Biserica Neagră (The Black Church) – Brașov, Romania - Atlas Obscura

Biserica Neagră (The Black Church)

A fire once nearly devoured this gorgeous 14th-century Gothic cathedral. 


This medieval church towers over Brașov’s Old Town, stretching high above its sea of red-orange roofs. Though its name, Biserica Neagră (the Black Church) may seem dark and foreboding, the building is nothing to fear. Step inside, and you’ll find a magnificent trove of cultural treasures nested within the enormous space.

Construction on the impressive Gothic church began in the 14th century. It survived the Protestant Reformation largely unscathed, but sadly wasn’t as lucky during the Great Turkish War of the 1680s.

During this conflict, a nasty fire set the building ablaze. Flames licked the walls and devoured a large chunk of the interior. It took roughly a century for workers to repair and restore the grand structure. The scorched, soot-covered walls earned the church its name.

Now nearly good as new, the church houses a 4,000-pipe organ from the 19th century, which still fills the air with a reverberating chorus of musical delights during weekly concerts. Its walls also hold a massive collection of Anatolian rugs that were collected between the 15th and 17th centuries.

The outside of the church is just as intriguing as the interior. Its six-ton bell is the largest in all of Romania. Strangely, the statues adorning the church’s exterior were made with friable grit, which slowly deteriorates over time. One particularly odd, though well-preserved, statue has been given a life of its own, thanks to local lore. According to some, it honors a young boy who annoyed the cathedral’s builders. Legend says he was pushed off the roof then had his corpse stuffed and encased within one of the walls. 

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