Agapia monastery

Ruined and again built, burned and remade again, Agapia on the Hill become a very charming hermitage. On the place of the church, built at the begining of the 17th century, hetman Gavril, the brother of Vasile Lupu (Moldavian ruler), and his wife, Liliana, raise at Agapia from the Valley, in 1642, the Agapia Monastery. At the beginning of the 17th century, the monks from Old Agapia moved their house down the valley of Agapia brook, where they also built a small wooden church (the church „Saint Ioan Bogoslovul” from today).

Agapia comprises two monasteries: the Agapia on the Hill or Old Agapia founded by Lady Elena, the wife of Petru Rares in 1527 and the more spectacular Agapia from the Valley or New Agapia build by Gavril Coci (brother of Vasile Lupu) between 1642-1647.

The church is dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and was blessed in 1647. Until the year 1803, the monastery was lived by monks. After the changing of Agapia monastery into a nuns’ monastery, at the half of the 19th century takes place the first integral restoration of the church, a period in which Nicolae Grigorescu performed the interior painting, including the icon screen (1858-1862). Grigorescu was Romania’s leading Impressionist, but his work dates from before this period and seems very conventional. It was also carried out in oils, which ar not nearly as durable as fresco. By mid-20th century they had deteriorated badly, but hey were restored in the late 1990s.

Within the confines of the Agapia Monastery walls live over 500 nuns who work in the fields, tend vegetable gardens and weave carpets and embroideries for tourists. At Agapia Monasteries there was a real copying school of the Romanian liturgical manuscripts. The Agapia Monastery is known thanks to its carpet and embroidery workshops. Exempt from the closures of the communist period, Agapia’s nuns wove carpets for the Ceausescu’ megadome in the centre of Bucharest. Today the textile workshops mainly produce carpets, wall hangings and rugs for religious purposes, but they do have commercial sales and visitors are welcome. The designs fall into two distinct types, the large, flourescent pink roses on a bleck background which are popular in churches across Romania, while the traditional ones have geometric designes in more muted, natural colours.

Agapia, attacked and robed many times, was renovated radically during 1858-1862. Is a period in which the great painter Nicolae Grigorescu makes here some of the masterpieces. The paintings of the great maestro, that had not suffered much in the fire from 1903, are an important treasure of the monastery. We present some of the icons from the iconostasis painted by N. Grigorescu: on the left is Our Lady and Jesus Christ and on the right Sts. Michael and Gabriel and St. John the Baptist.

The monastery has a museum with an important colection of objects having great historical and artistical value. There old icons from the16th – the 17th and 18th centuries or some fascinating fragments from the 17th century inconostasis signed by N. Grigorescu, textures and embroideries, crosses, other religious objects etc. There are also old manuscripts, carpets in Moldavian style made in the monastery workshops.

There are three other 19th century churches scattered around the covent. One of them is a timber bolnita, a hospial church. The wooden church from the cemetery contains a museum of old icons (from the 17 and 18 century) belonging to Nicolae Grigorescu. Here, many important people such as: Mihai Eminescu, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu and his daughter Iulia, Ion Luca Caragiale, Alexandru Vlahuta, George Cosbuc, Calistrat Hogas, Duiliu Zamfirescu etc. wrote outstanding pieces of literature. In the back of the monastery is the former house of Alexandru Vlahuta, today the “Al. Vlahuta” Memorial Museum.