Romanian Orthodox Monasteries & Churches Photos
In the 15th-18th centuries, monasteries in Wallachia and Moldavia were generally erected, financed and maintained by enlightened ruling princes, high dignitaries or high clergymen. Monasteries became the main promoters of art and culture, with learned scholars, schools, training centres, libraries, and printing facilities attached to them. Their development was also due to the valuable assets and vast estates, forests, vineyards, lakes etc. that they owned, which were donated by their princely founders, landowners or by wealthy believers.
Monasteries in Romania, especially in Moldavia and Wallachia, have been most cherished, and probably are the best preserved cultural sites in the country. One may justly wonder why.
A glimpse on monasticism, its roots and cultural connotations may, to a certain extent, provide answers to the question.
Another reason is of a historic nature. Romania was geographically placed at the crossroads between the Eastern and the Western worlds, a rich land encountered and coveted by three empires (Hapsburgs, Ottomans & Russians), and consequentely, ravaged by foreign invasions (mainly of the Turks), for centuries long. In the Middle Ages, Wallachia and Moldavia were under Ottoman suzerainity, meaning that their ruling princes were Romanian, elected by local boyars; the countries were free to deal with their internal affairs as they pleased, but they had to pay an annual tribute to the Ottoman Empire. Monasteries, of which many were fortified (during Stephen the Great's rule in Moldavia, or during Matei Basarab's rule in Wallachia), represented a subterfuge devised by the Romanian princes in order to delude the Ottomans' interdiction to built defence fortresses that could oppose resistance to them. The great number of monasteries and churches may be also related to the
Romanians' constraint to hide themselves and their precious assets in safe and hardly accessible places (usually located near the Carpathians and the Subcarpathians) at times of war. The art and historic treasures kept in monasteries are living tokens of the Romanians' need to store and preserve their history and culture at difficult and uncertain times. Likewise, the Romanians' yearning to keep their identity through Christian faith, as a people confronted constantly with the "strings and arrows" of fate, their need for stability and security may account for the great number of churches and monasteries raised all over the country.
The fact that religious edifices in Romania are generally better administered and better equipped with brochures, postcards etc. than most other Romanian cultural attractions like museums, archaeological sites, monuments is yet another aspect to be considered.
But whatever the arguments related to the religious sites that actually make up the bulk of heritage tourism in Romania, the monasteries that one can see today, which fortunately have escaped the lapse of time and the evils of history, transcend their Orthodox significance, and give an accurate account of the Romanians' spiritual life, artistic wealth, and saga.