Saharna Monastery is located in the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova, on the right bank of the river Nistru. The actual name of the monastery is the “Holy Trinity” from Saharna, but it is widely referred to solely as Saharna Monastery.
The religious complex is without a doubt one of the most important places of pilgrimage on the Moldovan territory. The reason for this is that the monastery preserves the earthly remains of St. Macarie, the only relics encountered in Moldova.
There is also a legend which revolves around this place: that the Mother of Christ had been in this territory, but more so, that there is evidence of her passing by as she left her print on one of the rocks. Whether or not there is some truth behind this is unknown, but there is one thing certain: the legend has conveyed even more significance to the monastery.
The natural reservation of Saharna is situated in a well- known area which has evolved into a highly appreciated tourist attraction. The scenery is breathtaking: the rocky strait of Saharna twists and turns over several cascades, thresholds and rocky cliffs, not to mention that the entire area is woodland.
In the vicinity of the Saharna Monastery lies an important archeological site which contains valuable objects from the Iron Age (10th– 8th century BPE) and a Geto-Dacic keep (4th-3rd century BPE), which is one of the most well preserved fortresses located on the Moldovan territory.
The history of the monastery is tightly connected to the history of the Republic of Moldova, naturally. The monastic ensemble experienced a flourishing period in the 50s but this came to an end in the 60s when the Soviet authorities closed the monastery. In turn, the edifice was used as a psychiatric hospital and the consequence of this was that all the riches of the monastery were steadily but surely spent.
It took 30 years to reopen the monastery. By this time, the edifices were severely damaged so restoration works were underway.
The Saharna Monastery is situated at 8 km from Rezina and at 120 km from the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau. The monastic ensemble together with the natural reservation surrounding it extend over 670 hectars and are considered monuments, protected by the state.
The history of the monastery begins with a small church carved in rock which was located in the area. In the 18th century (1776), Vartolomeu Ciungul had arrived in this region from Russia with a couple of brothers and monks and had found the hermitage empty. Thus they decided to settle there and repair both the church and the hermitages.
In 1863, a new church was added to the monastic complex, the winter church, and a new building of chambers for the monks.
Since its founding, in 1776, and until 1919, 24 different abbots have been in charge of the monastery.
The rupestral church had been restored between 1991 and 1994. It consisted of 4 hermitages dug in rock, right near the church, which had been restored three years after the church (in 1997). In close proximity of the church tourists can find a narrow cave where, according to legend, hieromonk Vartolomeu, the founder of the church, had retreated in order to lead an ascetic life.
As it has been mentioned, Saharna Monastery has become an emblem of the Republic of Moldova. And this can be easy noticed since the monastic complex is represented on the back of the 50 MDL coin.