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Biertan Fortified
Saxon Church




Harman Fortified
Saxon Church

John Osborne
lectures: romania

Beyond Borders: The Fortified Churches and Painted Monasteries of Romania

In the mediaeval period, Romanian lands were among the more remote areas of Eastern Europe. Here, in Transylvania and Moldavia, highly distinctive styles of architecture developed and flourished.

The lecture illustrates the fine Gothic churches that the mediaeval Saxon settlers built in their Transylvanian towns and villages. These churches are situated in impressive Baroque towns, such as Brasov and Sighisoara, and behind formidable, but picturesque fortifications in Saxon villages, such as Biertan.

Then the lecture depicts the 'Painted Monasteries' of Moldavia, rightly famous for the frescoes that stem from the Orthodox Byzantine tradition of ecclesiastical art, as well as for the lovely architectural ensembles of the monastery buildings themselves.

These frescoes - the Last Judgement, the Life of Mary, rank upon rank of Saints in the Heavenly Host, and so on - cover the exterior walls of the monastery churches and still maintain their wonderfully vivid colours and details.

All this is set in the context of Romania's landscape and history by way of introduction.

Recommended Reading:

  • Alan Ogden - Fortresses of Faith: A Pictorial History of the Fortified Saxon Churches of Romania
  • Alan Ogden - Revelations of Byzantium: The Monasteries and Painted Churches of Northern Moldavia
Both these books are published by the Centre for Romanian Studies.


John regularly leads tours to Romania for various companies.

He and his wife, Karen, will be leading a small group on a walking tour of Maramures in Romania in August 2017. For further information about Romana Cuzacu, who arranges and leads these tailor-made walking and sightseeing tours for small groups in rural Romania, see Ramona's website: or contact John.

He will be leading a historical and cultural tour to Romania, including the fortified Saxon churches and cities and the painted churches of Moldavia, for Cox & Kings and the Royal Academy of Arts from 15 - 24 May 2017.

Details and bookings for Royal Academy of Arts tours to Bulgaria and Romania from Cox and Kings (Tel 020 7873 5013); e-mail:;

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