Kereszténysziget, (Grossau, Cristian) is located in Transylvania, Romania, 9 km west of Nagyszeben (Sibiu). Perhaps it can boast with the nicest Saxon fortified church of Transylvania.
The area has been populated by Saxons who had arrived during the reign of Hungarian King Géza II (1141-1162). Kereszténysziget (meaning “Christian-island” in the Hungarian language) was mentioned in writing in 1226 for the first time as „Insula Christiana” (Christian-field).
The church was rebuilt by the famous Saxon architect of Szeben, Andreas Lapicida between 1472 – 1498, in the late-Gothic style.
After a devastating Ottoman raid, the people of the place decided to fortify the church further. The Saxon inhabitants had their storage place inside the fort where they could carry their valuables in case of peril. There used it as a shelter in 1529 against the siege of Dragan, Voivode of Wallachia whose troops had sacked Szeben previously. The enemy burned the settlement but the Saxons survived in the fortified church.
Two more fortified courts were built to the north side in 1550 to make the church stronger while a new tower was added on the southern part in 1580.
It was the inside of the church, where the soldiers of Voivode Mihail II hanged up Mathias Heintz, the Saxon evangelic priest in 1599. The Crimean Tatars took the place by siege in 1658 and had the whole population massacred. Later it was re-inhabited by Saxon settlers. Prince Thököly Imre had himself elected a prince of Transylvania here in 1690 on a Diet.
The Saxon community renovated the church and the walls in the 18th century. If you visit this magnificent place, you can climb into one of its five towers and can see a nice panoramic view of the beautiful countryside.
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Here are a few pictures of Kereszténysziget: