Cozia Monastery

Cozia Monastery is situated on the right bank of the Olt River, 22 km away from Ramnicu Valcea and 75 km away from Sibiu. Olt River is the longest river flowing exclusively through Romania. The Olt river springs in the Hasmasu Mare Mountains, which is a part of the East Carpathian Mountains, and runs for 615 km along many Romanian provinces, and flows into Danube River. Cozia Monastery is located within the beautiful protected area of the Cozia National Park, in the small village in a beautiful location in the Olt River Valley, on the main highway linking Transylvania and Wallachia /between Sibiu and Rimnicu Vilcea/, in the central sector of the Southern Carpathians, lying on the approaches to the higher Fagaras Mt range. Its 17,000 hectares are dominated by forests whose character is influenced by the area’s somewhat milder climate: oak woodland attains an unusually high altitude here. Cozia National Park is also called the Mount of Flowers, due to the rich plant life that includes edelweiss and martagon lily.

Cozia Monastery was built between 1386-1388 and is one of the most important foundations of the Wallachian ruler Mircea cel Batran /Mircea the Old/, a descendant of the distinguished lineage – prominent House of Basarabia, grandfather of Vlad Tepes. Mircea’s reign is often considered to have brought stability to Wallachia. Found in a volatile region of the world, this principality’s borders constantly shifted, but during Mircea’s rule, Wallachia controlled the largest area in its history: from the Olt river in the north to the Danube in the south, and from the Danube’s Iron Gates in the west to the Black Sea in the east. Initially, the present day Cozia Monastery was known under the name of Nucet Monastery, because it was built in an area suitable for growing walnut trees. The name of “Cozia” was given to it later, after the name of the mountain in its vicinity. There is no doubt that Voievode Duke Mircea cel Batran, who achieved numerous economic, religious, military and artistic accomplishments, built this sanctuary in this secluded spot not only for the beauty of its surroundings, but certainly also for military and strategic reasons, as the monastery was, at the beginning, fortified with tall defensive walls, like a stronghold.

The first documents which attest the endowment of Mircea the Old date from 1388. Cozia Monastery was painted between 1390 and 1391. Some of the original frescoes /1390/ are still well preserved, while the rest of the mural paintings are the result of the restoration work performed in 1719. The founders portrait, can be seen in all its majesty on the wall at the right of the narthex of the big church of Cozia Monastery, clothed in Medieval costume, holding the miniature of the monastery in his hand and, standing beside him, his son whom he later associated to the throne. Inside the church is the tomb of Mircea and a fresco which depicts him and one of his sons. The son on the fresco is Mihail, the only one of Mircea’s brood who was “legitimate” /Vlad, the Dracula’s father, was one of many “illegitimate” sons/. This portrait is also painted also in the northern chapel and in the monastery’s hospice /”Bolniţa”/. Mircea died at the beginning of 1418, at the princely residence of Argeş, and his remains were brought to Cozia Monastery and buried in a sarcophagus. Next to the tomb of the great Voievode, there is the tomb of the mother of Michael the Brave, who took the veil in 1601 at Cozia Monastery under the name of nun Teofana and died in 1605.

Cozia Monastery is one of the most valuable examples of medieval architecture in Romania. At the beginning the big church – most important of all the monuments in Mircea Voievode’s foundation – was set in the middle of a quadrangle and is divided into three parts: narthex, nave and sanctuary. The church of Cozia Monastery has been built out of massive stone blocks, alternating with apparent bricks. The style of the church with its monumental tower, impresses the visitors as well as the specialists being an alliance between lines and Chapel on the southern side which belong to the Serbian architecture of that time and the Byzantine and local elements, a combination which resulted in a peculiar formula of church architecture. Embellishing effect is enhanced by the framing of the actual character of great historical monument, when the Cozia Monastery has been restored.

Conditions of monastic life have been modernized and provided with the proper equipment when collections have been set up for the benefit on the visitors. In 1707, the open portico was added to the front, the entire painting from the narthex has conserved the original 14th century character. The great hermits of Christianity, with their deeply furrowed ascetic features, are painted on the lowest zone, higher up are the seven ecumenical synods and a series if images representing the calendar and the Acathist Hymn of the Virgin are depicted on the wall between narthex and nave. The altar screen with its sacred images completes this precious ensemble of icons and sculptured wood of the Cozia Monastery, dominated by the large chandeliers and endowed with remarkable sacred objects.