Aug 19

A PIECE OF JEWELRY IN HATEG, ROMANIA: DENSUS CHURCH (BISERICA DENSUȘ)

A road in Hateg County does not mean only the bison reservation or the famous Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Well, maybe if you go to Hateg and want to visit something, the two objectives above will be rightly top the list. However, remember that the area has one of the most beautiful churches in Romania, so after you pass Hateg swerve out of the way on a distance of 10 kilometers and reach the village of Densus; you will be amazed of what you will discover.

You find the church very easily once you get there. You enter the gate (is should always be open, if not, you can call a neighbor to bring the key), climb the stairs which goes across a small orchard which is  prolonged in a cemetery and you will immediately notice the old architectural gem arising beautifully towards the sky – a place of worship dating since the dawn of Medieval times. If you’re lucky enough to get to Densus in a sunny day, you will notice immediately the beautiful contrast between the old walls and the blue sky. The church has a blurry history: it looks like a mausoleum that was initially raised by the Romans in honor of General Longinus Maximus, who perished in the battle against the Dacians. Other versions talk about the fact that this place would have been a place which housed a temple even before the arrival of Roman legions. Recent discoveries reveal that the church of Densus has only about 800 years old, dating from the 13th century.

The first thing that strikes you when you get near it is the material of construction. the church seems made of heterogeneous pieces. Polished stone dominates, but at its base there are the supporting Roman columns and vertical boulders (materials from Sarmizegetusa) – and you would think that at the construction there were more artists who have contributed, considering the different styles and different ideas; however, the entire result is superb and one of a kind. It is true that the building was restored in 2000, but wisely it does not live you this impression it any second; the patine of time is very obvious and it adds a lot to its charm. The entry is free and the priest seems a great and kind man, we learned that he had opposed the visitation fee. Sunday sermons are still kept at the church, which made it famous and people started writing about it and it’s probably true that the Densus Church is the oldest church in Romania where sermons have been taking place for such a long time.

The interior is narrower than you could imagine, simplicity is the essential word: four central columns, supported by huge slabs where you can admire numerous old inscriptions. On one wall there is a painting on a blue background, which is dating from the first half of the 15th century, signed simply with the name “Stefan”. But what is truly great about this place is the atmosphere that envelops the surroundings. An incredible feeling of peace is veiling you from the moment you climb the first  stairs and, as you cover the church with your gaze and surround it with your steps and enter inside the edifice, you abandon your previous thoughts that kept you connected to the contemporary everyday stress of the reality and get back to a forgotten time of still peace and atemporal serenity. All these things make the little church of Densus a real jewel of Hateg County.

Photo source:

Picture 1: panoramio.com; Picture 2: ro.wikipedia.com; Picture 3: panoramio.com; Picture 4: commons.wikimedia.org; Picture 5: medievistica.ro; Picture 6: dan.romascanu.net; Picture 7: adevarul.ro
Apr 29

Curtea de Arges

We will once again venture on Romanian land and uncover a new tourist attraction which will definitely be to your liking. This article is dedicated to Curtea de Arges, a unique city located amid the sub-Carphathian hills. Why is this specific place the topic of a new article? Probably because it comprises distinctive attractions in which history and myth combine harmoniously.

The city is situated in a mountainous setting, in close vicinity of the Arges River, which can only mean that you are going to enter into a picturesque site which will indulge your senses. Those seeking peace and tranquility are bound to find that Curtea de Arges and its surroundings display such qualities.

http://turism-arges.ro/despre-arges.html

http://turism-arges.ro/despre-arges.html

It is not certain how the city came into being but there are several speculations revolving around its development. Some consider that the archaeological diggings conducted in the area revealed that Dacians were inhabiting the place in the year 500 B.C. Others however, who base their presumptions also on archaeological discoveries, deem that the area has not been inhabited prior to the 11th century. But if we cannot say for sure when the city was formed, then we ought to focus on the architectural jewels it offers to its visitors.

Venturing on the streets of the city we will come across various constructions which will undoubtedly capture our attention such as the Municipal Museum, the Episcopacy or the Arges Monastery. Remnants of the Old Royal Court are still preserved. The court was constructed in the 14th century, shortly after the victory obtained in the Battle of Posada and while the centuries that had gone by have gravely deteriorated the court, the remaining fragments still allude to the glorious past of the Wallachians. In fact, this is the reason for which the city is known as Curtea de Arges (Court of Arges).

http://www.adielatravel.ro/statiuni-montane/curtea-de-arges-campulung-muscel_s42.html

http://www.adielatravel.ro/statiuni-montane/curtea-de-arges-campulung-muscel_s42.html

The Royal Church was constructed in the same period as the court, but unlike the later, the former has managed to be kept untarnished by the devastating marks inflicted by time. Not only did the building itself managed to survive throughout the years, but so did the mural painting which wonderfully adorned the church. This was possible due to the several renovations the church underwent. The church was constructed in the Byzantine architectural style and consisted of three distinctive rooms: the nave, the narthex and the altar.

The Arges Monastery is another place of interest especially since there is a legend which revolves around its construction. The myth of creation through sacrifice is deeply ingrained into the Romanian culture and the construction of the monastery is the embodiment of this myth.

Legend has it that the ruler of Wallachia, Radu Voda, was determined to build the most beautiful monastery anyone has ever seen as a way to thank God for the victories he had attained in battles. So he chose the mason Manole to accomplish this task. However, the master mason could not fulfill what he was appointed to do because everything he and his team had managed to complete during the day, was shattered by some unknown force during the night. This occurred for several nights and nothing could explain why this happened. Devoid of other ideas which might lead to the monastery actually being constructed, Manole turned to the mythical interpretation that any act of creation is in need of a sacrifice. So he has decided that a living woman should be put into the walls of the monastery so that the construction could stand erect. Since they could not decide which woman to sacrifice, they decided to let fate intervene and appoint the victim.

http://www.trilulilu.ro/imagini-calatorii/manastirea-argesului-1

http://www.trilulilu.ro/imagini-calatorii/manastirea-argesului-1

The plan was to sacrifice the first woman who would arrive at the construction site in the morning. But the masons could not stand by and watch how one of their wives was sacrificed so they warned them to stay at home the following morning. Manole  was the only one who did not inform his wife about the plan because he believed that his fellow workers would respect the agreement and thus fate would decide for them. But Anna, unaware of what was going on, arrived at her husband’s work only to face her doom. Manole had to hold true to his words so he took Anna and sacrificed her in order to allow his creation to come to life.

The truthfulness of this story is questionable but the outcome of it is that a beautiful monastery was erected in Curtea de Arges and that it constantly impresses the passers-by through its craftsmanship.