Geographically, the city of Medias is located in the Tarnavelor Plateau, a subdivision of the Transylvanian Plateau. It is located between the Mures Valley to the north and the Olt Valley to the south, being crossed by the rivers Tarnava Mare and Tarnava Mică. In turn, the Tarnavelor Plateau is made up of the Hartibaciu Plateau, where methane gases are exploited and Secaselor Plateau.
The Tarnavelor Valley has always been famous for its vineyards, which is why it was also called “The Wine Country”. The area also includes many Saxon fortified churches, which are among the most beautiful historical monuments in Romania. Two of them have been declared UNESCO monuments: the church of Valea Viilor and the architectural complex of Biertan.
In the old medieval heraldry, the most common symbol used for the Tarnavelor Valley is the grape bunch. In some cases, as a sign of great honor, the grape was polished in gold.
The area belonging to Sibiu County in Tarnavelor Valley is concentrated around three towns: Medias, Copsa Mica and Dumbraveni. It is a recognized area for its vineyard profile and for the mineral water rich in mineral mud and salts, which brought the fame of the Bazna spa resort.
Romanians, Saxons, Hungarians, Armenians and Roma have all put their mark on the culture, civilization and traditions in the Tarnavelor Valley. Thus, the most known elements of the area include the Saxon fortified churches, the “coconița dance” of the Romanian girls, or the copper objects made by the Roma craftsmen.
The Tarnavelor Valley was renowned for the craftsmanship that has been passed on from generation to generation: blacksmithing, making felt shoes (a Saxon custom), viticulture, or the baking of bread on the fireplace.
The Saxon communities in the Tarnava Mare area were organized in “neighborhoods”, a habit that is preserved to this day in some of the villages where there was a large Saxon population. Neighborhoods were made up of several neighbors, inhabitants of a village, town, or commune, who contributed to the good work of the community by helping each other in case of need. These were not just to provide a family in need of funeral help, as it is happening today, but neighborhood members also helped each other to build houses, work in the field, and in any other situation where a neighbor from the neighborhood needed help.
Saxon Churches on the Tarnavelor Valley
At the heart of many Saxon villages on the Tarnavelor Valley are today the fortified churches, surrounded by massive walls, guarded by towers, which were built to withstand the sieges initiated by the Turks and Tartars. These churches-fortresses served as shelters and warehouses for supplies.
Built to respond first to defense needs, the Saxon churches are remarkable by combining different architectural elements, with original frescoes, and ancient worship objects that have been preserved with much care. For example, the churches of Biertan, Malancrav or Saschiz are representative of both Saxon spirituality and their history and culture. Even now, the Tarnavelor Valley still preserves the inherited crafts of the elders, the scenic landscapes, the tranquility of the villages, local stories and legends.
The fortified church of St. Margaret of Medias
brings together elements belonging to buildings dating back to the 15th century. The triptych altar is one of the most valuable in Transylvania, and the church also boasts with a pipe organ that dates back to 1678.
The fortified church of Valea Viilor
and the Regional Ecomuseum include the Gothic style worship center as well as some traditional peasant households.
The fortified Evangelical church of Biertan
is included in the UNESCO heritage and is characterized by elements of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the one made of one piece of stone, the polyptic altar (the largest in Transylvania) and the door of the sacristy awarded at the International Exhibition in Paris In 1910.
The fortified church in Richis
has an impressive entrance gate, as well as numerous sculpted figures that decorate the walls.
The fortified church of Malancrav
was built in the 14th century by the Hungarian count Apafi. It is distinguished by its mural painting, which is a narrative fresco illustrating various biblical scenes.
The fortified church of Saschiz
was built in honor of King Stephen I of Hungary, on the site of an ancient Roman building. The clock tower is a copy of the one in Sighisoara, and in the architectural style one can see Gothic elements.
The fortified church of Saros pe Tarnave
dates from the late Gothic period, with a fortified belt, a baroque altar and pipe organ that is still functional.