Horezu Monastery

Located in Valcea County in central-south Romania, at the foot of Capatanii Mountains, some 90 km east of Curtea de Arges, the Horezu Monastery is considered to be one of the most representative Medieval Orthodox places of worship in Romania. The Horezu Monastery is frequently visited by numerous visitors and pilgrims, especially during Easter holidays. Since 1993, the Horezu Monastery is the UNESCO heritage site. The village which housed the Horezu Monastery was in possession of the Brâncoveni – Brancoveanu Family even before Constantine Brancoveanu ascended the throne and it is still the largest monastic foundation in Romania.

The Horezu Monastery was established in 1690 by the Serbian prince Constantine Brancovan – Konstantin Brankovich, at that time the ruler of Wallachia /ruled 1688 – 1714/. Constantine Brankovic was descendant of the Craiovesti /later Brancovian family/ and Basarab boyars. Constantine grew up in the Cantacusen family, actually was brought up according to the Orthodox life principles by his uncle Constantine Cantacusen, who was the wine server on the court of the prince Șerban Cantacuzino. From 1688 until 1714 Constantine Brankovich ruled the Wallachia, which was the vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. Constantine Brankovic highly supported the Eastern Orthodox Christianity and fought the infidels. Constantine and his wife Marica had 11 children, and started construction of this wonderful shrine with the aim to make it their burial church. Unfortunately, in 1714 Constantine Brankovic and his family were all brutally beheaded in Constantinople, the capital of Eastern Christianity of that time. Prior the execution of the Brankovich family by the order of Sultan Ahmed III, all their rich possessions were taken away because of  their refusal to convert to Islam. This brutal end of the Brankovich family was observed by the representatives of  Austria, Russia, France and England and made the Brankovic family holy martyrs of the Orthodox church. Brankovic Family members as donors are depicted in the exonarthex of the Horezu Monastery church dressed in wonderfully rich and ornate costumes, holding the model of the church in their hands.

The entire Horezu monastic complex covers more than 3 hectares and includes the beautiful white monastery church, fully surrounded with flowers and greenery, The Horezu Monastery church is dedicated to the Holy Great Emperors Constantine and Helen and is 32 meters long and 14 metes high. Horezu Monastery Church was built between 1693 and 1697, and is considered the replica of the beautiful Cathedral church in Curtea de Arges. The interior paintings of the Horezu Monastery present numerous scenes from the Old and New Testament, moments from the dedication of the monastery and figures of Holy Saints Constantine and his mother Helena, who were always greatly popular among believers, and the Last Judgement.

The entrance to the Horezu Monastery complex features a wide vault, with a massive, wooden gate. In the belfry tower there are four bells, weighing between 300 and 1000 kilos. The name of Brankovich ruler is written on three bells. Besides the Hurezu monastery church, the complex includes the the Bolnitei church, founded in 1696 by Marica – the wife of Constantine Brankovich, and painted by Preda Nicolae and Ianache. Some 50 meters to the north, there is the Holy Apostles Hermitage, founded by the great archimandrite Ioan in 1698 and painted by painters Iosif and Ioan in 1700. Also there is the Saint Stephan Hermitage, named after the ruler’s oldest son Stefan, built in 1703 and painted by painters Ianache, Istrate and Harinte.

The name of the Hurezu monastery comes from “huhurezi” (eagle owls), a species of night birds with colored plumage. According to the legend, the workers hired to build the church, out of the Turks fear, were forced to work only by night when the huhurezi – eagle owls were singing.

Towards the end of the 17th century, the Horezu Monastery sheltered a sculpture and painting school. At the end of the 17th century the Horezu iconostasis which comprised the icon was part of a complex restoration programme. This included both building new religious establishments and restoring earlier ones. Icons newly painted by master Athanasius include that of the Holy Great Emperors Constantine and Helena. The icon shows both of saints dressed in lavishly decorated costumes made of gold-like fabrics, against a rich gilded background. Like earlier predecessors, Constantine Brankovich’s attempts to shake off the Ottoman rule relied heavily on both Church, an institution of paramount importance in governing Walachia, and the Orthodox faith, a stronghold of (national) identity. Thus his strategy looked well beyond the borders of Walachia.

Originally the Horezu Monastery was monastic shrine, and since 1872 it is nunnery. Nowadays nuns of the Horezu Monastery practice Medieval painting (mostly of icons), sculpture, embroidery and weaving while maintaining and continuing the local tradition and rich heritage.

Visitors interested in staying in the Horezu Monastery may ask for blessing to stay overnight in one of the monastic cells receiving visitors – 20 rooms with one or two beds, and three rooms with four beds in the attic.