Curtea de Arges Monastery is one of the most famous attractions in Romania. It’s also an excellent choice if you’re looking to discover centuries-old religious sites. Its unique architectural style makes it special even in Romania, a country that has hundreds of religious monuments.
Built 500 years ago by Prince Neagoe Basarab, the church became one of the most important in Southern Romania. Its original architecture inspired for centuries that of many other churches, but none came close to it. The consecration ceremony from 1517 highlighted the importance of the edifice. Even the Patriarch of Constantinople and many priests from Mount Athos attended the event.
However, the following centuries were harsh on the monastery. Fires, earthquakes, and attacks almost destroyed the church that was also a necropolis for its medieval founder and descendants. It was partly restored in the following centuries by Matei Basarab and Serban Cantacuzino. But it’s the first king of Romania, Carol the 1st who carried the amplest renovation work. French architect Emile Andre Lecomte de Nouy was in charge.
According to the restoration criteria of the time, the church was almost completely rebuilt and repainted. Sadly, this controversial renovation destroyed the original impressive frescoes. You can only admire some fragments at the National Museum of Art from Bucharest.
Following the restoration, the church became the necropolis of the royal family of Romania.
The church is at the center of a very popular Romanian legend. The story is that one of the construction workers, Manole, saw all his day work destroyed during the night. In the end, he had to sacrifice his wife, burying her alive inside the walls, to complete the church. His name seems to be the only real part of this legend. The 16th century chief of construction was the Armenian Manoli from Niasia.
This monastery is a wonderful historical and cultural site. For some, it resembles a mosque and for others is one of the most important Orthodox landmarks in Romania. It’s the perfect proof that art and culture transgress religious boundaries set by people of different faiths.
Visit also the 14th-century church Saint Nicolae. It has some of the oldest and most important frescoes in the country.