The Land of Re-Born Churches and Monasteries

I had no idea when I first thought of going to Moldova that I would see a treasure trove of church and monastery architecture but as I researched a possible visit to Moldova, I learned that was exactly what I was going to see.

Moldova, as a Soviet Socialist Republic, was a place where the system tried to take man’s humanity out of the equation – and part of that was removing the strength and hope that faith can provide.  Churches and monasteries were either destroyed or severely damaged; those that were not totally destroyed were re-purposed as mental hospitals, children’s institutions, etc. and the religious communities were broken up.

It is evident that Moldova is trying to shed its Soviet past in the ways that are possible for a small economy that is not in the EU and that is talked about as one of the poorest, if not the poorest, in Europe.   For example, roads are being re-built in and around the capital, Chisinau.  The airport is modern.  But what I noticed was how churches and monasteries have been worked on to restore them to their greatness, even if not all buildings in the complexes are completely restored yet.

Visiting monasteries does not require an appointment nor are there entrance fees.  Simply walk in.  Do remember to dress appropriately!

But after showing you these monasteries below, I have a conclusion I would like to share.

Frumoasa Monastery

This small and beautiful monastery, which reminded me of the Greek isles due to its sharp blue and white colors, was the focus of my photo of the week post earlier this week but it is worthy of including here as it was such a gem.  The monastery is about 14 km from Calarasi town which in turn is about 50 km from Chisinau.  It is also a convenient monastery to see if visiting the Curchi monastery.

Frumoasa Monastery in Moldova

Frumoasa Monastery altar in Moldova

Curchi Monastery

This monastery (pronounced COOR-key) is considered one of the most beautiful and famous monastery complex in Moldova with 2 large churches (and other small ones I did not get to see) and many other spaces and buildings in its footprint.  It was founded around the 1770s.  Between the 1950s and the early 2000s it did not operate as a monastery though now it has again become a monastery for men.  Lots of visitors/pilgrims the day I went though it was a weekday.  And strict rules as no photography was allowed within the churches.

The main church, painted in bright red, is the Church of the Mother of God and was built in the late 19th century.  It is a beautiful building up close but even more impressive as one approaches the monastery by road.

Church of the Mother of God in the Curchi Monastery in Moldova

St. Dumitru Church in the Curchi Monastery

Capriana Monastery

This monastery, one of the oldest in Moldova dating to the 1420s, is just 40 km away from Chisinau.  It is one of the most important ones because rulers, including the most important one, Stefan cel Mare, helped build it.  The two main churches, St. George and St. Nicholas, were built in the 1840s and 1900s, respectively.

Capriana Monastery in Moldova

Capriana Monastery in Moldova

Capriana Monastery in Moldova - Image of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great)

Image of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great)

Chisinau Center Churches/Cathedrals

Chisinau as a city has a good number of churches (for views of Chisinau itself, check my post on it here).  Right in the city center there are a few worth checking out.

1.  Near the Hotel National lies the St. Great Martyr Tiron Cathedral, quite a beautiful structure built in the 1850s.

Stanful Teodor Tiron Church in Moldova

2.  The Transfiguration Cathedral (or the Church of Schimbarea La Fata in Moldovan) sits next to the Ministry of Agriculture.  It has been beautifully restored inside.  It’d be easy to pass it up given the size of nearby Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity but don’t miss visiting it.

Church in Chisinau, Moldova

3.  The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity, however, is the most imposing of the churches I saw in Chisinau.  It is a Russian Orthodox Church built around the 1830s.  It, and its front tower and outdoor baptistry, sit in a large square facing the Triumphal Arch and, beyond, the imposing (though unimaginatevely architected) Government House building.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ's Nativity in Chisinau, Moldova

Baptistry at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ's Nativity in Chisinau, Moldova

The outdoor baptistry

Small Churches in Orhei

The predominant religion in Moldova is Orthodox Christianity.  In Orhei, a town north of Chisinau with about 25,000 inhabitants, I visited the small Catholic Church.  We asked the attendant what percent of the town’s people were Catholic and she replied:  “4%  – but working on it.”  What a spirit!

The town had small Orthodox churches but because of our itinerary/schedule, I could not explore except from the car.  But they were definitely colorful!

Church in Moldova

My Conclusion:  It’s about More than Architecture

So the renewal I witnessed in Moldova was impressive but even more impressive was seeing the faithful visit these religious places so openly, something that I am sure was impossible (or close to it?) during the decades of Soviet communism.  Those images are the ones that really stay with me…

Person praying at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova

Candles at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova

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You can find more information about monasteries in Moldova here.

Comments

  1. The architecture is amazing and the monasteries beautifully renovated. Great photos, Raul! It’s another example of what you can find in Central & Eastern Europe. There are so many places worth visiting in the region!
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo(s) of the Week: Mountains in Boulder, ColoradoMy Profile

  2. Your photos are brilliant, first off. Next, I had no idea what to expect when you said you were visiting Moldova. I just know it as one of the most unhappy places in the world. With architecture like this, how could anyone be unhappy? Capriana Monastery is my favorite of these.

    Great job, Raul.
    Leah Travels recently posted..Lufthansa’s A380 is Texas SizedMy Profile

    • Thanks, Leah! Honored that you with your great photo skills like my pix! I have to say I am curious too on that bit about the unhappiest place. I will ponder the question in an upcoming post where I sum up my experience in Moldova.

  3. Wow, when I think of places like Moldova or other former USSR states, I always picture grey. Your photos were lovely and totally colourful. What made you go there? Very curious!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Photos of the Week – TreatsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Ana! I also pictured drab – the capital, Chisinau, has a little more of that but still had good green in the streets and parks! Great question on why I went… That is actually addressed in the next post I am about to publish so stay tuned! (It will also lay out the entire itinerary for my Moldova / Romania trip!).

  4. So beautiful, and it’s probably difficult to walk into these catherals without feeling a little spiritual. It definitely is more than just the architecture. 🙂

    • Absolutely! Especially seeing people go in to pray, walking around the icons, lightning candles, etc. Thanks for stopping by and checking it out. More to come on Moldova!

  5. so pretty! my favorite was St. Great Martyr Tiron Cathedral. love the blue & the GOLD!!! can’t wait to see more of your photos from your adventure 🙂
    lola recently posted..Cambodia Countdown – week 3My Profile

    • They have definitely gone for lively colors as they have restored the churches after being so devastated in Soviet times. You shall see lots more pix around here in the next few weeks!

  6. these photos are gorgeous! so excited you’ve started your recaps and can’t wait to follow along.
    the lazy travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #21My Profile

    • Working on them! Will be publishing next an overview of the trip first so people can put every post in context (and how the trip came about). Thanks for checking them out!

  7. Raul, this is my first introduction to Moldova and it is not what I expected…and please make these photos bigger in the post..they are wonderful to share.

    stay adventurous, Craig
    Craig Zabransky recently posted..Sunset Sunday – Kota Kinbalu, Malaysia on the island of BorneoMy Profile

    • It wasn’t what I expected either though I do have some other things to share that may seem a little more like what is expected. On making the pictures bigger, I definitely want folks to appreciate what they show! I have started making them bigger based on your prior input. I also want to not make them too big such that the blog posts look weird on Kindles, etc. Not sure if I have struck the right balance.

Trackbacks

  1. […] up by my Moldova tour guide in Iasi and cross the border into Moldova.  Visit the Frumoasa and Curchi monasteries.  Brief stop in Orhei.  Visit Chateau Vartely, have lunch, and sample the […]

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