the access to the ensemble by securing the structure of the gate tower and its direct surroundings as well as the path leading to the fortified ensemble and further to the church.

The main access to the ensemble of the fortified church of Movile changed in medieval times due to the development of the surrounding village. As the population grew and more houses were built in the western part of the village, the community decided to transfer the main access from the southern tower to the one in the west. Until today this tower, which also offers space for a little village museum on the first level, is used by villagers and tourists to enter the inner ring of the fortified church ensemble, including to the church.

However, the whole entrance area is in a bad state: the access trail is damaged, the inner ring wall has collapsed on a length of several metres and the mighty oak steps crossing the gate tower have been fairly damaged due to weathering and have partially lost their anchoring, what altogether creates a danger for visitors to the ensemble.

During the project, the access trail will be repaired what will include works both on the substruction as well as on the pavement of the trail.

The collapsed part of the ring wall in direct vicinity of the gate tower will be reconstructed by removing the loose stones and filling the gaps again with natural stones and lime mortar. These works will also include reactivating the drainage system for rainwater and securing the support beams of the gallery above.

The wooden staircase leading through the gate tower will be repaired. These works will include the removal of the irreversibly weathered old steps, the preparation of a new long-lasting foundation from old oak beams, the professional consideration of which parts of the former steps can be preserved and the harmonic connection of new and old wood as well as the link to the foundation with old hand-forged wooden nails. Finally, the restored steps will be reinserted and the impressive access to the heart of the ensemble will be restored.

The works will be guided by two regional heritage specialists – a restorer-conservator specialised in traditional masonry and plaster techniques and an expert in conservation and restoration of wooden elements.

The comprehensive educational programme will be complemented by guided visits and an excursion to other relevant heritage sites in the region, which will provide the participants with a broad understanding on the cultural heritage of Transylvania, namely the fortified churches, the associated villages and the surrounding cultural landscape.


The project will take place from August, 28th, to September 10th, 2022 and is organised by Fortified Churches Foundation and the Churchfortress Association in cooperation with European Heritage Volunteers.


European Heritage Volunteers