Curtea de Argeş Monastery is one of the most famous architectural monuments in Wallachia. Erected by Prince Neagoe Basarab between 1514 and 1517, it is Romania’s most valuable church art and architecture building.
According to some sources, the monastery was built on the foundation of an older sanctuary dating from the 14th century, the first Mitropoly of Wallachia. The initial painting was finished in 1526, during the reign of Radu from Afumați (Radu de la Afumați), Neagoe’s son-in-law. Fragments of this painting are kept at the National Art Museum in Bucharest. In time, the monastery became famous even across the country’s boundaries. It hosted many foreign travellers who remained impressed by its beauty. Paul of Aleppo, the well known 17th century Syrian chronicler who visited Curtea de Argeş in 1654, considered Neagoe’s monastery as “one of the world’s wonders”. In 1793, Curtea de Argeş Monastery became the residence of the Argeş Episcopacy and was transformed into an Episcopal church. After a fire affected it in the second half of the 19th century, the church was partially restored by the French architect André Lecomte du Noüy, who also worked at the Peleș Castle in Sinaia, the Church of the Three Hierarchs in Iași and St Dumitru Church in Craiova.
From an architectural perspective, Curtea de Argeş Monastery is what some might call a jewel. Built in Byzantine style, its facades are embossed with Caucasian and Islamic motifs, mostly elements coming from the Armenian, Persan, Arab and Georgian art. The interior is richly decorated with oil paintings, votive paintings of Wallachian princes, mosaic icons and an exceptional sculptural accomplishment: a group of 12 columns, keeping the original floral ornaments, representing the Twelve Apostles. Since 1914, the monastery is also a royal necropolis, here being buried the kings and queens of Romania: Carol I and Elisabeta, Ferdinand and Maria, as well as Carol II (but not Queen Elena, who is buried in Lausanne, Switzerland).
Apart from the monastery itself, you can also visit the collection of church art objects, as well as Manole Well („Fântâna lui Manole”), found in the vicinity of the monastery. There are several legends related to the master builder Manole. One of them refers to the master walling up his wife, Ana, in order to ensure the monastery’s resistance. When seeing such a grandiose church, the Prince who ordered its construction feared that the masters will build another, more beautiful than his. While the masters were on the church’s roof, he took the stair, leaving them no means to get down. Similar to Icarus, Manole made himself a pair of shingle wings and tried to fly. In the place he crashed it suddenly appeared a spring, now known as Manole Well.
Curtea de Argeş Monastery represents the culmination of a flourishing époque in what regards arts and architecture. Its beauty and natural charm, as well as its historical and religious value bring the monastery more than 100,000 tourists and pilgrims every year.
Summer: 8:00 – 20:00
Winter: 8:00 – 17:00
How to get there:
Curtea de Argeş is situated 160km north-west of Bucharest.
By car: From Bucharest, take A1 motorway to Pitești. Exit the motorway, then take DN7C national road (Transfăgărășan) to Curtea de Argeş.
By bus: There are regular bus and maxitaxi rides from Bucharest, Militari Bus Station, to Curtea de Argeş, with 7 daily departures (some of them don’t work on Thursdays). Approximate travel time is 2.5h and a one-way ticket costs around 30lei.
By train: From Bucharest North Railway Station (Gara de Nord), there are two trains to Curtea de Argeş, with departure at 7:20 and 13:20. Approximate travel time is 2.5h.