Why is the Black Church in Brașov so visited? – 5 things to know

In this article we're unveiling the Romanian historic legacy about the Black Church in Brașov. A beacon of faith and a testament to the endurance of a community, this iconic structure has borne witness to centuries of historical events and social transformations.
Black church in Brașov

The Black Church in Brașov is a representative construction for the Gothic style in Romania, being considered the largest church in the country, but also the largest Gothic place of worship in Southeast Europe. It has a capacity of 5,000 seats, is 89 meters long and 37 meters high, to which is added the tower of 65 meters high.

At the base, there is the idea of a hall-type church, consisting of choir, nave and tower, a very popular model in Germany, from where the architects who contributed to its restoration were.

The Black Church in Brașov – story of the Gothic style worship place in Southeast Europe

In its beginnings, the church was called St. Mary, and its construction most likely started around year 1377. It took a century to finalize the building of the church, as during all this time it was severely affected by the Turkish invasion in 1421. The tower was completed only 37 years after the completion of the church, the construction being initially provided with 2 towers, but due to lack of funds, one was abandoned.

The church has three huge bells – the one that weighs 6300 kilograms is the largest in the country, and among the largest in Europe.

Initially, the church was Roman Catholic, but in the middle of the 16th century the Protestant Reformation entered Transylvania and spread thanks to the priest, humanist and pedagogue Johannes Honterus. The first evangelical-Lutheran service in the Black Church was celebrated in 1542. An emblematic figure of his time for spreading the teachings of Luther, Johannes Honterus finds his eternal rest inside the church.

The fire – why is the church black?

In addition to the earthquakes it stoically resisted, the church was also set on fire. Therefore, the name of the church (“black church”) was given following the fire that took place in 1689 during the Ottoman invasion. After the fire the walls of the church remained black. The new name of the church (“the Black Church”) was made official only much later, in the nineteenth century.

After this fire, during which the church was visibly affected, it took other 100 years for complete restoration. During these restorations, the roof was enlarged and inside, the Gothic elements were replaced with Baroque elements. However, the visitor can still discover inside the church an impressive treasure, composed of art objects, which have withstood time and trials; among these we enumerate: the baptismal font (dated 1472, made of bronze, withstood the fire), the gothic portals (from 1477), the altar from Feldioara, the pulpit (from 1696).

5 things to know about the most representative tourist attraction of Brașov

1. The Black Church in Brașov hosts the Buchholtz mechanical organ

The organ was named after its maker, and is known as the largest, most unique and functional organ in Southeast Europe (it has 3993 pipes and 76 registers). It is known for its sonority of exceptional beauty.

Buchholtz mechanical organ inside the church

2. Impressive collection of Anatolian carpets

An impressive collection of Anatolian carpets can be found in the Black Church (most of the existing rugs come from donations from wealthy parishioners). Throughout the church, the splendor of the approximately 100 carpets predominates, in a multitude of shades and patterns, of an indisputable historical value. Their condition is from good to excellent, which is due to the former church workshop that contributed to their good preservation.

In addition, the Black Church in Brașov has many unique works of art, dating from six centuries and sourced from two continents.

Read also: The citadel of Brașov – best and must-see sights

3. Wall paintings inside the church

The wall paintings inside the church (Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ in her arms, accompanied by St. Catherine and St. Barbara). Fortunately, these frescoes escaped the fire of 1689.

4. The legend of the statue that seems to fall

Outside, on the north side, there is a statue of a child who seems to be falling. It is an atypical element for churches, but which has as a possible explanation a legend: it is said that an older worker, jealous of the talent of his young colleague, pushed the latter when he was bent over to raise something on the cornice. This statue was built in memory of that young man.

Statue of the falling young man – on top of the Black Church
5. Tombs dating from the Middle Ages

Thanks to archaeological research around the church, in 2011-2013 were discovered over 50 tombs dating from the Middle Ages and modern times but also the walls of a former chapel of the Black Church (possibly from the14th century – attested only in documents until its discovery).

At the same time, pieces of vessels, pits for supplies, ornaments and two tombstones were discovered, one of which was in very good condition.

The Black Church is located in the center of Brașov and is visited annually by over 100,000 tourists. During the summer, organ concerts take place inside the church, three times a week. The tradition started in 1953 continues today, the organ of the Black Church attracting organists from abroad but also from the country.

The Black Church in Brașov is a place full of history that, in its over 600 years, has known its rise and decline, but never its defeat.

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Picture of Iulia Serban

Iulia Serban

Travel guide and advisor

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