Medieval city of Mediaș: Legends and sights
Mediaș is the second largest city in Sibiu County, Transylvania. But most of all, it is one of the best-preserved historical centers in Romania and also some well preserved medieval fortifications.
Although evidence of human presence in the area dates back to the middle Neolithic, the city was first mentioned during the Roman occupation as Per Medias (meaning the town at the crossroads). According to the tradition, the town was founded in 1146, being so one of the oldest cities in Transylvania. The first document that mentions the city is dated 3 June 1267. In 1283, after the Saxons settled in Transylvania, the city became Sacerdos de Mediaș, while in 1389, it was renamed Villa Medies.
During the Middle Ages, Mediaș, like most other towns in Transylvania, was strongly fortified. Its 33 craft guilds built, maintained and defended the bastions of the walled city against invading forces. The fortified church of St. Margaret represented the core around which the citadel gradually developed.
The medieval center of the city has a particular charm, with narrow winding lanes, centuries-old houses and a large pedestrian square surrounded by colorful facades.
The fortified St. Margaret Evangelical Church, erected in the 15th century on the ruins of a Roman basilica, dominates the old town. The church, enclosed by two rows of walls and several defense towers (one of which served as prison cell for Vlad the Impaler in 1467), features three superb Gothic altarpieces, a colorful Baroque organ and some early 15th century frescoes. The church displays a collection of 14th century bronze artifacts and Oriental carpets brought by the tradesmen.
One of its towers, the Trumpeters’ Tower, is particularly special. In 1450, the Tower of Trumpeters, so-called because guards would search the horizon and sound an alarm by trumpet to warn people against enemy attack or fire, was added to the citadel’s defense system.
The legend says that the trumpeter would’ve been thrown out from the top of the tower if he made a mistake. Trumpeters’ Tower is also where Hungarian King Matyas locked Vlad the Impaler in 1476.
In 1880, a huge clock, showing the phases of the moon, was set up in the tower.
Another symbol of the town is the Tower of the Buglers, which is about 70 meters tall. Its construction started in the 13th century. In the 15th century it was raised to 5 tiers.
If you happen to be in the city, do not miss Franciscan Church and Monastery either. Built in gothic style in 1444, this church was later renovated in baroque style and a rococo style altar was added. The annex once served as silversmiths’ workshops.
As an economic center, Mediaș is famous for its windows manufacturing history. The factory now called Geromed was set up in 1921 and extended its products with blackboards, mirrors, windscreens and stained glass.
But above all, Mediaş is known best for its role in production of methane gas. The area where Mediaş is located on the site of the largest natural gas field in Romania. The headquarters of Romgaz, the national gas exploitation enterprise – and of Transgaz – the natural gas carrier – are based in Mediaş.
Mediaș is also known as a great wine center. The grapes and wine leaves visible in the city’s coat of arms refer to the (once well-known) wine from Mediaş. For example, the wine is mentioned early in Bram stoker’s Dracula: “The wine was Golden Mediasch, which produces a queer sting on the tongue, which is, however, not disagreeable”.
The neighborhood of Mediaș city also gives as good as one gets. It is surrounded by dozens of fortified churches, two of them listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, on a 20-km area: the Fortified Church of Valea Viilor , 5 miles south from Mediaș and Biertan Fortified Church, 12 miles east of the city.
A less known, interesting fact about Mediaș is that a pensioner from the city has found an impressive treasure dating from the Bronze Age in the woods with the help of a metal locator. He donated it to the city museum without accepting any reward.