Calimanesti – Caciulata: Cozia Monastery (Manastirea Cozia)

Călimănești – Căciulata
    Călimănești - Căciulata
    Wallachia Monasteries


Cozia Monastery 1|
Cozia Monastery 2|

Cozia Monastery founded by Mircea the Old, the king of Wallachia, and sanctified on May 18, 1388, and housing the tomb of Mircea the Old, is one of the most valuable monuments of national medieval art and architecture in Romania. The appearance of the compound was modified under Neagoe Basarab (1517), Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brancoveanu (1707), who added a veranda, a new fountain, a chapel and a watch tower, adding to its architecture the “brancovenesc style”. The wall facets’ decorations with stone rosettes, horizontal Byzantine-style rows of brick and stone and vertical frames are unprecedented in Wallachian architecture. These kings, in memory of their glorious forefather, built within the precincts of the monastery the two fountains, the roomy “princely abodes”, the four belvederes and “the old kitchen” with its annexes in the style created by Constantin Brâncoveanu.
Of great value is the hospital church, ‘bolnița’ (1543), with original well-preserved indoor frescoes like the votive portrait of ruler Mircea the Old and his sons. Cozia was painted between 1390 and 1391. Some of the original frescoes (1390) are still well preserved. Cozia features a museum of exhibiting old art: old manuscripts and prints, embroideries and objects of worship.

Bathing its historical walls in “waves upon waves of billowing crests”, there where the Olt river gathers its waters after they have broken through the steep rocks – of the pass in the mountain which gave its name to the monastery, Cozia (like its sister Tismana, farther off, and like the neighboring monasteries of Turnu and Stânişoara), is set in one of the most picturesque of the many Carpathian landscapes which are the pride of Oltenia region, this immense repository of such monuments. This natural setting is associated with an original architectural and decorative diversity, with one of the richest collection of old art and scholarly books, and, at the same time, with the indefatigable achievements of great cultural and national scopes carried out on both sides of the Carpathians for over five centuries; all harmoniously embedded in the unique magnificence of these legendary sites…

The foundation of Mircea the Old was built between 1386 and 1388 in a region which, at that time, was difficult to reach, but where walnut trees easily grew; the name of the place itself derives from the Petcheneg – Cumanian term “coz” = walnut, which became Cozia = nut grove. Mircea the Old built this sanctuary in this secluded spot non only for the beauty itself of its surroundings, but certainly also for military and strategic reasons, as the monastery was, at the beginning, fortified like a stronghold. Initially, it was known under the name of Nucet Monastery, because it was built in an area proper for walnut trees to grow. The name of “Cozia” was given to it later, after the name of the mountain in its vicinity. In the decision to choose this place, he may well have been prompted by the scholar monk Nicodim from Tismana who, even before this sainted dwelling, that jutted above a waterfall at the foot of the Stârmina had created Vodiţa and – on the Transylvanian side of the Carpathians – the monastery of Prislop. The same Nicodim was confessor to Mircea the Old ever since the latter was young and (according to certain documents) he was “Mircea’s counselor in matters of religion”, the proof of this being his very image painted in the narthex of Cozia, as well as the fact that the monastery’s first superior was one of his apprentices.

The first documents which attest the foundation of Mircea the Old date from 1388: “so was it my will in the name of the sainted and redeeming Trinity and I alone have built the monastery in the place called Nucet…” And his portrait, on the panel reserved for the Founder, can be seen in all its majesty on the wall at the right of the narthex of the big church, clothed in mediaeval costume, holding the miniature of the monastery in his hand and, standing beside him, his son whom he later associated to the throne. This portrait is painted also on other votive panels in the precincts of the monastery: in the northern chapel and in the monastery’s hospice (“Bolniţa”).

Mircea died on January 31, 1418, at the princely residence of Curtea de Argeş, and he was brought to Cozia and buried in a sarcophagus resembling those which were, at the time, highly favored in the Occidental countries, and ornamented gravestone was set upon the tomb: this gravestone was impaired during the 1916-1918 foreign occupation and – through the care of the diocese of Râmnic – it was replaced in 1938 with a new tombstone upon which the following inscription was engraved: “Here lies Mircea, prince of Wallachia, passed away in the year 1418”. Next to the tomb of the great Voievode, there is another tomb: that of the mother of Michael the Brave, who took the veil in 1601 at Cozia under the name of nun Teofana. She died in 1605 and over her grave, a tombstone was set which can be seen to this day and which bears the following inscription: “Here rests the nun Teofana, mother of the deceased Mihai Voievode, whose daughter princess Florica and his son Nicolae Voievode took it to heart and had (her name) engraved under the reign of Radu Voievode 7114”…

Cozia was in time embellished and extended by the new founders, whose portraits are painted on the monastery walls, other repairs have been made in the following centuries or in the first decades of the 20th century under the patronage of the Board of Historical Monuments. However, the buildings were seriously damaged and some were even destroyed because of the fights on the valley of the Olt during the First World War and the foreign occupation, which followed. Cozia has nevertheless regained its former aspect, but only in the years of the popular power did it acquire its seven windows, each adorned with different sculptural and floral compositions which belong to the time of Mircea the Old. The rosettes which are on the upper parts of the building are equally artistically worked out. With ornaments of thin bricks which surround them in a harmonious plastic design. The style of the building, soaring high through its monumental tower, impresses the visitors as well as the specialists as being an alliance between lines and Chapel on the southern side of the precincts forms which belong to the Serbian architecture of that time and Byzantine and local elements, a combination which marked the transition towards a peculiar formula of church architecture: a future autochthonous style, the prototype of which is Cozia.

At the beginning the big church – the most important of all the monuments in Mircea’s foundation – was set in the middle of a quadrangle and it was sure visitor from the very entrance into the monastery, the interior of the princely church, as all great monuments of that time, is divided into three parts: narthex, nave and sanctuary. In 1707, the open portico was added to the front, the entire painting from the narthex has conserved the original 14th century character. The great hermits of Christianity, with their deeply furrowed ascetic features, are painted on the lowest register, higher up are the seven ecumenical synods and – on the wall between narthex and nave – a series if images representing the synaxary (calendar) and the Acathist Hymn of the Virgin. The altar screen with its sacred images completes this precious ensemble of icons and sculptured wood, dominated by the large chandeliers and endowed with remarkable sacred objects. On the outside, the church is built out of massive scone blocks, alternating with apparent bricks, the decorative effect is enhanced by the framing of the actual character of great historical monument, when, in the spirit of the previsions of the new socialist legislation which implies the reassertion of the past and the turning to account of its vestiges, the monastery has been wholly restored, the conditions themselves of monastic life have been modernized and at the same time on scientifically bases and provided with the proper equipment, collections have been set up for the benefit on the visitors, who are thus able to acquire a concrete image where the past and present history of Cozia are joined.

This “Collection of ancient religious object” is displayed in the “Museum”, a succession of six rooms where we can admire: original documents, precious icons from the last two centuries (painted on wood and glass or mounted in silver), sacred objects skillfully worked out, printings which came out of the

Romanian or foreign presses, manuscripts written in Cyrillic, Slavonic and Greek characters, gospels bound in precious metal and inlaid with precious stones (among them, the versified Psalter of Dosoftei), fragments of 14th century pieces, as well as some parts of the tombstone of Mircea the Old, documents from the time of the monastery’s great founder, foundation and donation charts, etc…

On the eastern side of the buildings, where we find the six rooms housing the “Collection”, a long gallery supported by columns in the Brâncoveanu style, between which boxes of flowers set a note of gaiety which we find all over the precincts – leads to the two large Monastery’s chapels: one of them is in the south-eastern angle and its walls descend to the edge of the Olt waters; it was built in 1583 under the reign of Mihnea II, as a princely oratory where mass is still served today. The patron saint’s icon dates from the 16th century, and some of the paintings were made in the 19th century, by “Voicu, painter from Piteşti”. The second chapel, preceded by a staircase with a monumental portico, was built on the north-eastern angle of the precincts and contains two vaulted rooms; it was built in 1710 by the confessor of Constantin Brâncoveanu. Inside, next to the portrait of the learned prince, we see the votive portrait of Mircea the Old and some other pictures of the XVIIIth century.

In the Great Church, namely in the nave, that has “The Holy Trinity” as its celebration day one can see the original paintings. There, on the Western wall, there are paintings that present Mircea and his son Mihail wearing knight outfits and on the left, one can see the portrait of Serban Cantacuzino. There are barely any genuine traces from Mircea the Old time left at Cozia Monastery. The only items left from the time of the ruler – two bells – were taken one to the Bishopric of Ramnic and the other to the Bishopric of Arges. Mirceal the Old epitaph was taken as well to the Art Museum in Bucharest and only a small piece of the ruler’s tomb remained at the Cozia Monastery. Furthermore, the cross pattern that even today stands on the monastery tower dates from Mircea the Ancient’s time.

The monastery has two chapels, one of them dating from 1583 and having “The Assumption of the Virgin” as the celebration day and the other one, which is situated in the North-Western side and built of bricks. The latter includes two vaulted houses and a tower that date from 1710-1711. The infirmary is situated on the other side of the road, with “The Holy Apostles” as its celebration day. It was built in 1542 – 1543 during Petru Voievod’s reign. On the Eastern side of this building is there a museum where coins, old printings, cult items and ornaments are exposed.

The old Cozia (“the stony hermitage-this is the name the ruins of a former church, whose walls could be seen until 1986 on the valley of the river Olt) is situated 1 km away from the monastery, having “John, the Baptist” as its celebration day. It is believed that it would be Radu’s (Mircea’s father) foundation, built at the end of the 13th century and at the beginning of the 14th century.

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