Şeica Mică is located at about 23 km east of Mediaş, in the Şeica spring valley. Numerous archaeological investigations were made in the vicinity of the village. Between Şeica Mică and Axente Sever a settlement was discovered which has been permanently lived since the Iron Age (Hallstatt) until the Roman period. The remnants of a settlement dating from the 6th century and of a fortress with earth waves dating from the 13th century were unearthed there as well. Two funerary stelae, Roman ceramics and coins were found within the village area, all these being relics of an important Roman settlement. Two money treasures were discovered: the first in 1856, on the left bank of Târnava Mare river, made up of about 80-100 Byzantine gold coins and gold and silver adornments dating from the 6th century B.C., and the second in 1954, consisting of 356 Roman republic denarius coins and silver adornments.
The village was mentioned for the first time in 1309, in a document on the dispute between the cathedral chapter of Alba Iulia and Saxon deaneries on the tithe contested by the parishioners in the “minori Kukullev” archdiocese. In 1311, the village is mentioned under the name of Salchelk, name derived from the Slav word sol = salt. Part of the village belonged to the nobiliary estate of Igriş Abbey, while the other was a royal estate. By the January 20, 1318 document, Carol Robert de Anjou takes “measures for the good living of our beloved and faithful Saxons in Boroughs Mediaş (Medyeszeek), Şeica Mare (Seelk), Şeica Mică (Sacheelk)” and “with the wish that they increase in number in our time”. Therefore, “the Saxons in Boroughs Mediaş, Şeica Mare, Şeica Mică and all those pertaining to those boroughs shall be exempted from and forgiven of the duty to enter our army” and...”shall be held responsible to pay us, on the holiday of Martin the Confessor, four hundred good silver marks”… “We also decide that in taking reasons to court and in judging the causes, they shall follow the same tradition and shall use the same privileges that are known to be followed and used by the Saxon community in Sibiu (Scybinio)”. Another “pardon and freedom” grants them exemption from giving rations and lodging royal representatives. Therefore, in 1318, Şeica Mică was completely on royal soil and belonged to the Two Boroughs, in particular to “the lower one of the Two Boroughs”, i.e. Schelk Borough.
In 1419, the Igriş abbey tried to re-gain the property over the village, but at the intervention of the judges in Mediaş and Şeica Mare, King Sigismund de Luxemburg confirmed that Şeica Mică was a free village located on royal soil. In 1420, the village was granted the right to arrange annual trade fair and in 1576 it was granted the right to capital punishment, “jus gladis”, which should have been confirmed by the presence of four little towers at the base of the bell tower roof.
The construction of the church began around the middle of the 14th century and was completed at the beginning of the 15th century. The Gothic basilica dedicated to Saint Katharina comprised an extended choir, ending in a polygonal apse, and three naves, the western tower being constructed later. The choir has a cross vault, while the apse has a vault with penetrations. On the northern wall of the choir there is a pointed arcade that communicates with the semi-cylindrically vaulted sacristy. The bipartite windows of the choir are Gothic, in pointed arch, with mouldings. The bronze chalice-shaped baptismal font, dating from 1477, very likely having been cast by master Leonardus of Sibiu, is one of the most valuable adornments in the choir. The polyptych, painted in 1556 and placed on the southern wall of the choir, confirms the artistic value of the church assets.
Initially, the main nave and the collateral naves, with flat wood ceilings, had Gothic pointed windows. The central nave is separated from the collateral naves by ogive arches supported on profiled pilasters. At the end of the 18th century, the construction of stands open towards the central nave, over both collaterals, required the mounting of windows in slightly curved arch, placed under the common roof of the three naves at a distance of about three metres above the new semi-cylindrical arched windows of the collaterals. Seen from the outside, the two series of windows are aligned with the two steps of the buttresses of the collaterals.
The stone bell tower was constructed subsequently, over the western span of the central nave, framed by the collateral naves.
Originally, it had three storeys, the cross-vaulted ground floor becoming, as with the bell tower in Băgaciu, a communication portico between the three naves and the exterior. The ground floor communicates with the naves through pointed arcades, and the main portal of the church opens in the west. The portal embrasure has six recessions, the sticks having quite modestly decorated capitals. For strategic purposes, the portal was closed during the fortification of the last refuge, the fountain courtyard, but it was reopened in 1788, when the organ stand was constructed (anyhow, at the end of the 18th century, mediaeval fortifications were no longer justified as they were outbalanced by the evolution of the weaponry). Several pointed profiles of the arch-vault were wasted during such closing/opening works, the entire portal being partially screened by a prop pillar. As it is with many churches on the Târnave rivers, the first storey of the tower was accessed by means of a mobile staircase, on the western side of the central nave, and the third storey was accessed through the church attic.
The fortification of the church and the construction of the fortress began at the middle of the 15th century and concluded in the 16th century, making Şeica Mică one of the most powerful as well as most original mediaeval fortifications in Transylvania. For the first time I saw fortification works of such extent, which did not include the central nave. With its three successive defence lines, the last of them being the fountain courtyard (unique in Transylvania) – strongly fortified and with secured vertical and horizontal flanks, the church became difficult to be conquered.
The western tower was greatly strengthened by the construction, over the western spans of the collaterals flanking the old tower, of two more storeys with lectern-roof and fortified with ramparts. The symmetrical attics formed by the two lectern-roofs communicate, through the windows of the former bell room, with the third storey of the tower. The tower was raised by other two storeys above which there is the wood defence corridor in console. The pyramidal pointed roof houses the two bells of the church; the great bell, the “mourning bell”, is inscribed with an invocation frequently met in Transylvania: “o rex gloriae veni cum pace, 1556”..
Around 1523, the church was provided over the choir with a strong bastion made up of three stone storeys, the last storey in console, placed over buttresses and with three consoles in each interval. The bastion has throwing openings and ramparts over them. The communication between the fortified storeys of the choir and the western fortified tower was made through the church attic. The sacristy was also raised by two defence storeys, attached to the northern buttress of the apse and having two ramparts. It is very likely that the sacristy was fortified after the choir, otherwise the throwing openings on the northern side of the choir would not have been justified.
With most of the fortified churches I visited, the central nave was also raised and fortified, so that the choir-nave-bell tower group made a common compound. I realise that at Şeica Mică, although the aforementioned stands were constructed over collaterals at the end of the 18th century, the three naves represent something temporary, that the real nave is to be constructed. Certainly, this is a personal sensation induced by the known pattern of the churches on Târnave valley, the fortifications in Şeica Mică positively distinguish by a remarkable defence force, but…
At about 10 metres west of the bell tower portal there is the gate tower, constructed in stone in the second half of the 14th century, originally having three storeys and a defence corridor. In 1825, the tower was raised by two storeys, occasion by which the defence corridor was cleared away and the buttresses were modified.
Simultaneously with the church fortification (a short time before, according to some authors), the first almost-oval curtain wall was built, the south-western portion of which still exists. Eight-metre high, the walls were doubled inside by arcades supporting the defence corridor that was covered by a lectern-roof. The first curtain wall was strengthened by a three-storeyed lateral flanking tower that was opened inward, on its northern side, by a two-storeyed recessed bastion, on its north-eastern side, and by a tower, on the south-eastern side. The northern tower was rebuilt in the form of an arrow in the 17th century, strengthened with numerous buttresses, but it remained isolated in the area between the church and the second curtain wall, after the demolition of the entire northern wall of the first enclosure.
At the middle of the 16th century, the increase in the number of inhabitants called for the construction of a second curtain wall, at about 10 metres outside the first one, “Zwinger” being in between. This second curtain wall, surrounded by a water moat, had its own gate tower with a drawbridge, located on the place where the school building is nowadays. Also in the 16th century a third enclosure was constructed, which forms a little courtyard around the fountain positioned between the western portal and the old gate tower. The very high walls, 14 metres high, are fortified inside with narrow buttresses, which are connected in their upper part to arcades supporting the access corridor to the ramparts. In the southern corner of the “fountain courtyard” there is a little defence tower (whose roof and chemin-de-ronde can be seen in the photograph), which also protects the southern entrance, and throwing openings exist over the northern entrance. This “last refuge” of the fortifications was restored in 2002, offering visitors the image it had in its glorious period.