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Curtea de Argeş (Romania) – guidebook

Basarab I

Curtea de Argeş is a small city with a population of about 30 thousand people. It is situated on the right bank of the Arges River, south of the Făgăraş Mountains (Romanian: Munţii Făgăraş), circa 20 kilometres from the beginning of the Transfăgărăsan (famous paved road in Romania). In the 14th century Basarab I – the first Wallachian hospodar – made Curtea de Argeş his seat and, at the same time, the first capital of the Principality of Wallachia. At the beginning of the 15th century his great-great-grandson – Michael I of Wallachia (also known as Michael I Basarab) – moved the capital to Târgovişte. In 1611 Curtea de Argeş was devastated by Gabriel Báthory. Despite the fact the city was rebuilt, it remained only a provincial town.

ATTENTION! Everyone who visited Romania or is planning to go there soon is kindly invited to contribute to this guide. Any inquires regarding this matter should be referred to the editor's address redakcja@libertas.pl.

Princely Church of St Nicholas in Curtea de Argeş

Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)
Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)

Beautiful monuments such as the St Nicholas Church (Orthodox Church) dating back to the time of the first Wallachian hospodars remind of the previous prosperity period of the city. The first church here was probably built by Basarab I (his statue is located at the square near the church); it was before he ordered to be called a hospodar. In 1325 he rebelled against his sovereign – the king of Hungary. In result, the latter invaded Wallachia in 1330 and plundered the capital – Curtea de Argeş – burning down, on that occasion, the manor buildings, of which the Orthodox church was a part. The king of Hungary – Charles I of Hungary (Charles Robert)– was, however, forced to retreat and he was defeated at the battle of Posada. The Orthodox church was rebuilt (probably by Basarab I or his son); it gained its present shape as a result of a partial reconstruction after the fire in the 18th century. It could hardly be called the main attraction of the city but it witnessed historical events, so it seems to be worthy of visiting.

Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)Książęca cerkiew św. Mikołaja (Curtea de Argeş)

The Episcopal Church / Curtea de Arges Cathedral (Master Manole's Church)

Most tourists are, however, attracted by the Episcopal Church (also called Curtea de Arges Cathedral) that was founded by the hospodar Neagoe Basarab V. According to statistics it is visited by 100,000 tourists a year!

A legend says that Neagoe Basarab V charged the famous architect Manole with the construction of the Orthodox church, but the latter had difficulty finishing the construction of the temple since everything that had been built by day fell apart by night. One day the master had a vision with a person who advised him to immure a living woman in the wall as the ancient people used to do. When the next day the wife of the master Manole – Anna – brought him a meal to the construction site, he ordered to immure her in the southern wall. The construction of the temple was soon finished and everyone raved on its beauty. As the hospodar was afraid that master Manole could build something even more beautiful for someone else, he ordered to wall in the master including his helpers on the roof. The master constructed wings made of wood and, following Dedal and Icar's example, wanted to get out of prison. Unfortunately – the wings shattered and he crashed against the ground; in the place he died a spring gushed out.

I do not know which part of this legend is true. What I do now is that the Orthodox church was built in the years 1512–1517. In 1611 it was devastated by the troops of the previously mentioned Gabriel Báthory (the grandson of our king Stefan's brother). Soon it was rebuilt, and at the end of the 19th century it was reconstructed by two architects: the French one – André Lecomte du Noüy, and the Romanian one – Nicolaus Gabrielescu. The renovation works were completed in 1885.

The church makes a really indelible impression. Among other things, it has characteristic ‘twisted’ (I don’t know how to call it in another way) little towers above the pre-nave and something like a twisted line encompassing the body of the church. There should be some 150 geometrical motives on the lavishly embellished elevation!

Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)
Manastirea Curtea de Argeş (Rumunia)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)
Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)
Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Ewangelia

Also in its interior the church makes a huge impression. On the walls there are paintings and beautiful geometrical ornaments that make me think of mosque adornments. The tall columns seem to have no end; all in all, there are 12 columns supposed to symbolise the twelve apostles. Some of them are additionally ‘twisted’, which makes them even more enchanting.

Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)
Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)Cerkiew mistrza Manole (Curtea de Argeş)

In the pre-nave there are graves and among them the grave of the church’s founder and the first king of Romania – Carol I of Romania. Beautiful singing of the church’s choir is surrounding in the air. It is so impressive that I get goose bumps. A marvellous place!

In the Episcopal Church

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Witold Wieszczek
Translated by Jacek Konopka.

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