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Dates of visit:
March 28, 2007 -
April 14, 2007

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Revisit Bucharest
 Bucegi Mountains
 Revisit Sibiu
 Maramures Region
 Wooden Churches
 Peasant traditions
 Merry Cemetery
 Bukovina Region
 Painted Monasteries
 Railroad Excursion
 

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Poland
Ukraine
*** Romania's Holy Places ***
*** Snagov Monastery ***
*** Cozia Monastery ***
*** Sapanta's "Merry Cemetery" ***
*** Church of Barsana ***
*** Barsana Monastery ***
        Map of Romania
        Travel Route
        Snagov Monastery
               Site Gallery - Snagov Monastery
        Cozia Monastery
               Site Gallery - Cozia Monastery
        Sapanta's "Merry Cemetery"
               Site Gallery - "Merry Cemetery"
        Church of Barsana
               Site Gallery - Church of Barsana
        Barsana Monastery
               Site Gallery - Barsana Monastery
Snagov Monastery

Snagov MonasteryLocation of Snagov Monastery ...

Snagov Monastery ... and Lake (Manastirea & Lacul Snagov) ... 25 miles north of Bucharest ... One hundred years after the church was built (1364), Vlad Tepes (Vlad Dracula) added the fortress walls and a dungeon. A plaque on the floor of the church marks the grave with the presumed remains of the count. The monastery, located on an island on the far side of the lake, can only be accessed by boat.


Video recorded: March 2007
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Site Gallery - Snagov Monastery
 
Snagov Monastery Snagov Monastery Snagov Monastery
Cozia Monastery

Cozia MonasteryLocation of Cozia Monastery ...

Cozia Monastery ... administered by about 30 monks, the Cozia Monastery lies 20 km north of Ramnicu Valcea. Named after a nearby mountain, Cozia Monastery was built by Mircea cel Batrân, Dracula's grandfather, in 1388 and boasting his tomb. It is one of the most valuable monuments of national medieval art and architecture in Romania. The appearance of the compound was modified in 1517 when a veranda was added and in 1707, when a new fountain, a chapel and a watch tower was added to its architecture. Wall facets' decorations with original stone rosettes and frames display early Byzantine influence.

Of great value is the hospital church, 'bolnita' (1543), with original well-preserved indoor frescoes like the votive portrait of ruler Mircea cel Batrân and his sons. Cozia was painted between 1390 and 1931. Some of the original frescoes (1390) are still well preserved. Cozia features a museum of exhibiting old art: old manuscripts and prints, embroideries and objects of worship.


Video recorded: March 2007
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Site Gallery - Cozia Monastery
 
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Sapanta's "Merry Cemetery"

Merry CemeteryLocation of "Merry Cemetery" ...

The Merry Cemetery ... Lying on the banks of the Tisa, the river that forms the frontier with Ukraine, towered over by the Carpathian Mountains, Sapanta is a commune with five thousand inhabitants, not much different from others in Maramures, a province in northern Romania.

A God-forsaken region where access is difficult, Maramures has long been kept outside great transformations. This relative isolation helps us understand why even to this day the area's inhabitants have preserved an extraordinary bond to their land, an extreme spirit of independence, a pattern of life, and strictly observed traditions.

Several kids gracing a family is a token of good luck. Each member of the family has/his her own responsibilities: the woman to the domestic chores, the little children to the garden, the husband tends the animals and works in the forest, the boys guard animals, the girls help in the house and learn to weave, spin and embroider at their ma's knee. The inhabitants of Sapanta strictly obey the traditions of the Orthodox religion and are fervent believers. It is a duty, even an honor, to be part of the church committee.

On Sunday, everybody, young and old, dresses in the national costume and tries to forget old feuds. The Romanian peasant has never been afraid of death. For him the cross is a sort of gate to eternity and everlasting rest. Death is a natural phenomenon one must accept, but naturally, not seek.

Like in all Carpathian areas, the forest is one of the basic fields of economic activity at Sapanta. A symbol of durability and eternity, wood is omnipresent in the area. From time immemorial, the inhabitants of this region have used it wisely and turned it to account, into gems of rural architecture, adorned by a wide variety of geometric and floral motifs representations of the sun and the moon. The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta has been, for more than fifty years, the creation of sculptor Stan Patras, the successor of several generations of wood artists that bequeathed their trade from father to son.

In the beginning he sculpted about ten crosses a year. The method of work has been preserved unaltered to this day. The oak wood is cut into beams that are then allowed to dry one or two years. Next they are hewn into 10-cm thick planks, 2.20 m long and 30-40 cm wide, ranged in stacks, and allowed to dry for some months more. Then the sculptor begins his work: first he draws the geometrical motifs and the bas-relief dedicated to the deceased, then he sculpts and paints the cross in blue - a symbol of hope and freedom.

In 1934, Patras began to scribble an epitaph on the crosses. Usually it is a short poem written in the first person, dotted with archaisms, vernacular phrases and spelling errors. The sculptor-poet's source of inspiration is the two-three night wakes. The relatives of the dead person do not mourn, but drink and make merry. The entire life of the village is featured in this cemetery. The shepherd, the farmer, the wood ranger, the wood cutter, or the pupil stand side by eternally, with the weaver, the spinner, the housewife, the merchant, the carpenter, the doctor, the musician or the drunk. This collective memory of Sapanta, this ensemble of colorful graves where each dead person recounts humbly his/her existence with its joys and sorrows, creates a serene and merry atmosphere, a sort of challenge to death, a hymn to life.

The creative spirit of Stan Ioan Patras still hovers over the merry cemetery of Sapanta even if today most of the crosses are concocted by his students. His continuator now is Dumitru Pop. Born into a poor family, he studied with Patras since he was nine, and during his holidays he sculpted miniature crosses and frescoes. He went then to a vocational school in Timisoara and returned to Sapanta in 1977, after the death of Stan Ion Patras. Ever since Dumitru Pop has been living and working in the shadow of his master, inhabiting the maestro's old home.

Even death after life does greatly please ... it is now sixty years since craftsman Stan Patras has been cutting crosses for the dead to chase away the dread of death. When one of his fellow villagers asked him why people order him so many crosses, he answered: "Maybe they want a keepsake of me that sees this side of death". And Stan Patras invented nothing; he just showed people what they could not see by themselves. And the "reminders" he has left at Sapanta are superb indeed. The cemetery will bridge over all times as a museum of the triumph of life upon death, here in the north , in the Maramures land, an ancient area of wood civilization, a museum where people will talk about the "blue" of Sapanta as they talk about the already famous Voronet blue; a warm, smooth, almost phosphorescent blue. Asking the craftsman what inspired it, he replied plainly: the sky. "

Next to the other four colors to be seen everywhere - black, red, yellow and green - blue is the fifth color of the Maramuresh land.

The phrase "merry cemetery" may seem paradoxical if not even touching impiety. And yet, it stays true in all its simplicity and depth devised by Stan Patras. His crosses make up a whole world, a live chronicle of a community those succeds generations through times. The likeness of the deceased, carved and colored usually catches one of his lifetime's characteristic attitudes, surrounded by floral arabesques, above a funny, with epitaph. The verses are written in the first person, as if uttered by the deceased himself for him who may read it. The one who went the way of all flesh tells who he was. A true kaleidoscope of dances, crafts, songs, serious, thoughts, songs to Mother Nature - that is the meaning of these crosses that surround a small church.

A light haze hovers over the cemetery as if the clear sky had lowered itself among the crosses. It is the blue of Sapanta, same as that of the infinite sky, if not the true color of the Styx, which craftsman Patras knew to discover before meeting boatman Caron. There is something about it that the eye catches with delight, descending from archaic beliefs, from the art of the images that people the graves of a cemetery unique in the world.

The Maramuresh land is a country of wood civilization. Houses, furniture, porches, roofs, tools, churches, gates, everything here are made of wood. The wood is Alpha and Omega. People love it, carve it, and paint it, transferring into it a part of their existence, of their thoughts. The Maramuresh wooden churches, the high gates of carved wood like triumphal arches are now famous in world ethnography.

In the cemetery surrounding the church of Sapanta, the crosses are made of carved and painted wood. The graves are more like flower beds and the crosses themselves rise like big colored flowers. In summertime, this is a true pilgrimage spot. This place, that tourists from all parts of the world come to visit, is undoubtedly one of silent praying and mourning. Yet, here everything effuses exuberance, bright vitality. It is like an outburst of life covering those who crossed beyond.

In craftsman Patras's golden book, Swiss Honore Bayard writes: "Life is beautiful, very beautiful! But in this place, even death after life does greatly please, thanks to you, craftsman! Thank you for this moment of truth!” And fact is the work of Stan Patras actually is a moment of truth. A high roar of laugher of our Dacian ancestors, who had no fear of death, seems to have reverberated in this work.

Source: Merry Cemetery


Video recorded: March 2007
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Site Gallery - "Merry Cemetery"
 
"Merry Cemetery" Crosses
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Sapanta's Petri Monastery
Merry Cemetery Merry Cemetery Merry Cemetery
Church of Barsana

Church of BarsanaLocation of Church of Barsana ...

Barsana ... the village is 18 kilometers from Sighetu Marmatiei. Barsana can trace its history back to the Bronze Age. Documents dating back to 1391 make mention of a monastery and a wooden church named for St. Nicolae. The monastery was abandoned and the small church was removed in 1720. The church was later returned and additional painting was done in 1806 in the baroque style by Hodor Teodor. He used predominantly white, blue and red in his palette. The church is also home to several beautiful wood and glass icons. It is closed when we visit.

The wooden church of Barsana, known as the “Holy Mother’s Entrance” has a unique story. According to legend, the church was built in 1720 and moved in 1806 to Ibar Hill next to a graveyard containing victims of the Black Plague. The Plague hit with such ferocity that people were hastily buried without religious services. Local villagers were determined that the victims be honored and thus insisted that the church be located on the hill, so they arranged to move it from “Podurile Manastirii” (Bridges of the Monastery) where it was first constructed. Even after almost 200 years, many locals still swear that the buried followed the church when it was moved, so that they forever sleep in the shadow of the church’s steeple.


Video recorded: March 2007
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Site Gallery - Church of Barsana
 
Church of Barsana Church of Barsana Church of Barsana
Barsana Monastery

Barsana MonasteryLocation of Barsana Monastery ...

Barsana Monastery ... one of the loveliest faces of faith and wood can be found also in Barsana. The 57 m. high church of Barsana monastery ranks first among the wooden construction of Romania. The foundation work was started in 1993 and by now the church is one of the most beautiful structures made by peasants in the country.

The monastic compound is made of wood, according to local tradition, built by Barsana masters; it consists of the Maramures gate, the belfry, the church (57 meters high), the summer shrine, the house with cells and chapel, the house of the masters, the house of the artists and a more recently arranged museum.

The community is led by a Prioress and counts eleven nuns and three sisters.

Site Gallery - Barsana Monastery
 
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