Prince Charles visited on Wednesday three medieval churches in Brasov County: Drauseni, Homorod and Mercheasa, all built around the year 1200 in Romanesque style and expanded in 1500.
At the fortified church in Drauseni, the Prince of Wales was greeted by 78-year-old Ella Kosa, the only member left here of a once thriving Saxon community.
At present, the Drauseni place of worship is abandoned and no one has entered since long the building of high historical significance. Only Ella Kosa holds the keys to the gate of the building.
Baptized and married in the Drauseni church, she sadly told the Prince how the building had been at the center of the community’s life in the past. Especially for the Prince’s visit she brought a book with the history of the church.
“This book shows the way our church was. Now, it’s over. My soul aches. The Saxons left and nothing was done,” Ella Kosa said, adding that the items inside the church were dismantled long ago and the building abandoned and left to dereliction.
“Back in the ’70 they came and carried the items away. The organ is in Rupea, the altar is in Prejmer,” Ella Kosa said.
The local Saxon community was once 178-strong. “In ’45 they all left and we were 14 families to return, but then everybody left again,” Ella Kosa shared her story, telling the Prince that her children also left 25 years ago.
Prince Charles, accompanied by the Prince of Wales Foundation Executive Director Aura Woodward, walked around the church on the freshly mown grass, visited the abandoned church and listened to the story of the building as told by Ella Kosa.
The “Prince of Wales Romania” Foundation is working with the Fortified Churches Foundation and the Romanian authorities on a new development model for the abandoned medieval churches, with the Drauseni church serving as pilot in this endeavor. The organization has developed a plan that includes the renovation of the church, the construction of a café and of accommodation facilities in adjacent buildings and traditional workshops. All employees will be locals and the place will be included in tourist circuits as an art and crafts sightseeing place. If the pilot project proves successful, the model could be expanded to other similar monuments in the region.
The three medieval churches visited by Prince Charles on Wednesday were built around the year 1200 by the Transylvanian Saxon community and were subsequently surrounded by fortifications in the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1990 there were some 250,000 Saxons living in Transylvania but currently there are less than 15,000 left. In southern Transylvania there are about 250 endangered churches and medieval villages, many of them fortified and built some 400 to 600 years ago. “Regeneration Through Heritage” is a successful concept of the Prince of Wales Foundation, which supports both heritage conservation and economic stimulation.