Sighişoara is a city and municipality on the Târnava Mare River in Mureş County, Romania. Located in the historic region Transylvania, Sighişoara has a population of 32,287 (2002).
During the 12th century, German craftsmen and merchants known as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to Transylvania by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the frontier of his realm. The chronicler Krauss lists a Saxon settlement in the actual Sighiṣoara by 1191. By 1280 it was known by the Latin name of Castrum Sex, and by 1298 by the Saxon name of Schespurch resp. Schaesbrich. By 1337 Sighişoara had become a royal center for the kings, who awarded the settlement urban status in 1367 as the Civitas de Segusvar.
The city played an important strategic and commercial role at the edges of Central Europe for several centuries. Sighişoara became one of the most important cities of Transylvania, with artisans from throughout the Holy Roman Empire visiting the settlement. The German artisans and craftsmen dominated the urban economy, as well as building the fortifications protecting it. It is estimated that during the 16th and the 17th centuries Sighişoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches. The Baroque sculptor Elias Nicolai lived in the city. The Wallachian prince Vlad Dracul (father of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), who lived in exile in the town, let minted coins in the city (otherwise coinage was the monopoly of the Hungarian kings in the Kingdom of Hungary) and issued the first document listing the city’s Romanian name, Sighişoara.
The city was the setting for George I Rákóczi’s election as Prince of Transylvania and King of Hungary in 1631. Sighişoara suffered military occupation, fires, and plagues during the 17th and 18th centuries. Important source for the history of the 17th century Transylvania, for the period of 1606-1666, the records of Georg Kraus, the town’s notary.
The nearby plain of Albeşti was the site of the Battle of Segesvár, where the revolutionary Hungarian army led by Józef Bem was defeated by the Russian army led by Luders on 31 July 1849. A monument was constructed in 1852 to the Russian general Skariatin, who died in the battle. The Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi is generally believed to have been killed in the battle, and a monument was constructed in his honor at Albeşti in 1897. After World War I Sighişoara passed with Transylvania from Austria-Hungary to the Kingdom of Romania.
Central Sighişoara has preserved in an exemplary way the features of a small medieval fortified city, it has been listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Each year, a Medieval Festival takes place in the old citadel in July.
Sighişoara is considered to be the most beautiful and well preserved inhabited citadel in Europe, with an authentic medieval architecture. In Eastern Europe, Sighişoara is one of the few fortified towns which are still inhabited. The town is made up of two parts. The medieval stronghold was built on top of a hill and is known as the «Citadel» (Cetate).The lower town lies in the valley of Târnava Mare river.
The houses inside Sighişoara Citadel show the main features of a craftsmen’s town. However, there are some houses which belonged to the former patriciate, like the Venetian House and the House with Antlers.
«The House with Antlers» has been brought into the possession of the Messerschmitt Foundation with the help of the Romanian Government and the town council of Sighisoara in April 2000, defrauding the legitimate heirs, the descendents Leicht-Bacon (with English roots), who are mentioned in the cadaster of Sighisoara as owners before the communist dispossession of 1950.
In 2001-2003 the construction of a Dracula theme park in the ‘Breite’ nature preserve near Sighişoara was considered but ultimately rejected, due to the strong opposition of local civil society groups and national and international media as well as politically influential persons, as the theme park would have detracted from the medieval style of the city and would have destroyed the nature preserve.
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