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Brâncoveni Monastery

  • Code of the Historical Monument List (LMI): OT-II-a-A-08687
  • Location:

    hamlet Brâncoveni, village Brâncoveni, Olt county

  • History:

    The date when the Brancoveni monastery was founded is unknown. The hamlet is referred to in the documents as an estate of the Craiovesti boyars as early as 1494, and the Princely House of Brancoveni is mentioned in a charter of the ruler Neagoe Basarab, in May 1518, that confirms the ownership of lady Neacsa, the paternal grandmother of Matei Basarab, but the monastery was mentioned for the first time as late as 1582, 31st August (7091). According to historical sources, it was dedicated to "The Dormition of Mary". In a document dated 30 April 1641, Matei Basarab mentions that the monastery was "rebuilt and raised from its foundations by my grandparents and parents". Together with his grandson, Preda Brancoveanu, the grandfather of the ruler Constantin Brancoveanu, he rebuilt and enlarged the establishment " reinforcing it with surrounding walls and a strong tower above the gate" and probably the priory, between 1632 and 1640, according to the inscription laid by Constantin Brancoveanu in 1699, when he rebuilt the big church of the monastery. The last construction phase is due to Constantin Brancoveanu who revitalized the monastery (initially a monk convent) and he rebuilt the church in 1699 (painted in 1704), conceived as a necropolis for his forerunners. The works were supervised by Radul Golescu, who was brought by the ruler from Hurezi. The monastery was closed in 1873. A retirement home for seniors was commissioned here in 1885, in a nearby building.
    Communists closed down the monastery again in 1959, but nuns started to use it again after 1980, when intensive works were done to restore the buildings and the monastic domain.

  • Description:

    The buildings included in this compound are located at the foot of a terrace of Olt river, on its right-hand bank, just below the road that connects Slatina to Caracal, include the large church of the monastery, dedicated to "The Dormition of Mary" (OT–II –m-A-08687.01), surrounded by the priory (OT-II-m-A-08687.03), the belfry (OT-II-m-A-08687.04), cells (OT-II-m-A-08687.05), some annexes (OT-II-m-A-08687.06), and the wall surrounding the premises (OT-II-m-A-08687.07); the entire monastic establishment resembles a fortification. The church of the infirmary, whose patron saints are "the Archangels Michael and Gabriel" ("Sf. Arhangheli Mihail și Gavril", OT-II-m-A-08687.02) stands in the South of the premises, on the banks of a pond.
    The big church of the monastery has a triconch plane, an open porch and a polygonal belfry, with 10 sides, on top of the nave. The altar apse, polygonal on the outside and circular on the inside, is covered with a semi-cup. The altar and the vestry are embedded in the walls. The narthex is covered by a spherical cup and the porch with a semi-cylindrical vault with penetrations. The portal carved in stone that lies at the entrance of the church bears the coat of arms of Wallachia and above it stands the inscription framed by carved spindles. The framework of the windows, with plane floral reliefs, was remade in 1842; only one original frame is kept, with Gothic profiles, in the vestry. Carved vegetal reliefs also decorate the stone columns of the porch. In the narthex, under tombstones laid in 1688 and 1699, lie family members of prince Constantin Brancoveanu (Preda the Court Stewart – grandfather, Papa the Court Marshal, – father, Stanca Cantacuzino – mother and Barbu – brother); on the porch lies the tomb of the last prior of the monastery, the priest Radu Sapca din Celei, a hero of the revolution in 1848. The abbey is located in the North-Western corner of the premises. The square and two-storey house has a basement on the ground floor, divided by poles and arches, into three cradle-like vaulted yokes. Between 1989 and 1990, the basement of the abbey was made into a tombstone room and it hosts pieces that come from the convents Vacaresti and Pantelimon. A two-storey building, attached to the wall that surrounds the premises, connects the abbey with the tower. The prismatic gate tower, with eight sides, 4 floors raised on a square base, keeps many of the attributes of the period of Matei Basarab. The wall surrounding the premises keeps from the time when the monastery was rebuilt and fortified that existed thanks to Matei Basarab, a fragment comprised between the entrance tower and the abbey, a wall raised in the times of Constantin Brancoveanu. The cells on the Southern side are attributed to the reconstruction phase during the reign of Constantin Brancoveanu (1699-1702). The Western end is more developed and it serves as xenodochium and priory. On the ground floor of this building, a narrow passage leads to a door that leads to the garden and the church of the infirmary.
    The church of the infirmary, built by Constantin Brancoveanu in 1702, on the spot of the wooden church of lady Calea is the only component of the collection of buildings that did not undergo changes. The place of worship is a genuine sample of the planimetric triconch type, with a big belfry on the nave. The apses are semicircular on the inside and polygonal on the outside. The altar is covered with a dome, the nave with the belfry on the nave dome and the narthex is separated from the nave by a full wall. The facades are treated unilaterally. The windows have frames carved in stone, like the Westside entrance that stands out due to the inscription carved in stone and the recess of the patron saint's icon. The eight-sided prismatic belfry stands on a cubic base. The original painting, dated 1702, in the votive painting, depicts Constantin Brancoveanu and his grandfather, court steward Preda Brancoveanu, Papa Brancoveanu, the ruler's father and Danciu the court steward, the father of Matei Basarab.

  • Bibliography:

    N. Ghika-Budeşti, Evoluția arhitecturii în Muntenia și în Oltenia (The Evolution of architecture in Wallachia and Oltenia), BCMI, III, 1933, p.75.
    Nicolae Iorga, Inscripții din bisericile României (Inscriptions in Romanian churches), Bucharest, 1908, vol. II, p. 71-73.
    Tereza Sinigalia, Repertoriul arhitecturii de zid în Țara Românească (The Repertoire of the wall architecture in Wallachia) 1600-1680, vol. II, Vremea Publishing House, Bucharest, 2004, p. 206-215;
    Nicolae Stoicescu, Bibliografia localităţilor şi monumentelor feudale din România, I - Ţara Românească, (Muntenia, Oltenia și Dobrogea) (The Bibliography of the feudal monements and places in Romania / Wallachia), Vol. I: A-L, indexes, Edited by the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia, Craiova, 1970, p. 98;
    Documentaţii de cercetare și restaurare (Research and restoration documentation) 1971-1977;
    Record chart, , 1963, archives of the National Heritage Institute.

Institutul Național al Patrimoniului         Administrația Fondului Cultural Național

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