Horezu Monastery (World Heritage)

Horezu Monastery (World Heritage)

The monastery, located at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, was founded in 1690 by Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu and is considered the most important monastery complex in Wallachia. It is a major work of the so-called Brâncoveanus style, which combines Byzantine influences, Renaissance, baroque and folk elements. The name of the monastery probably goes back to the calls of owls that lived in the woods.

Horezu Monastery: facts

Official title: Horezu Monastery
Cultural monument: Monastery surrounded by a fortress wall with a large inner courtyard and a white main church, the Katholikon, with an arcaded vestibule; inside the church frescoes in the Byzantine tradition, such as the medallion with the Mother of God and the depiction of the Last Judgment
Continent: Europe
Country: Romania, Wallachia
Location: Horezu, northwest of Bucharest
Appointment: 1993
Meaning: Masterpiece of Romanian monastery architecture and sacred art

Horezu Monastery: history

1690 founding
1714 Execution of the monastery founder, Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, at the court of the Turkish sultan
1753 Construction of the Dionysus Loggia

The empty sarcophagus

Even those who are not staunch supporters of the Orthodox faith are impressed by the attitude of the monastery founder, Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu. He and his four sons were beheaded in front of the Turkish sultan in Istanbul for refusing to convert to Islam. Before that, Brâncoveanu had the monastery built in the remote Oltenia, which he chose as his final resting place. But his marble sarcophagus, richly decorated with curved acanthus leaves, remained empty. Today an eternal lamp burns in front of the mural that shows him with his sons and his wife Maria with his seven daughters. And the cheerful alternating chant of the nuns during mass leads one to believe that the legacy of the monastery founder has since been fulfilled.

The name Horezu is said to come from owl calls that could be heard there when looking for a suitable place for the monastery. Today a clear brook murmurs to the valley at the foot of the monastery path. The wrought-iron gate with a high triumphal arch was reserved for horses and wagons; Craftsmen, artists and monks came through the side entrances on the right and left. Between orchards and small fields they climbed up a paved road, which is lined with a half-height wall of river stones and gnarled nut trees. The outer monastery courtyard is surrounded by a protective wall that was once six meters high. Through a gate tower, the view first falls on a magnificent ensemble of buildings decorated with columns and arcades. The interior of the monastery complex can be reached through the gate of the bell tower.

At the time of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, the Romanian Renaissance, according to ethnicityology, the so-called Brâncoveanu style, was born, which is characterized above all by its artistic stone carving. With numerous squat, ornamented column and arcade shafts, with more geometrically stylized plant decorations instead of animal motifs, with acanthus leaves on bases and capitals, the style is reminiscent of Mediterranean “abundance”, but at the same time preserves the orthodox rigor of a remote world.

In the vault of the vestibule, Jesus is enthroned in the center of the universe, surrounded by a host of angels. On the sides there are larger and smaller images of the Mother of God, angels, saints and prophets who are fighting for souls with Satan, as well as scenic representations with Adam and Eve. The Last Judgment in particular is shown very clearly; the rather inconspicuous frescoes show the five different hells for the first time in church painting: the ice hell of the Tatars, the hell of fear, that of the biting worms, darkness and fire. In the foredeck, pictures of prophets and patriarchs as well as scenes from the Old Testament are impressive. The impression of the representations of all the saints, the ladder to heaven and – in the dome – the hymn of praise to Mary, the Mother of God, is just as lasting.

Across the courtyard, past the mass and through a sandstone reception arch, an open staircase with an arabesque zodiac frieze leads to one of the loggias, which is decorated with artfully ornamented columns. And around the monastery, smaller churches rise in every direction, including the Church of St. Mary and the Church of Angels; each one worth considering for itself.

Horezu Monastery (World Heritage)