Photo: Daniel-Grad

Kelnek (in Saxon: Kölling) castle is located in Transylvania, it is in Romania. The Székely-Saxon place is 30 km from Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), once the capital of the Principality of Transylvania. Here is more about the Saxons of Transylvania:

The fortified church of Kelnek (Photo: Zsolt Deák)

The first Saxon settlers were invited to this area during the reign of King Géza II, about 1142. Not all of the Saxons were craftsmen or peasants, many of them were excellent soldiers. One of them was Erwyn’s son, Chyl, the leader (“geréb”) of Kelnek / Kölling who took the side of Prince István in the civil war against his father, King Béla IV in 1265. Chyl fought bravely for the prince in the battles of Isaszeg, Feketehalom, and Déva, and even getting seriously wounded. When István became the next king, he rewarded him with a settlement in Fejér County. They were holding Kelnek until the end of the 14th century when the family was discontinued.

Kelnek and the possessions of Chyl’s family were inherited by a marriage to Geréb of Vingard. The Vingard family was even related to Lady Szilágyi Erzsébet so this was how they counted themselves among the relatives of King Matthias Corvinus.

Kelnek (Calnic) Photo: Levente Nuber

Kelnek was first mentioned as “Kelnuk” in 1269. Kelnek had been a Székely settlement before the Saxons arrived. According to the records, the Hungarian Székelys who now live in the village of Sepsikálnok had moved there from Kelnek in the 12th century.

Undoubtedly, the first Saxon builder of the castle was Count Chyl de Kelling. He built its first stone tower that was surrounded by a stone wall, in the fashion of the age. Later, it was improved with further defenses as it was the time when the first Ottoman raids appeared in Transylvania.


The Geréb family moved out of the building in 1430 and it was taken over by the Saxon peasant community of the settlement after the Ottoman siege in 1439. That year, the enemy had ruined and taken the fort but later it was rebuilt. The castle became the shelter of the villagers who kept their valuables behind its walls until the end of the 19th century. It is very similar to the Saxon peasant castles of Transylvania.

The Saxons made further fortifications in the 16th century on the castle, they built its double walls and made the tower higher. They built small storage chambers at the inner walls for the families of the village where they could hide their valuables in peril. The late-Gothic style is nicely mixed with late-renaissance motives. The fort withstood the siege of Voivode Mihail II in 1599 and the Tatars couldn’t take it in 1658, either. 

The well-kept monument is under the protection of UNESCO now. 

Photo: Plinul-cel-tanar

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Here are a few pictures of Kelnek: