The fortified church of Sárd (Șard, Schard) is located in Transylvania, Romania. It is just 8 kilometers from Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia) to the northwest, towards Zalatna. The settlement was established by German people who were invited to Hungary. The place was first mentioned in 1238.
The Transylvanian bishops used to stay there during the winters. The early medieval church used to be a Romanesque building with three naves but was rebuilt in the 14th century in the Gothic style. After the Mongolian Invasion of 1241-42, the Transylvanian bishop owned the region and he was resettling the area with new Saxon guests. To keep them here, the bishop asked for tax exemption from King Béla IV in 1246. The king must have granted it because not much later the documents list two types of inhabitants: the free Saxons and the serves. The church was first mentioned in 1282. The church tower may have been completed later as it resembles the Renaissance towers in Italy, though.
Officially, King László IV placed the settlement directly under the authority of the Bishop of Transylvania, and the settlement received “hospes” privileges in 1295. The church was surrounded by a stone wall in the 15-16th century, a stone tower was guarding it. You can see the coat of arms of the Báthory family on it.
Since 1570, the place used to be a market town until the 19th century. The small town was part of Fehér County, later part of Alsó-Fehér County. Its last Saxon priest (Mátyás Gylokai) was mentioned in 1563 but during the next decades, the population has changed to Hungarian and Wallachian. Sebessi Boldizsár of Sárd was the Transylvanian ambassador in the Ottoman Empire, and he was the one who began to settle Wallachians there during the reign of Prince Rákóczi György I. He invited these folks from his own domains from Zaránd county and Stej. (Please, note that I use the Oriental name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
After the unlucky Polish war of Prince Rákóczi György II, Crimean Tatar and Ottoman troops punished Transylvania. The Crimean Tatars burned the place in 1658 to the ground. The church was rebuilt in the 18th century, the nave was a bit shortened and a tower was added on its northern side. In 1710, the local Wallachian people erected a cross at the town’s boundary, the Reformed population had a debate with them because of this. At this time, the Wallachians (Romanian Greek Catholics) already outnumbered the Protestants (Saxons and Hungarians).
We find 48 noble families in the settlement in 1715. The richest of them was Naláczi Lajos, he had eight noble-households and three servant households (farmsteads). Száva Mihály had nine noble-households and one peasant household, and we know that a man called Récsei István had six noble-farmsteads and two peasant ones. During the 18th century, the Teleki, Eszterházy, Bánffy, and Bornemissza families got lands around the settlement.
There were 150 Orthodox Catholic and 16 Greek Catholic families in Sárd in 1761. New settlers arrived in 1765 from Kopacsel, Brassó County. They were Romanians who did not want to serve as border guards in the Fogaras area, they were settled on the property of the Bánffy family (now in Oltani Street). As for the Reformed denomination, there were 86 men and 68 women in 1766. The Transylvanian Reformed Church held a general synod in the church of Sárd in 1783. Sárd was regarded as a rather big town with 1,142 inhabitants in 1784.
During the Hungarian Revolution in 1848-1849, there were violent ethnic clashes in the area with lots of victims. Ethnic hatred was instigated by the Habsburgs and it is not my task to research the details.
Sárd before the renovation (Photo: Imre Lánczi)
After 1848, the Reformed denomination has almost vanished. There was a slight increase in the 1870s but the church was quite empty in 1918. A Reformed school was established in 1919 but it was banned in 1924. The Reformed denomination belonged to the administration of Magyarigen after the 1940s.
As far as we know, the Reformed Church was running the only pharmacy in the village in the 2000s. Lately, the church has been restored: the Ágoston Sándor Foundation (Budapest) and the Szabadhegyi Gyülekezet of Győr had the interior of the church restored in 2009.
In the village, you can also see a Late-Renaissance stately home of the Eszterházy family.
I have a long list of fortified churches on my page but you can read a general article about them as well:
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Here are some more pictures of Sárd: