Snagov Monastery: Exquisite Paintings and Mysterious Burials
Located on a small island outside Bucharest, the Monastery of Snagov is considered to be one of the most important religious monuments in Southern Romania. The monastery enjoys this status since the Medieval Ages when local princes endowed, strengthened and enlarged it in their effort of supporting the Orthodox Church.
Strongly connected to the name of Vlad the Impaler who over the centuries inspired more or less accurately the myth of Dracula, the Monastery of Snagov was supposedly built on an ancient Dacian site. The monument was, however, mentioned for the first time in the second half of the 14th century when the local prince donated a village to the monastery. This practice was not unusual at the time, and more documents indicate more donations in the next century from medieval princes like Mircea the Old or Vlad Dracul.
Snagov Monastery was further enlarged by Vlad the Impaler during his reign from the second part of the 15th century. He added fortification walls, a bridge, a belfry that still exists today, and is said to have ordered the construction of an underwater tunnel. He also built on the island a jail for highwaymen and traitors.
The monastery’s church went through many changes over the centuries. Its initial porch was closed and turned into the nave, and the original paintings done by Dobromir the Young in 1563 are only conserved in the pro-nave, the rest of the frescoes dating from the 19th century. Many local princes are represented in the paintings, the overall mural ensemble being one of the most beautiful in Southern Romania.
Inside the monastery functioned also a printing press used for religious books printed in Greek, Russian and even Arabic. It’s here that the first religious service book written in Romanian was printed using the Latin alphabet.
Snagov Monastery today
Only the church, the belfry, a fountain and some ruins are preserved today from the Monastery of Snagov. Built in a Byzantine style with Romanian elements, the church has four towers, two above the altar, one above the nave and one above the pro-nave. The exterior of the church conserves its original brick decorations, and some of the original decorative religious objects are exhibited in the National Art Museum.
The Monastery of Snagov is also present in the many legends surrounding Vlad the Impaler. Although never proved, this famous medieval prince was supposedly buried here by the monks who found his body and kept the secret afraid of the Ottomans’ revenge. A symbolic tomb of the prince is placed inside the church, in front of the altar. True or not, the church is still one of the most beautiful near Bucharest, its interior paintings and scenic location on Snagov Lake making it a perfect destination for a trip outside the capital.