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Curtea de Argeș Monastery – legend and spirituality

Need to know

Closest airport: Bucharest International Airport Otopeni (OTP), 163 km from Curtea de Arges.
How to get there by car: A1 from Bucharest, and DN7C from Pitesti (totalling around 2 h drive)
Population: 26,000
County/Area: town in Arges county/central-southern Romania, Wallachia

Curtea de Arges Monastery in all its splendour; photo: @aramacrina

Curtea de Arges Monastery is not just a worship place. Part of the Romanian spiritual landscape (which is plentiful), this monastery managed to become a Romanian landmark.

But what has it got?

It’s got a long line of history behind. With good and bad.
It’s got a unique architecture, unrivalled by other churches in the country.
It’s got a legend that talks about love and loss.

So, let’s dive in and find out more.

View of the cathedral in summer

Content

Where is Curtea de Arges?
The story of the monastery
The legend of Curtea de Arges monastery
Accommodation

Where is Curtea de Arges?

Curtea de Arges is a small town situated in southern Romania, in the region called Wallachia. At two hours’ drive from Bucharest, the town is a fantastic starting point (in summer only) for the exploration of Transfagarasan. Poenari fortress, the first recommended stop on this fabulous road is only 26 km away.

The story of the monastery

Built 500 years ago, this Orthodox cathedral is outstanding. And all this in a country where churches and monasteries are plentiful.

Prince Neagoe Basarab dreamed of a church beautiful like no other.

The Curtea de Arges Monastery gets lots of attention being situated on a platform. It resembles a very intricate mausoleum. The architectural style is Byzantine, with Moorish arabesques and fancy trimmings.

The consecration saw many famous faces, such as the Patriarch of Constantinople and priests from Mount Athos. This sealed the importance the church had, and still has, being a Romanian spiritual landmark.

Details on the monastery
View from the inside

The monastery had a tough life. In its half millennium, the church was attacked, plundered, and damaged by fires. It underwent several restorations, the most important one dates from the second half of the 19th century and is linked to King Carol I, the first king of Romania. He came with the idea of the monastery as a burial place, so in the pronaos of the church are the tombs of king Carol I, queen Elisabeth, his wife, king Ferdinand and queen Marie, whose name is linked to so many admirable events, but also places, such as Bran Castle. Here lie the remains of Prince Neagoe Basarab also, the founder of the church.

Next to the monastery you will also find a necropolis completed in 2018. It hosts the tombs of King Mihai, Carol II and their families.

The necropolis with some historical tombs
The tomb of King Michael I

The legend of Curtea de Arges monastery

It is called the legend of Manole the mason. As there is no legend without a kernel of truth, we know that the chief constructor was Armenian, and his name was Manoli. According to the legend, everything Manole was building during the day would collapse the next day.

Seeing this, the prince soon became very angry and started threatening Manole and his assistants with death. One night, Manole has the strangest dream. It tells him that the only viable solution is to build the first person who crosses the treshold between the walls of his church. The second day, Ana, Manole’s wife appears in the door. In the name of art, Manole sacrifices her.

When Manole tells the prince that the team can now build an even more beautiful cathedral, out of jealousy, the Wallachian ruler had them isolated on the roof so that they could not build something to match it. They tried to fly off the roof, but, one by one, they all failed and died in their attempt.

A fountain of clear water commemorates Manole’s sacrifice in the spot he supposedly fell.

Accommodation

We accommodated at Old Court, a place so cosy I cannot emphasise enough: clean, quiet, with a stunning garden, right in the middle of the town. Other suggestions include: Hotel Subcarpati and Casa Medievala, a bit farther, but beautiful.

Paradise in Old Court, Curtea de Arges

Recommended by TTF:

  • A unique Orthodox church in Romania;
  • Special Byzantine architecture with Moorish arabesque influences;
  • Good starting point for a Transfagarasanul road trip.

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