Durau Monastery is located in the eastern part of the Ceahlau Mountains, in the balneal climatic resort which bears the same name, Durau, and it has been erected on the site of an old nunnery which dated from the beginning of the 17th century. However, the dwellers of the hermitage changed at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Hierarch of Moldova of that time suggested that the hermitage be transformed into a friary.
The monastery which presents itself before us dates from the 1800s. The construction work was initiated in 1830 and lasted for 5 years. In the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, several hermitages were constructed around the monastery. However, at present, not many of these are still standing, the majority having been demolished with the construction of the balneal climatic resort, Durau – which occurred after the 1970s.
The position of the religious edifice was cherished for quite a number of years due to the fact that it was located right under the Ceahlau Mountains, having been isolated from the rest of the world and thus conveying the perfect atmosphere for meditation and spiritual uplifting. Not to mention that the natural scenery is breathtaking.
Initially a hermitage, the construction was lifted to the rank of monastery with the help of Gheorghe Panu, a well-known political figure, journalist and columnist, who had contributed extensively to the improvement of the edifice. With a considerable financial help received from the state, Durau Monastery came into being. The main church was restored and the bell tower, the small church within the cemetery, as well as the guest houses, were constructed.
The history of the monastery is quite tumultuous. After having been transformed into an actual monastery, this rank was taken away in 1959, when it became an anointing church. After 1989, it was transformed into a friary, and after two years it shifted to a nunnery, 20 nuns having been brought from the Varatec Monastery.
The materials used in the construction of the church were stones and bricks and the plan which it followed was shaped as a cross, the only additional elements incorporated in the structure were two slightly emphasized lateral apses and an additional apse which was located at the altar. The body of the monastery follows the standard design, being divided into the nave, the narthex and the altar. From an archeological point of view, the church is representative for the traditional design used in Moldova for the construction of monasteries. Some elements of ornamentation were borrowed from laic monuments.
The iconostasis is masterfully carved in gilded lime wood and illustrates Constantinople – as it was structured the moment the iconostasis was created, in 1835 .
The nave differentiates itself from the narthex by means of two side piers which are actually part of the lateral walls. These have been incorporated in the structure of the monastery with a designated purpose: that of sustaining the archway, which in its turn supports the cupola. Both the nave and the narthex receive natural light through the two windows each contains in their design: one oriented towards the north and one towards the south.
The façades of the church with three blind steeples appear to have been formed by several sections coming together, similar to puzzle pieces. However, this is a mere optical illusion due to the pillars used to sustain the entablature.
The western façade is neo-classical in design, being covered with frescoes. One of the most relevant architectural jewels of the edifice is found on this side of the monastery – the central part of the portico is characterized by a beautifully engraved door, made out of massive oak tree.
The bell tower, which is located within 40 m of the altar, is shaped as a square and contains three levels. The first floor of the tower holds a permanent exposition which is dedicated to sacred art. One of the pieces from this exhibition is a gorgeous iconostasis from the 18th century which incorporates traditional elements, combined with Byzantine features.
Tourists who come to Durau Monastery will not regret their decision to visit this monastic construction. Besides the beautiful paintings which adorn the edifice and the wonderful architectural design used, this tourist attraction will also impress through the beautiful natural scenery it offers.