Curtea de Arges Monastery is an interesting edifice in Romania whose beauty is surpassed only by the legends told from generation to generation about its construction and the human sacrifices made in the name of eternity.
Curtea de Arges Monastery: The tombs and the royal final resting places
Curtea de Arges Monastery is a construction in the southern part of Romania, not far from Bucharest, the Capital. Its construction began in the time of Neagoe Basarab (1512-1517), the king of Wallachia (Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania). The King’s tomb can be seen in the interior of this monastery next to his wife, his daughter and his successor (Radu from Afumati). Other tombs in the monastery are the final resting places for other four important royal heads of Romania: King Ferdinand I (king between 1914-1927) and his wife Queen Maria and King Carol I (king between 1866-1914) and his wife Queen Elisabeth.
King Neagoe Basarab and his wife – painting
Apart from the tombs and the monastery itself, one can admire the art collection of the monastery, paintings and icons from the 17th century, paintings of King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth and the Gospel written with letters of gold (PHOTO).
The architectural design of Curtea de Arges Monastery
Curtea de Arges monastery resembles a very large and elaborate mausoleum, built in Byzantine style, with Moorish arabesques. In the center rises a dome, fronted by two smaller cupolas, while a secondary dome, broader and loftier than the central one, springs from the annex. Each summit is crowned by an inverted pear-shaped stone, bearing a triple cross, emblematic of the Trinity.
Facing the main entrance is a small open shrine, consisting of a cornice and dome upheld by four pillars. The cathedral is faced with pale grey limestone, easily chiseled but hardening on exposure. The interior is of brick, plastered and decorated with frescoes. Close by stands a large royal palace, Moorish in style. The archives of the cathedral were plundered by Hungarians and Turks, but several inscriptions, Greek, Slav and Roman, are left.
This construction is very impressing considering the time it was built and the means that were available in those ages in Wallachia.
The legend of the pregnant woman built inside the walls
It is said that a very appreciated master named Manole was the one supervising the construction. One of the most popular legends in Romania is associated with his name. It’s a story of sacrifice, love for one’s work, death for creation and commitment for religion and faith before anything else.
The legend says that master Manole and his workers were employed by the King Neagoe Basarab of Wallachia to build an extraordinary monastery. The men began working. But everything they built by day ruined by night. So no matter how much they tried they couldn’t finish the construction. Tormented by the fact that he couldn’t finish his construction, master Manole dreamed one night that the only way that he could complete his masterpiece is a human sacrifice. After he woke up, he and his workers decided that the first person to arrive that morning on the construction site should be the one sacrificed.
Tears of pain fell on Manole’s cheeks when he saw his pregnant wife, Ana, on the horizon. She had woken up early that morning to prepare a good meal for her husband and to bring it to him. But the monastery had to be completed. So with tears in his eyes, Manole walled his wife brick by brick. She cried and she screamed. She begged for her life and her unborn child but Manole didn’t listen. It was only after this sacrifice that the monastery’s construction could be finished into the masterpiece that can be seen today.
The death of Manole at Curtea de Arges Monastery
Another legend speaks of Manole’s own death. It is said that after he and his men managed to finish the construction King Neagoe Basarab liked it so much that he locked all the men in the attic of the monastery. He wanted to make sure that a construction like that would never be replicated. The men and Manole tried to escape the punishment by building wooden wings and trying to fly away. None of them could and they all fell down and die. The place where master Manole died is now marked by a fountain named The Fountain of Manole and it is located inside the monastery’s yard.
When, where, how much
Curtea de Arges monastery is located in Curtea de Arges City, on Basarab street, number 1, in Arges county, at 36 kilometers from Pitesti City (121 kilometers on highway from Bucharest). Search on Google maps: Manastirea Curtea de Arges, Curtea de Arges, Arges, Romania.
That would mean 154 kilometers from Bucharest to Curtea de Arges Monstery. About two hours by car.
The visiting hours are every day from 8 AM to 8 PM in summer and from 9 AM to 5 PM in winter.
The tickets are purchased from the souvenir shop at the entrance. One ticket costs around 50 eurocents.
The visit doesn’t take a long time if the tourists are in a hurry. Half an hour will do. However, many people choose to take their time and visit the monastery at a relaxed pace.