Vermes (in intact condition)
Source: Benő Gyula

The fortified church of Vermes (Vermeș, Wermesch) is in Transylvania, Romania. It is in the southern part of Beszterce-Naszód County, near Szászlekence, and is one of the most valuable monuments of the region. It was built in the Gothic style in the 16th century, but the walls of an earlier church from the 14th century were also used in its construction.

Vermes (Photo: Mayer Jácint)

The first mention of the village is from 1332 when it was called Vermus. In the Middle Ages, the settlement was inhabited by Transylvanian Saxons, who converted to Lutheranism during the Reformation. Its Lutheran church was built around the 14th century. It was mentioned as Vermes in 1439 and in 1441 as Wermes. Its tower is much later, built in 1579, and its stone-carved pulpit dates from 1497. We know a priest from there from 1529, his name was Thomas.

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust / Sorin Județ)

In 1602, Giorgio Basta’s soldiers destroyed the village, and only the church survived. Later, it was repopulated by Saxons from the surrounding villages, and in 1630 Romanians from Moldavia settled there.

Vermes (Photo: Sorin Județ)

Large areas of murals have been found both inside and outside, and these were not destroyed during the 18th-century Baroque renovation. The belfry near the church is also a monument from the 16th century, but the former priest’s house and school are also part of the valuable complex.

Vermes (Photo: Mayer Jácint)

The church deteriorated steadily after the German inhabitants moved out in 1944. In 1910 it had 798 inhabitants, of which 516 were Romanians, 130 Gypsies, 127 Germans, and 25 Hungarians. In 2002, out of 899 inhabitants, 599 were Romanians, 258 Gypsies, 40 Hungarians, and 2 Germans.

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust)

Recently, the church was on the verge of collapse

This place is increasingly losing ground in the battle against the passage of time. It is in a state of disrepair, its walls are crumbling and the entire structure is threatening to collapse.

Vermes (Photo: Christian Roth-Gross)

Civilians would save from the collapse of this valuable Saxon church in the Beszterce- Naszód county, entrusted to the Orthodox Church by the Saxon community that emigrated from Germany. Donations and help from volunteers are needed for the work.

Vermes in 2022 (Photo: Christian Roth-Gross)

In the framework of a project called Ambulanța pentru Monumente (Ambulance for Monuments), civilians are trying to save one of the most valuable Saxon churches in the Beszterce- Naszód region, the Evangelical Church of Vermes. The project, initiated by the Petrus Italus Trust Association in Beszterce, aims to strengthen the valuable property on the verge of collapse, which the Saxons who emigrated to Germany have entrusted to the local Orthodox Church for preservation. The followers of the Greek Orthodox religion did not use the Gothic-style property for long: they built a new dwelling and forgot their promise.

Vermes (Photo: Mayer Jácint)

In a post on their Facebook community page, the monument rescuers of Beszterce- Naszód County point out that the recovery of the church in Vermes is only the first step, as many abandoned Saxon churches in the region need help, but this one is the most urgent. Donations and volunteers are needed, so they are looking for both financial help and workers for the project, which would be carried out in cooperation with the local community.

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust)

Although several attempts were made to save the church in the early 2000s, they were unsuccessful. An urgent intervention is planned to strengthen the building. “Together with the local community, we want to save this place full of stories and history,” they emphasize, adding that since it is a complex intervention, they have already started to plan the work, which was scheduled for the summer of 2022.

Vermes (Photo: Sorin Județ)

The first stage will be to strengthen the roof structure and the choir, which is the oldest part of the church, and then to build a canopy over the nave, which will allow for long-term restoration of the building. The interventions are absolutely necessary to prevent water infiltration and to protect valuable parts of the church, such as the Gothic vaulting of the choir, the interior wall paintings, and the 14th-century mural found on the outer wall of the choir.

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust)

Monument Rescue is a national project set up by the Monumentum Association in 2016, which has so far helped to save around ten percent of Romania’s deteriorated built heritage. The initiative, which has received numerous international awards, is supported by the British Crown Prince Charles (now King of England) and several multinational companies.

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust / Sorin Județ)

The deplorable state of the Saxon-built heritage in the region of Beszterce-Naszód was also highlighted by the county chairman of the German Democratic Forum, Cristian Roth-Gross. In his appeal to the county and national authorities, he pointed out:

“In a few years or even months, part of the Saxon architectural heritage in northern Transylvania could collapse. About ten former Saxon churches need urgent intervention, as local Saxon communities have died out and Saxons who emigrated to Germany and Austria have grown old and less able to support the values they left behind. According to the German politician, the condition not only of the former Saxon churches owned by the Evangelical Church is catastrophic, but also of the churches which the Saxon Church, due to a lack of believers, has ceded to other churches – Orthodox, Reformed – with the very purpose of taking care of the buildings.”

Vermes (Source: Petrus Italus Trust / Sorin Județ)

He emphasized that the authorities should urgently intervene in the properties and make them safe until they can be fully renovated and restored. In his appeal, Roth-Gross first mentioned the former Lutheran church of Vermes (Vermeș, Wermesch), which was given to the Orthodox Church by the emigrated Saxons precisely to take care of the valuable property.

Vermes (Photo: Sorin Județ)

In 2022, a part of the roof of the church ship in Vermes collapsed. In 2024, the Petrus Italus Trust continued its work to make the building safer together with the volunteers and sponsors of the project. Even a team of Estonian and Latvian carpenters took part in the renovation in 2024.

Vermes (Photo: Marco Geréd Zsolt)

They are looking for donations

They would like to carry out the church restoration work in Vermes with the help of volunteers and under the guidance of professionals. If you would like to help their efforts, the contact telephone number is: +40754552125

Vermes (Photo: Sorin Județ)

Source: partly from Pap Melinda (2021) and

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Here are a few pictures of Vermes: