Lesses is the Hungarian name of the famous Saxon fortified church which is in Transylvania (Romania) and also called Dealu Frumos aka Schönberg or in Saxon, Šinebarχ. It is located in the village of Morgonda, 41 km from Medgyes (Medias) to the southeast. There is a stream called Hortobágy and its side-stream is called Altbach: the settlement is in the valley of the Hortobágy (!) Mountains (!!). (As for the name Hortobágy, most of us might think of the Hortobágy Field in Hungary but now we are talking about a mountain in Transylvania with the same name.)
The settlement is likely the earliest Saxon village in Transylvania, founded in the middle of the 12th century. It was mentioned as Pulchromons in 1329 and as Schonnenbergh in 1488, Schynbergh in 1532.
However, the church was mentioned first in a document from 1453 when its priest, Péter was appointed as the Bishop of Szörény County (Zeweriensis episcopus). We can find Saxon students’ names at the University of Vienna: Petrus from Lessen in 1393 and August Andreas Huetter in 1517. In the University of Krakow, there were mentioned the names of Michael in 1487 and Georg in 1518.
The tower was built later, the church was reconstructed between 1500-1521 in the Gothic style: its nave was built higher and fortifications were added. It was the age when the originally oval-shaped castle became a square formation. We can find the number “1509” in the southern Gothic gate-tower. Next to the tabernacle, three layers of medieval murals were discovered but they were whitewashed in 1911.
There is a crucifix in the church from 1515 that is very similar to the one in Berethalom’s church. It is thought to be the work of Veit Stoss’ son. Also, there is a bell in the tower that dates back to 1538. Additionally, the church owns a chalice from the 16th century. We know that Matheus Rwppas was the priest there in it in 1502. There were 51 hosts with “houses”, three shepherds, a mill, and two “deserted” houses listed in 1500.
The troops of the Wallachian Voivode Mihai Viteazul (Vitéz Mihály) destroyed the entire place in 1599. It marked the beginning of the decline of Schönberg / Lesses. Dangerous years were coming, the northern walls were further elevated (with 5 meters) in 1647 and one more tower was built to defend them. You can read on it: „Felix est civitas divina, Ðuae tempore pacis… 1647.”
Half of the population (24 “houses”) left the village between 1687-1695. New settlers called “Landlers” moved in in 1734 coming from Traun—Hausruckviertel, Austria. Then, the first eight Romanians and nine Gypsy families were listed in 1752. After WWII, 114 Saxons were taken to the Soviet Union to the camp of Stalino. As we know, the Saxons had to leave Romania during communism but those 23 of them who stayed had had an Evangelic priest until 2002.
The good news is, that the students of the Ion Mincu University of Bucharest have been renovating the church as part of their studies.
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Here are a few pictures of Lesses / Schönberg / Dealu Frumos: