Fortified church

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Fortified church of St. Alban and St. Wendelin in Künzelsau-Morsbach
Fortified church in Kleinbreitenbach

As fortified churches are called churches that are equipped with devices to ward off enemies, such. B. battlements , weir core , machicolations or loopholes are provided.

If the church is surrounded by a massive wall suitable for defense purposes, which also encloses other defensive structures, one speaks of fortified churches .

Often churches were partially fortified only in the 15th or 16th century or only symbolically provided with defensive elements.

Recent archaeological and architectural studies have shown that numerous supposed "fortified churches" do not have any structural elements that speak for a real defense-technical fortification or an active defense capability. Elements that are associated with military functions were also recognized as not belonging to the original building stock or as unusable for it, such as B. the alleged cast bay windows, which are mostly toilet bays , or loopholes, which are often only slit windows.

The misinterpretation of massive stone churches as fortified churches, especially in the area of ​​the so-called Ostsiedlung , occasionally leads to problematic ideas about local history . In the professional world, the term “escape church” has established itself in relation to defensive elements on sacred buildings for churches that could not withstand a siege lasting several days.


South France

In the south of France there are so-called fortified churches with forts , battlements , kennels and gate towers . In the south of France around 350 fortified churches from the time of the wars of religion are still preserved.

Northern France

In the north of the country, numerous medieval churches in Thiérache were fortified with brick towers as église fortifiée during the Eighty Years War . These offered the village population protection from marauding mercenary troops.

Eastern France

In Alsace , the fortified fortified churches of Dossenheim-sur-Zinsel are well known as refuge fortifié (Niederelsass) or from Hunawihr (Upper Alsace). They follow the German tradition of fortified churches, as Alsace belonged to the German Empire in the Middle Ages.

In the Meuse department in the Lorraine region ( Lorraine ), also part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Middle Ages , numerous fortified churches were built, among which the following can be mentioned:


In Germany , the churches still of this type were given a final meaning during the Thirty Years' War as a refuge against the marauding Soldateska . Some of these systems have been preserved in Upper Franconia , Middle Franconia , East Thuringia, South Thuringia and the Rhön (e.g. in Hannberg , Grafengehaig , Dörrenbach , Kraftshof , Großgründlach , Veitsbronn , Vach , Bonese ). So-called gaden fortified fortified churches were surrounded by gaden that formed the outer wall. The adjoining churchyards were also sometimes turned into a military cemetery . In the Ore Mountains you can find churches that were provided with a defensive floor in the 3rd quarter of the 15th century, a floor placed on a building that was intended exclusively or mainly for defense. Churches of this type can be found in Großrückerswalde , Lauterbach , Dörnthal and Mittelaida . A similar construction method can be found in Dörrenbach / Pfalz and Bad Steben .

Most of the fortified churches are in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse. The northern border is formed by the low mountain ranges in Thuringia and Saxony (focus on the Ore Mountains). But this type of construction can also be found in the Weser Uplands . In the north German lowlands, shaped by the Ice Ages and their granite boulders, which led to the local history interpretation of the stone block churches as fortified churches, there is not a single example that is recognized according to scientific criteria. Nonetheless, there are field stone churches with an escape church character, such as the village churches in Rochau and Groß Möringen .


Fortified churches can be found mainly in Lower Austria , Carinthia and Styria , which suffered most from the incursion of Ottoman looters in the 15th century . There are also some round churches that can also be assigned to this type. The famous fortified church of St. Michael is located in the Wachau . In the Bucklige Welt a circular tour was signposted as a fortified church road


In Transylvania 150 churches, most of them in the settlement area of ​​the Transylvanian Saxons , were preserved from the time of the fight against the Turks .

See also list of places in Transylvania with a fortified church or fortified church .

Seven fortified churches have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites .


Other regions

In Switzerland , the fortified church of St. Arbogast in Muttenz near Basel is one of the few places of worship in the country that is completely enclosed by an almost circular curtain wall. The defensive wall of the churches of Boswil (Canton Aargau), Weiach and Schönenberg (Canton Zurich) is incomplete .

In Poland , the fortified church of Brochów (St. Rocco) is the most famous representative of its kind. It consists of three mighty towers and a rectangular enclosure. Among other things, Frédéric Chopin was baptized in it.

In Estonia there are a number of fortified churches from the late Middle Ages, which were created during the Christianization of the northern Baltic by the Livonian Order . There are particularly many fortified churches on the island of Saaremaa .

There are also some fortified churches among the Scandinavian round churches.

See also

Literature (chronological)

  • Karl Kafka: Fortified churches of Lower Austria I ; Vienna 1969.
  • Karl Kafka: Fortified churches of Lower Austria II ; Vienna 1970.
  • Karl Kafka: Fortified churches of Carinthia I ; Vienna 1971.
  • Karl Kafka: Fortified churches of Carinthia II ; Vienna 1972.
  • Karl Kafka: Styrian fortified churches ; Vienna 1974.
  • Joachim Zeune: New research on Franconian fortified churches. In: Burgenforschung aus Sachsen 5/6 (1995), pp. 226–239.
  • Joachim Zeune: New research on Franconian fortified churches . In: Burgenforschung aus Sachsen 5/6 (1995), pp. 226–239.
  • Udo Hopf: The St. Crucis Church in Espenfeld. Studies of the building history and fortification. In: Burgen und Schlösser in Thüringen 1996, pp. 85–92.
  • Werner Spickenreuther: Erzgebirge fortified churches. Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 1996, ISBN 3-7954-4053-X .
  • Udo Hopf: Analysis of the architectural history of the so-called fortified church at Schaala. In: Burgen und Schlösser in Thüringen 1997, pp. 110–118.
  • Reinhard Schmitt : On the western building of the Havelberg Cathedral: keep, defense tower or church tower? In: Burgen und Schlösser in Sachsen-Anhalt 6 (1997), pp. 6-40.
  • Gerhard Seib: Fortified churches in northern Hesse. Contributions to Hessian History, No. 14., Ed. Wilhelm A. Eckhardt, Verlag Trauwetter & Fischer, Marburg 1999, ISBN 3-87822-111-8
  • Marek Ober: Defense building costume and connotations of defensibility in the Pomeranian and New Mark town and village churches. In: Real defensiveness or martial effect. On the practical function and symbolic character of defense elements of profane and sacred buildings in the Teutonic Order of Prussia and in the Baltic Sea region. Art-historical work of the Kulturstiftung der Deutschen Dispragen 3, Cologne 2000, pp. 139–149.
  • Reinhard Schmitt: "Well-fortified churches" and the "fortified churchyard" of Walldorf, Schmalkalden-Meiningen district. In: Burgen und Schlösser in Sachsen-Anhalt 9 (2000), pp. 127–149.
  • Dirk Höhne: Comments on the so-called defensibility of medieval village churches. In: Burgen und Schlösser in Sachsen-Anhalt 12 (2003), pp. 119–149.
  • Yves Hoffmann and Stan Lindner: On the renovation and structural history studies of the fortified church of Mittelaida in the Ore Mountains. In: Burgenforschung aus Sachsen 18/2 (2005), pp. 92–122.
  • Dirk Höhne and Christine Kratzke (eds.): The medieval village church in the new federal states II. Form - function - meaning = Hallesche contributions to art history, Issue 8, 2006 (only contributions to the defensibility of village churches).
  • Ulf Frommhagen: Defense technology aspects in high medieval village churches in the Altmark. In: Thomas Hartwig: All Altmarkkirchen from A to Z, Havelberg 2012, pp. 565–576.
  • Eva Bittermann: Fortified churches in the Waldviertel. Diploma thesis University of Vienna - Faculty of History and Cultural Studies. Vienna 2012 ( digitized version )
  • Fred Kaspar (Ed.): In the attic in the churchyard. Living and working in the center of small towns and villages (= Insights Volume V. Writings of the Small Community House Foundation), Petersberg 2018.

Web links

Commons : Wehrkirchen  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Wehrkirche  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. View of a defensive bullet here ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  2. In these churches was mistakenly assumed to have a walkway, hence the controversial for the mentioned buildings designation battlement church .
  3. ^ Thomas Hartwig: All Altmarkkirchen from A to Z. Elbe-Havel-Verlag, Havelberg 2012. ISBN 978-3-981-4039-5-4 , pp. 567-570.
  4. ^ Anton Reinprecht: Fortified church St. Oswald . In:, June 27, 2017, accessed on August 20, 2019.