Cultural Excursion: Moldovan Monasteries

Yesterday, following our language classes in the morning, the Peace Corps staff here in Moldova organized a cultural excursion to visit three Moldovan monasteries.  At each monastery, we went in the churches, explored the grounds, and a priest/monk/nun told us a bit about their faith and the history of the monastery.

The first monastery we visited was Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry in Suruceni, which is a monastery of nuns.

The pretty gardens at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
The pretty gardens at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Another building at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Another building at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Nuns' quarters at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Nuns’ quarters at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry
Inside the church at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry

The main church was built between 1825 and 1828.  In addition to being a monastery, the grounds have also housed schools, an orphanage, and housed carpenters, blacksmiths, and shoesmiths.  The monastery was closed in 1959 under Soviet rule.  All of the icons, books, and vestments were either destroyed or removed.  The monastery became a hospital for narcology patients.  St. George church was used as a club with a stage.  St. Nicholas church, the other church on the property, was used as a hospital and the sanctuary was a surgery ward.  The monastery reopened in 1991 as a monastery of nuns.  Renovation work has been conducted, but work still needs to be done.

After our visit at Sfantul Gheorghe Monastry, we headed to Sfantul Nicolae Monastry in Condrita.

On the grounds of Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
On the grounds of Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The two churches at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The two churches at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The main church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The only remaining parts of the paintings that originally covered the walls and ceiling.
The only remaining parts of the paintings that originally covered the walls and ceiling.
The altar at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The altar at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Lighting of candles at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Lighting of candles at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry

It is believed that the monastery was started sometime around 1783.  By 1946, much of the monastery was occupied by a local forestry school.  In 1947, the monastery closed.  It was a forestry school until 1960, and then a camp until 1993, when it reopened.  During Soviet rule, all of the icons were destroyed except for two, which the remaining monks smuggled off the grounds.  The murals of the main church were destroyed or painted over during this time as well.

The stone church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The stone church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The above-ground sanctuary at the second church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The above-ground sanctuary at the second church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The above-ground sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
The above-ground sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Gorgeous ceiling at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Gorgeous ceiling at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Near the entrance at the second church at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Underground sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Underground sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Underground Sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry
Underground Sanctuary at Sfantul Nicolae Monastry

The monastery has two churches- the main church, which is in a bit worse of shape, and a second church, which has both an above-ground and underground sanctuary.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Church

The third monastery we visited is one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Moldova: Capriana Monastry.  The monastery consists of three churches, including the oldest in Moldova.   The oldest church, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, was built between 1420 and 1425.  It is believed to have been built by the father of Stefan cel Mare (the ruler during those years and most popular person in Moldovan history- every town and village has a street named after him and a statue of him). The church has been restored several times due to powerful earthquakes.

Capriana Monastery
St. Georges Cathedral
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St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral
St. Georges Cathedral

Another of the churches is St. George’s Cathedral, which was built in the late Baroque style (which is very unusual for Moldova).   This church was built in 1907.  The monastery was confiscated by Soviet troops in 1940, but continued to function until 1962, when it was closed.  One of the churches became a House of Culture, another was a hospital for children suffering tuberculosis, and the third housed pesticides.  The monastery reopened in 1989.

All of the monasteries were so peaceful and quiet and relaxing.  They were also so beautiful!  It was also really interesting to learn more about how Soviet rule affected religion and religious buildings.