Hégen (Romanian: Brădeni, until 1964 Hendorf, German: Henndorf, Saxon: Händerf) is a village in Romania, in Szeben (Sibiu) County, the center of the municipality of the same name. It is situated 21 km south of Segesvár (Sighisoara), on the right bank of the Hortobágy River. The settlement is famous for its unique fortified church.
Its name comes from the Old German personal name Hagino. When it was first mentioned in 1297 it was called terra Heen, in 1349 Hegun, in 1353 Hendorff, in 1353 Hegny, and in 1733 Hégen. Its present Romanian name is derived from the pine forest (brad ‘pine’) next to it.
It was settled in the 13th century with a Saxon population. Its church was a place of pilgrimage in the 14th and 15th centuries, the right for holding pilgrimages was the financial source of the fortification of the church. The church of Hégen was dedicated to St. András (Andrew), and it was first mentioned in 1350.
In 1427 it was granted the right to hold a national fair. In 1488 it was inhabited by 59 landowners, four shepherds, and a schoolmaster. It burned down three times in the 16th century, but by 1488 its population had increased to 185 families, making it the fourth most populous settlement in Segesvár Seat (Sighisoara County).
The 14th-15th century Gothic Evangelical fortress church’s defensive walls were initially sustained with four corner towers, three of which remain intact. The fortification of the church took place in the second part of the 15th century. A relatively large number of wood samples were taken from the defense level, the roof structures, and the sacristy of the fortified church at Hégen. The dated samples indicate that wood felled around 1482 and was used for the roof structure of the sanctuary and around 1484 for the roof structure of the nave.
In the attic of the church, two levels of defense were constructed. The Gothic gate on the southwestern side of the church underwent significant reconstruction, and now the pre-Renaissance southeastern entrance is used as an entrance. These can be reached through a spiral staircase with loopholes in its wall, built into the outer wall of the church. The initial line of protection, constructed through the elevation of the church, is situated above the church’s vault.
It is surrounded by an arcade, which was constructed by extending the beams of the slab over the upper walls and laying the longitudinal beams on the outer buttresses of the church. The beam frame was filled up with bricks up to 1.5 m, and there were loopholes cut in the wall, too. It was boarded up on the outside. Dozens of painted chests belonging to the local Saxons are still present on the floors designated for defense, along with numbered hooks where they had stored bacon and sausage.
The nave windows were expanded and changed to straight-arched in the 18th century. The painted coffered parapet originates from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the sanctuary adjacent to the organ, there is a sacristy from the 15th century. The floor was raised due to the interior being filled with sludge three times between 1776 and 1851. Additionally, a well with a trapdoor is located under the benches on the left.
The 16th-19th century painted and unpainted chests, preserved in two church shelters, were restored in Segesvár by a team of German and Hungarian experts in 2002. The shelters also housed numbered food storage hooks. Additionally, 118 grain storage hoppers were preserved, with most exhibited in the hill church in Segesvár post-restoration. Due to flooding, the ground level around the church has risen by three meters since 1500. One of its bells was cast in the 13th-14th centuries.
The church is surrounded by a rectangular parapet wall with a recessed bastion. The four corners were strengthened by rectangular towers, while the north-west tower was dismantled in 1902. The four corners were strengthened by rectangular towers, while the north-west tower was dismantled in 1902. The remaining towers are still standing, though heavily modified.
Being situated on the road between Segesvár and Fogaras, it suffered a lot from the passing of the armies. When the village was burnt down by the Turkish troops in 1658, the inhabitants found shelter in the church fortress. You can read more about the German Saxons of Transylvania here:
In the 19th century, the carpenters of Hégen were famous far and wide. In 1876 it became part of the Nagy-Küküllő County. In 1897 it was transformed from a small village into a large settlement. In 1946 poor Hungarian agricultural servants from Vámosgálfalva, Harangláb, and Szászcsávás settled here because of the drought. The emigrated Saxons founded the Hohenstaufen Society in Germany in 1982.
In 1910, the town had a population of 1,039 with 474 residents speaking German, 292 speaking Romanian, 240 speaking the Gypsy language, and 33 speaking Hungarian; 530 were Orthodox, 469 Evangelical, and 29 Reformed.
In 2002, out of the 785 residents, 407 identified as Romanian, 346 as Gypsy, 27 as Hungarian, and 5 as German. The religious composition was 735 Orthodox, 21 Reformed, 13 Pentecostal, 6 Evangelical, and 6 Adventist.
Source: mainly from the Hungarian Wikipedia
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Here are a few more pictures of Hégen’s fortified church: