The medieval city in Romania boasting the lowest unemployment rate
Located on the Mureș River valley in Alba county, 15 km away from the county capital Alba Iulia, Sebeș is another picturesque medieval city of Romania.
During the middle ages, Sebeș was a flourishing economic and political centre, which preserved its dynamic local economy even nowadays. It shelters important foreign investments, with wood procession and leather manufacturing being the leading fields of the local industry. Currently there are 1,159 companies based there, with the volume of foreign investments mounting to about EUR 500 M. The unemployment rate has been under 2 percent as of March 2015, considered the lowest in the country.
The main tourist attractions include the 12th century Evangelical Church, the 14th century Fortress and the 15th century Zapolya House.
The city’s name comes from the Hungarian word sebes, meaning ‘fast’, and refers to the Mureș river that flows through the city. The German name Mühlbach stands for ‘mill river’ and refers to the hydraulic mills that were built along the river.
Originally a Dacian settlement, later incorporated into the Roman Empire, Sebeș was set up by the Saxons in the 12th century. First documented in 1245, Sebeș flourished economically and politically during the middle ages, serving as an administrative town for the region for more than five centuries between 1308 and 1876. Like all Saxon medieval citadels, the town was renowned for its crafts and trade, serving from 16th to 18th century as a seat for the Transylvanian Diet.
A renowned craft and trade center, Sebes was home to some 19 guilds – among them the armor-makers, tailors, blacksmiths, furriers, shoemakers, bakers, potters and drapers – which conducted business with the province of Walachia, as well as with central and western European cities.
The center of Sebeș, lined with colorful high-roofed Transylvanian houses, whose design is dating back in the 18th and 19th centuries, has preserved its medieval touch up to the present day.
The Evangelical Church
First built as a Roman Basilica in Romanesque style, the church later took on a Gothic appearance with Renaissance elements. Only the nave has been preserved from of the original church built between 1240 and 1270. The Evangelical Church in Sebeș boasts the largest altar of all Transylvanian churches. Richly decorated with paintings and carvings, the polychrome wooden altar was designed between 1518 and 1526, marking the transition from gothic to renaissance style. St Jacob’s chapel, on the north side of the church, was built in Gothic style in the 14th century. Images depicting the lives of St Francis of Assisi and St Nicholas are still visible on the murals.
The city fortress
The first written reference of the Sebes Fortress dates back to 1387 when construction began. Damaged by invaders, it was restored in 1571. Stone-block and brick walls with eight towers were added to the original rectangular
precinct. The one-mile-long walls with battlements, ramparts and openings (used to pour hot tar over assailants) have been preserved and can be seen even today.
The guilds in Sebeș built eight towers; only two, namely the Shoemakers’ and the Tailors’ Towers, though partially ruined, defied time and were still preserved to this day.
Tailors’ Tower is also known as the Student’s Tower. Legend has it that when a Turkish army attacked the town in 1483, a couple of locals refused to surrender and barricaded themselves in one of the towers of the citadel, namely the Tailors’ Tower. The Turks conquered the tower and burned it down. The only survivor was a 16-year-old boy, student at the German school in Sebeș. Taken prisoner by the Turks, he managed to escape after 22 years of imprisonment and fled to Rome where, in 1475, he wrote a book in Latin entitled About the Turks’ Religion, Manners and Evil Deeds.
The work was signed The Nameless One of Sebeș. The book enjoyed tremendous success throughout Europe, being printed in no less than 25 editions until 1600. The 1530 edition was prefaced by Martin Luther himself.
The Zapolya House
Zapolya House was built in the second half of the 15th century and served as the seat of the Transylvania Diet during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, the building houses the local History Museum, which displays Romanian and Saxon folk art, medieval weapons, traditional pottery and icons painted on glass and wood.
As nearby attraction, you can visit Calnic Fortified Church, UNESCO World Heritage Site, located 10 miles southeast of Sebeș.
Râpa Rosie (Red Ravine) Nature Reserve is another exquisite location, about 4 km from the town of Sebeș. The Red Ravine is a geological area of 10 ha, with its walls heights ranging between 80 and 100 m, which was dubbed as Romania’s Little Canion due to the color of its rocks.