Oct 22

Hancu Monastery (Manastirea Hancu)

Hancu Monastery is a nunnery situated in the Republic of Moldova. Founded in the second half of the 17th century (1678) by a Moldovan boyar, the house of worship initially bore the name of the guardian of Moldova, Holy St. Parascheva. But in time, the monastery started to go by the name of Hancu Monastery, after its founder, Mihalcea Hancu.

However, the monastic ensemble, meaning both the monastery and the adjacent buildings, was completely destroyed during the Tartar invasion, when the construction was set on fire. In these circumstances the nuns saw themselves obligated to leave behind their home in order to seek refuge. It was not until 1784 that new hermitages were constructed and the nuns were able to return to this place, where a wooden church was erected so as to allow the continuation of the religious service in the region.

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The monastery had carried on its peaceful monastic life for two centuries, but the 20th century had brought about troublesome times. Some of the monks were evicted, being sent to other monasteries while others were taken into custody and sent to prison in Braila. In this timeframe, the treasures of the monastery were taken over Prut River. The denouement was obvious: the monastery was closed – the unfortunate event occurred in September, 1949.

 

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The 20th century marks a grim period in the life of the monastic ensemble. The place was used for anything else except for the purpose for which it was intended. A hospice for pulmonary disease was constructed here and the summer church was transformed into an entertainment club for students. But the most damaging effects were distinguished in the graveyard. The tombs were dug up and all the valuable possessions encountered within the graves were stolen. Even more so, the crosses themselves were taken, thus the tombs remaining anonymous.

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The doors of the monastery stood closed for 43 years, but these reopened in 1992 when the monastery began its activity for the second time around. It was in this same year that the monastic life of the monastery was organized and the Hancu Monastery was properly established.

One of the most important hieromonks that have lived here was Dorotei, the one who had initiated an elaborate project in order to beautify and enhance the monastic ensemble. Besides the monastery, the hieromonk gave order for a building to be constructed where the members of the friary were to dwell. This edifice was equipped with 3 porches and included 12 rooms. The complex contained 6 separated homes – each containing 4 rooms.

 

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The additional buildings were hangars, carpentry workshops, a blacksmith’s shop as well as a distillery.  The monastery was encircled by means of 5 fountains. It was in this period that the monastery expanded greatly and became the most famous monastery located in Moldova.

Jul 27

Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Manastirea Pesterilor din Kiev)

Kiev Pechersk Lavra, which also goes by the name of Monastery of the Caves, is a monastery located in Kiev, Ukraine, founded in 1051. The beauty and historical weight it carries has made it possible for the monastery to be included in UNESCO’s Program of World Heritages. More so, the building has gained immense popularity with its inclusion among the seven wonders of Ukraine, a title which was conveyed on the 21st of August, 2007.

Even though it is one of the main attractions of the city, the edifice is not used solely as a touristic site, but continues to hold regular sermons within its walls.

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The monastic complex is formed of a multitude of structure. On the one hand there are the belfries, cathedrals and fortified walls – elements specific to monasteries, and on the other hand, there are the underground caves, which make the site stand out from the rest of its kind.

One of the noteworthy monuments of the complex is the Great Lavra Bell Tower. This specific construction was the tallest of its kind when it was erected back in the 18th century (1731-1745). The architect in charge of the project, Johann Gottfried Schädel, designed the tower in the Classical architectural style, by means of layers. The finishing touch for the 96.5 m bell tower was a golden dome which is easily depicted on the Ukrainina skyline.

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The Church of Trinity replaced the ancient stone church which was still standing at the time when the plan for the new house of worship was put into action. The church suffered immense damaged in 1718 when it caught fire. The reconstruction work brought to light a mezmerising work of art. The façade, as well as the interior of the church, were covered in lavish adornments. The stucco work did not limit solely to the interior walls but included the exterior as well. The church was completed by means of a gilded cupola.

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The All Saints Church, built at the end of the 17th century (1676-1698), consists of artistically crafted decorations, being a beautiful example of the Ukranian Baroque architecture. The Church of the Savior, built in the 11th century by the order of Prince Volodymyr Monomakh, is situated in the northern part of the Monastery of the Caves. The architectural style used in the construction work is representative of the Classical period, having been conveyed by the architect  Andrei Melenskyi.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra consists of a complex system of caverns. These include contracted corridors, chapels and even accomodation rooms, all designed in the underground.

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This system dates from 1051, when the monk Anthony had established into a cavern located in the nearby hills. In time, the cave expended to comprise several passages and even a church.

The caves were also used as burial places and at present one can run across the tombs of famous figures, such as members of the royal family, intelectuals, and saints.

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While still being an active monastery, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra also fulfils the role of museum. In fact, it is one of the principal museums located in Kiev, encompasing various collections which are representative for the upper and lower regions of Lavra. The items on display are portraits of the ordained  priests, photographs illustrating church representatives, books and objects made out of precious metals. The main exhibit includes goblets and crucifixes dating from the 16th century, up until de 20th century, and various exemples of needlework, artistically crafted.

Tourists who are interested in discovering the catacombs, will be pleased to hear that tours are organized with regularity to the undergorund where they can behold the mummies of Orthodox saints or their vestiges.

Jul 10

Saharna Monastery (Manastirea Saharna)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.