The Abbey of Carta – (haunted Abbey) is the oldest construction of its kind in eastern Europe. The Abbey, that it is also said to be haunted, is located at 43 kilometers (27 miles) from the Sibiu city, one of the most beautiful establishments in Transylvania region in Romania. I would normally recommend to find accommodation in Sibiu city (airport) and, by car or bus, to see the surroundings. But if you want just to visit the Abbey you can stay in Carta village.
There, you can find accommodation at a very nice guesthouse, at a five-minute walk from the haunted Abbey.
The legends of the haunted Abbey in Romania
The old Cistercian Abbey from Carta (also known as the haunted Abbey) attracts thousands of tourists annually, both Romanian and foreigners, due to its architecture and history, but also due to the legend that the church would be haunted by the monks that used to live there in medieval times.
The monastery was built by Cistercian monks in 1205-1206, in the shape of a cross. Today, the villagers of Carta use this former Abbey as an evangelical church.
The legend says that Cistercian monks fasted all year and sometimes ate cheese and boiled beech leaves. They all slept in one room on hay. They would wake up at three o’clock in the morning and, by the evening, they would have service at every three hours.
Because of the poor life conditions, the monks died at the age of 35-40 years and were buried at the Abbey. We can now see their graves in the yard of the monastery. Also, some of the graves are for soldiers from the First Word War.
Some people say that the place is haunted and that, in the cellar, the chairs are sometimes moving and the walls are vibrating. It is said that even the priests who served here witnessed that phenomenon.
Another odd fact about this place is that the archeologists discovered here the remains of two unusually tall men, of over 2 meters tall (people were much shorter in those times than nowadays). A theory claims it is possible that, in medieval period, the people who had any kind of deficiencies or were too different from the others were sent to abbeys.
Another legend tells that these monks, fearing foreign invasion, dug a tunnel from the Abbey to the nearby Olt river where they had their fleeing boats. All the remaining monks were banished from the Abbey in 1474 from Matthias Corvinus’ order. He was, at that time, King of Hungary.
Who were the Cistercian monks, also known as white monks ,who are buried in the haunted Abbey
The Order of Cistercians – Latin: Order Cisterciensis or, alternatively, OCSO for the Trappists (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance)) is a Roman Catholic religious order of enclosed monks and nuns. They are sometimes also called the Bernardines or the White Monks, in reference to the colour of the habit, over which a black scapular is worn. The emphasis of Cistercian life is on manual labour and self-sufficiency, and many abbeys traditionally supported themselves through activities such as agriculture and brewing ales.
The term Cistercian (French Cistercien), derives from Cistercium, the Latin name for the village of Cîteaux, near Dijon in eastern France. It was in this village that a group of Benedictine monks from the monastery of Molesme founded Cîteaux Abbey in 1098, with the goal of following more closely the Rule of Saint Benedict. By the end of the 12th century, the order had spread throughout France and into England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Eastern Europe.
The keynote of Cistercian life was a return to literal observance of the Rule of St Benedict. Rejecting the developments the Benedictines had undergone, the monks tried to replicate monastic life exactly as it had been in Saint Benedict’s time; indeed in various points they went beyond it in austerity. The most striking feature in the reform was the return to manual labour, especially field-work, a special characteristic of Cistercian life. Cistercian architecture is considered one of the most beautiful styles of medieval architecture.
Additionally, in relation to fields such as agriculture, hydraulic engineering and metallurgy, the Cistercians became the main force of technological diffusion in medieval Europe. The Cistercians were adversely affected in England by the Protestant Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII, the French Revolution in continental Europe, and the revolutions of the 18th century, but some survived and the order recovered in the 19th century.
When, where, how much?
It is free to visit the monastery. If you want, you can make a small donation. It is not always open but the priest who takes care of the abbey lives exactly next to the church. On the left side, as you would exist the Abbey. So, if you find it closed as I did, you can knock at the priest’s gate and ask for the key.
Regarding accommodation, as I said at the beginning of this text, you can find it here, in Carta village – but not without previous reservation. However, there is nothing else to visit here beside the Abbey, so maybe your trip would be more interesting if you would find accommodation in Sibiu city – over 40 kilometers far.
There isn’t any known public transportation from Sibiu city to this small village so it would be best if you travel by car (rented or yours) or in organized travel groups by bus.