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Hurezi Monastery

  • Code of the Historical Monument List (LMI): VL-II-a-A-09894
  • Location:

    village ROMANII DE JOS, Str. Mănăstirii 164-164 A,164 B, town HOREZU, Vâlcea county

  • History:

    Romanii de Jos, first documented in 1487, was bought in 1685 by the great sword-bearer Constantin Brancoveanu, the future ruler of the country. Originally a monk monastery, the buildings were designed to resemble the great monasteries on Mount Athos. The construction of the Monastery Hurezi "Hurezii ot sud Vâlcea,", founded by the ruler Constantin Brancoveanu, was commenced in the second year of Constantin Brancoveanu's reign (1690). The compound was commissioned in 1697. Works were supervised by the High Steward Parvu Cantacuzino, the ruler's cousin, who was followed as of 1691 by another dignitary: the Provost Cernica Stirbei Izvoranu, according to the inscription carved in stone, on the porch above the entrance door, at Biserica Mare (the Great Church). The first prior of the monastery Hurezi was archimandrite Ioan, who was involved directly in the construction of the monastic buildings. The premises were completed in 1753 by Father Superior Dionisie II Balacescu adding a watch tower on the Western side of the premises. In the 19th century, the Great Governor Grigore Brancoveanu, the ruler's grandson, financed a number of repair and extension works (1827), which were continued by the archimandrite Hrisant. Works were carried out in the neoclassic style: the new belfry, new watch towers, the extension of the princely house. Outside the main premises (the second premises), a one-storey building was attached to the South-Western corner (acted as an infirmary), outbuildings and the well (1838). In 1862, it becomes a nun convent, having been initially a monk convent. The Hurezi monastery did not have a dedication.

  • Description:

    The Hurezi monastic compound is the largest and most valuable monastic compound in Wallachia. The compound is classified as a historical monument of national and international value ("A" value group) and they are recorded in the List of World Heritage – UNESCO/1994. The monastery Hurezii ot sud Valcea, founded by the ruler Constantin Brancoveanu, deemed to be at the pinnacle of the evolution of art and architecture, is one of the few unitary historical monuments which was achieved in one sole phase, without being rebuilt or having additions attached to it subsequently that alter its original substance. The buildings that make up the monastic compound are made up of: the Great church "The Sacred Emperors Constantin and Elena" (VL-II-m-A-09894.01), the chapel "the Birth of Virgin Mary"(VL-II-m-A-09894.02), the Court Palace (VL-II-m-A-09894.03), Refectory (VL-II-m-A-09894.04), tower gate-belfry (VL-II-m-A-09894.05), cells – on the Northern, Western and Southern sides (premises I-a) (VL-II-m-A-09894.06), wall surrounding the premises (VL-II-m-A-09894.07), well (VL-II-m-A-09894.08), extensions (second premises ) – (VL-II-m-A-09894.09). The premises of the Hurezi Monastery is surrounded by other monastic establishments: East of the central nucleus, in the second premises – the infirmary founded by Queen Mary; on the North, - the shrine Sf. Apostoli (Saint Apostles) – founded by Brancoveanu and prior Ioan; on the West, the shrine Sf. Stefan, founded by Stefan, the ruler's son; on the south, in the village Romanii de Jos, - the church "Sf. Ingeri"- Tiganie and towards North-West, at the border of the village Romanii de Sus – the ruins of "Sf. Ioan" hermitage. Unique in Europe through its architecture programme and its execution, the Hurezi Monastery is more than a post-Byzantine synthesis: it is an icon for the Brancovan style.
    The premises of the Hurezi monastery (the main premises), is located on a land with a mild slope towards the South. The premises are enclosed on three sides (North, West, South) by the two-storey buildings (the housing quarters) and the residence of prince Brancoveanu. The premises are rectangular and they comprise the great church dedicated to St. Emperors Constantin and Elena. The Southern side: the court palace on the ground floor and first floor accounts for the main part. The belfry stands in the middle, between the cells and the palace, and it comprises a ground floor (the entrance passageway), a hidden storey and the last storey with the belfry proper. The Western side: the building made up of a ground floor and first floor also comprises cells in the middle of which stands the chapel. This very same part of the premises comprises the princely Watch Tower of Dionisie. The Northern side is exclusively taken up by cells and the North-Eastern corner by the Lady's quarters. The Eastern side has no adjoining buildings, the court is only enclosed by a wall (except for the well attached to this wall towards the North-Eastern corner, where the Lady's quarters stood).
    The great church "Saints Constantin and Elena" was commenced in the second year of Constantin Brancoveanu's reign and completed in the sixth year of his reign (1692-1694). The great church (the great catholicon of the monastery) is a triconch church with an over-enlarged narthex. The solution which was adopted for building the narthex was taken over from the model of the Episcopal church in Curtea de Arges. The apse of the alter, which is unattached, is flanked by two cylindrically vaulted square apses. These apses make up the two extensions of the altar - the part of the altar where the anaphora is kept and the vestry. The rectangular narthex (to which the two apses are added on each side) is surmounted by the Belfry of the nave dome.The altar is delimited by the nave through a gilded lime altarpiece. The enlarged narthex is separated by the nave through a full wall, penetrated by a single door. Two poles instead of the 12 in Arges support the second belfry together with the transversal wall of the nave. An open porch supported on 10 columns with carved pedestals and capitals precedes the narthex (it is lower than the church nave). On the outside, the porch is lower than the church. Inside the church there are the tombs of Constantin Brancoveanu (now empty), the High Steward Parvu Cantacuzino, first dignitary, lady Anca Brancoveanu, the archimandrite Ioan, the first prior, Maria Bengescu and Ioan Maldarescu.
    A canopied little porch covering the steps is centered on the Western façade. On the outside, the façade is divided into two equal surfaces through a medium belt (a torus decorated with stucco floral motifs, flanked by two rows of serrated brick), the two levels are decorated with square panels on the lower level and they finish in a circular arc on the higher level. The panels on the higher level have stucco rosettes in their centre, like the church of Curtea de Arges. The borders are made of stone in the Gothic-Moldavian style. The porch and the canopy are painted on the outside, as the two belfries had been painted according to a fashion of the 19th century. The entrance door is flanked by a carved marble portal, and the inscription lies above the accolade-shaped arch flanked by the coat of arms of Wallachia and the Cantacuzino family. A remarkable novelty at Hurezi is associated to the portraits on the porch that represent a first appearance of the main actors – depicted on the Eastern wall of the porch, to the left of the entrance – those who achieved and supervised the smooth running of the construction under the artistic patronage of the ruler. The gallery of faces in the narthex, where the tomb of the founder should have been, is also remarkable. The votive painting is a genuine genealogic painting: the ruler's family, flanked by its maternal direct ancestors (The Cantacuzino relatives) and paternal direct ancestors (royal ancestors of the Brancoveanu family from David Postelnicul), the rulers of the Basarab family, represents a unique proof of the medieval authenticity, continuity and tradition. The mural and iconographic painting of a high-quality paleological style introduces new themes, among which moralizing and escatologic nature. The scene of the Last Judgement shall always be present on the porch walls all through 18th and 19th centuries. The team of painters: the court painter Constantinos, Ioan, Andrei, Stan, Neagoe and Ioachim (the first two were Greek) – is a group of artists who also decorated other places of worship in Oltenia throughout two decades (Polovragi, Cozia, Surpatele, Bistrita, Saracinesti). The chapel "The Birth of Virgin Mary"(1697, painted in 1703), is an important element, a reference and a place of interest for the visitor, as compared to the big church. It stands in the middle of the Western side of the premises, on a level above the upper storey of the cells, towering over the other buildings both from the patio and the outside. The frames of the windows (and those of the window borders and the door of the refectory) as well as the columns of the watch tower are made of stone. It is a small building with an altar and a nave overlooking the outside of the premises, towards the valley Romanilor. The watch tower uses the chapel as a porch. The portraits of the founders depict the ruler Brancoveanu with two boys and queen Mary with two girls. The Court Palace (1692-1697), that later became a guest house, and presently it acts as a museum, is an imposing building which through its sizes and composition justifies the initial destination of Hurezi court monastery, destined to be a family necropolis as a continuation of the one in Brancoveni and a Court headquarters at the same time. The Court House whose upper level hosted "Spataria" and the Ruler's quarters is a large building whose length surpasses that of the big church. It has two levels with a floor which can be accessed through two watch towers and the floor provides living accommodations. The refectory was refurbished and painted between 1705 and 1706. The position of this refectory in front of the big church is similar to those of the Athos Mountain (the first Hurezi monastery was not a nun convent). From the point of view of the volume and composition, the refectory and the chapel make up a unique building, that plays an important role in the composition of the whole. The gate tower / belfry (1699 – 1700) is located on the Southern side, between the princely house and priory above the entrance passageway. Square-shaped, with inside stairs that go up to the bell chamber (under which there is a vaulted secret chamber), the tower introduces a second compositional axle that is opposed to the volume chapel – refectory.
    The cells / the first premises (1692 – 1697) that overlook the patio through an open gallery, supported on poles, are disposed perimetrically, looking out towards the inside of the patio: on the Northern side, the Western side (flanking the refectory and the chapel), on the Southern side (flanking the belfry and the princely house). The Northern side is exclusively taken up by cells. The Queen's quarters used to lie at the Eastern end of the cells (the North-Eastern corner), in front of the King's quarters (the South-Eastern corner). On the Western side, the building made up of a ground floor and upper floor is also made up of cells in the middle of which lies the chapel. On the Southern side, in the middle between the guest house and cells, stands the belfry, that comprises a ground floor (the entrance passage way), a secret floor and the last floor with the bell chamber – the belfry proper. The kitchen and the bakery, whose compositions are identical, lie in the North-Western and respectively the South-Western corners of the premises. The Dionisie's watch tower, built in 1753 by the archimandrite Dionisie II Balacescu, that lay in the South-Western corner of the premises and was lavishly decorated, serves the priory and the guest house. The watch tower is a unique piece of architecture; conceived volumetrically and sculpturally in the Baroque style, it became thus a model that illustrates the post-Brancovan art and architecture. The defence walls (1692 – 1697) had guard roads and ramparts. The fountain built between 1692 and 1697 is attached to the Eastern wall of the main premises, with a spherical cap supported on stone poles and entirely covered in painting.
    The second premises are built during the same construction phase as the first premises (1692 – 1697) and they circumscribe on the three sides the main premises of the monasteries, as well as the buildings of the infirmary, in which the access road passes under a small belfry. Further down towards the village, there is a third gate that provides access to the main premises of the monastery. Outside the main premises towards the South, East and West, there are another premises, exterior ones (due also to the period of Constantin Brancoveanu ). Here, there are more recent buildings: the baptistery fountain (1838), the shed, the new guest house destined for hosting pilgrims. Outside the main premises and as a prolongation of the Southern side of the premises, there is a building with storeys - an extension of the 19th century (the Grigore Brancoveanu period), to which a big loggia overlooking the valley was added in the 20th century.

  • Bibliography:

    1. Ș. Balș, Mănăstirea Hurezi. Descoperiri făcute cu prilejul restaurării, (Hurezi Monastery. Discoveries made during its restauration) DMI, București, 1963, p.7.
    2. V. Brătulescu, Zugravul Constantinos, Mitropolia Olteniei, 1961, nr.10-12, p.688-698.
    3. Vasile Drăguţ, Arta brâncovenească (Brancovan art), The Meridiane Publishing House, Bucharest, 1971.
    4. Idem, Cultura română în civilizaţia europeană modernă (the Romanian culture in the modern European civilization), the Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1978.
    5. Idem, Imagine plastică şi imagine literară, în Noi cercetări în domeniul istoriei artei româneşti, (Plastic and literary image , in New research in the field of the history of Romanian art), Academia de Ştiinţe Sociale şi Politice (The Academy of Social and Political Sciences, Bucharest), 1983.
    6. Alexandru Duţu, Coordonate ale culturii româneşti în secolul al XVIII-lea (Coordinates of Romanian culture in the 18th century), the Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1968.
    7. Î.P.S. Gherasim "Istoria Eparhiei Râmnicului" (The History of the Bishopric of Ramnic), Conphys Publishing House, Râmnicu Vâlcea, 2009
    8. N. Ghika-Budeşti, Evoluția arhitecturii în Muntenia și în Oltenia (The evolution of architecture in Wallachia and Oltenia),, BCMI, IV, 1936, p.81-84.
    9. Nicolae Iorga, Inscripții din bisericile României(Inscriptions in the Romanian churches), Bucharest 1908, vol.I, p.183-193.
    10. Ruxandra Nemțeanu, Raport bianual de monitorizare a Mănăstirii Hurezi, obiectiv înscris în lista Patrimoniului Mondial (Biannual monitoring report of the Hurezi Monastery, an objective recorded in the List of the World Heritage)., BCMI, XVIII, No.1-2, 2008, p.139-143.
    11. Ruxandra Nemțeanu, Tereza Sinigalia, Le Monoastere de Hurezi/Hurezi Monastery, în Patrimoine Mondial/World Heritage(the Hurezi Monastery in the World Heritage), MCC, INMI, Bucharesti, 2007, p.83-119.
    12. Corina Popa, Un cărturar din Câmpulung de la sfârșitul secolului al XVII-lea(A scholar from Campulung at the end of the 17th century), in Ars Transilvaniae, Academiei Publishing House, p. 13-16, 1991.
    13. Corina Popa, „Propositons methodologiques dans l'etude de la peinture murale: la chapelle de monastere de Hurezi"(Methodological proposals in the study of mural painting: the chapel of the Hurezi monastery) în RESEE", Bucharest, Academiei Publishing House. Vol. XVI, 1978, p. 711-727.
    14. Corina Popa, Ioana Iancovescu, Mănăstirea Hurezi (The Hurezi Monastery), Simetria Publishing House 2009.
    15. Corina Popa, Le monastére de Hurezi, în Denkmäler in Rumänien/Monuments en Roumanie (The Hurezi Monastery, in Romanian Monuments), 2010.
    16. Corina Popa, Monumente medievale din Oltenia (Medieval monuments of Oltenia), ACS, Publishing House, Bucharest, 2011, p.123-144.
    17. Andrei Paleolog, Pictura exterioară din Ţara Românească (secolele XVIII-XIX) (Exterior painting in Wallachia – 18th – 19th century) Meridiane Publishing House, Bucharest, 1984.
    18. Aurelian Sacerdoțeanu, 250 de ani de la moartea voievodului Constantin Brâncoveanu. Constantin Brâncoveanu și ctitoriile sale în Oltenia, Mitropolia Olteniei,(the 250th anniversary of the death of the ruler Constantin Brancoveanu and the buildings founded by him in Oltenia. The Metropolitan Church of Oltenia) 1964, nr. 9, p.713-720, nr.10,721-724.
    19. Tereza Sinigalia, Arhitectura civilă de zid în Ţara Românească. Secolele XIV-XVIII (The wall civil architecture in Wallachia, Bucharest, Vremea Publishing House, 2000.
    20. Idem, Dicţionar de artă (Dictionary of art,, Bucharest, Meridiane Publishing House, vol. I, 1995, vol. II, 1998.
    21. N. Stoicescu, Bibliografia localităților și a monumentelor feudale din România, I-Țara Românească,(The bibliography of the feudal monuments and places of Romania / - Wallachia ) vol.1: A-L, indices, the Mitropolia Olteniei Publishing House, Craiova, 1970, p.369-373.
    22. D. Ştefănescu La peinture religieuse en Valachie et en Transylvanie depuis les origines jusqu'au XIX-e siecle,(Religious painting in Wallachia and Transylvania after the origins until the 19th century) Paris 1932.
    23. Theodora Voinescu, Pârvu Mutu Zugravu,Meridiane Publishing House, Bucharest, 1968.

Institutul Național al Patrimoniului         Administrația Fondului Cultural Național

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