Monastery of Horezu
The Monastery of Horezu is considered the masterpiece of the Brancovan style that influenced art across the region in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The monastery was founded in 1690 by Prince Constantin Brancovan, who let it be adorned with wall paintings and other rich decorations. The Brancovan style that developed under these circumstances is a synthesis of Byzantine and Northern Italian Renaissance architecture.
Community Perspective: it nowadays is in use as a nunnery, but can be visited freely. Behind the main church, through the gate and up the hill, there's another small chapel covered in paintings that should not be missed.
Map of Monastery of HorezuLoad map
I visited this WHS in 2023 as a half day trip together with the 2 nearby culas (tWHS). Knowing that the site was free of charge, I obeyed the sign stating that no authorised vehicles should enter beyond the sign, meaning an extra kilometre or so of walking from the main gate to the walls surrounding the monastery. On my way back, being the only tourist around, I noticed that practically all the locals disregarded this sign and parked just before the gate giving direct access to the monastery.
The monastery is still an active one, and apart from the usual daily activities done by the nuns, such as praying, washing clothes, gardening, cleaning, etc, I also witnessed them milking the few cows grazing around the monastery perimeter as well as the selling (and subsequent slaughtering) of a lamb for the nun's next dinner or lunch. During lunch time, most nuns seemed very busy so I could walk around freely both next to the church facade and inside the church proper to take photos without flash, even though strictly speaking this is not allowed.
The Horezu or Hurezi Monastery was founded in 1690 by Prince Constantin Brancoveanu in the small town bearing its name in Wallachia, Romania. It is considered to be a masterpiece of the "Brancovenesc style", known for its architectural purity and balance, the richness of its sculpted detail, the way religious compositions are treated, its votive portraits, and its painted decorative works. Having visited several monasteries and churches around Romania, I must say that although I enjoyed the contrast between the serene environment and the simple white-washed exterior, to me the absolute highlight of the monastery were its paintings on the church's facade and its interior as well as on those of the small chapel next to the cemetery. A lot of the paintings have been restored to their former glory and this can be noticed on the larger cycles by comparing the brighter looking paintings with the duller ones. If you manage to visit other monasteries around Romania (and in the wider region) with less protection and international recognition, you'll notice that the use of candles is still common practice, which over time leads to most of the paintings turning black with soot.
The Horezu Monastery is home to collections of frescoes and icons from the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, when the Hurezi School of mural and icon painting settled inside the convent. The iconic paintings are still used to impress locals and whenever groups of elderly locals from all over Romania visit the monastery, one of the nuns tells them to gather in front of the facade and explains the literal and figurative meaning to them. The village itself is also known for its ceramics, also included on UNESCO’s intangible heritage list, a unique craftsmanship created by talented artisans in the local workshops nearby and still on display by some vendors where you're supposed to park your car.
The most impressive mural art of the church's facade is undoubtedly the one of the Last Judgement, with very visual and striking examples of damned souls tortured by demons in a whirlpool of flames being swallowed by a hellish creature, and groups of others with a better fate each with their own halo, collectively escorted towards heaven. Although this will be quite a recurring image, if you visit other monasteries and churches in Romania, the one in Horezu is supposedly one of the most elaborate and complete. Inside the church, my favourite fresco was that of Constantin Brancoveanu with his wife and children, in golden luxurious attire offering the Horezu Monastery Church, just opposite the lovely wooden iconostasis. Make sure to wander around the monastery courtyard and don't miss the small refectory or dining hall to get a glimpse of how heavenly dining there would seem, when every inch of the walls is covered with scores of saints.
Last but not least, before leaving the monastery and heading back to your car, make sure not to skip the small chapel next to the cemetery with possibly the best frescoes inside and out albeit on a smaller scale than that of the main church. Overall, I really like the Horezu monastery and it is on par with other monasteries in Romania, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Serbia. Just next to both gates giving access to the monastery grounds and the main courtyard, there is a UNESCO WHS inscription sign.
On my way from Transylvania to Bucharest, I visited the Monastery in Horezu. I had stayed over night in Targ Jiu and hopped a minibus direction Bucharest, getting off at Horezu. From the Horezu bus station, I walked uphill to the monastery.
It's now more than half a year that I visited. And frankly, nothing really stuck with me. I guess, you can see that it's a rather modern interpretation of an old pattern. It was built in the 17th century and clearly copies medieval Greek orthodox monasteries, e.g., Athos. It lacks a unique Romanian touch. Personally, I found the churches in Northern Romania significantly more impressive.
As mentioned in Els summary text, the inscribed property covers more than the main monastery. Due to bad planning/research I missed it. I saw a very nice picture from Samuel of (I think) Schitul Bolniţa. It's located to the right of the entry. There are also some buildings behind the monastery. It's not well signposted, as far as I could tell, so just snoop around.
There are direct buses from Targ Jiu via Horezu to Bucharest. The next larger town is Râmnicu Vâlcea and there are local buses making the connection between Horezu and Râmnicu Vâlcea. Note: The local buses are really slow and do a huge detour through the country side.
The Horezu bus station is a bit outside of the city center at DN65. Don't expect much at the bus station. Upside: It's closer to the monastery, so it saves you a few meters. From the bus station, it's a 45min walk uphill to get to the monastery. You can either follow the car road. Or a small trail where you get a great panorama of the monastery and the mountains (see my picture).
While You Are There
Coming with luggage and not being aware of it, I missed a coule (T): Cula Greceanu. Supposedly, this one is the nicest of the proposed properties and I only managed to get a glimpse from the bus window heading to Râmnicu Vâlcea. I felt reminded of the Kaiping Dialou in China.
Horezu was our first visit in Romania, and our first encounter with an Orthodox monastery since focusing full-time on World Heritage sites. It's quite an enjoyable site - the walls hiding a brightly-painted Katholikon surrounded by flowers. The portico and interior of the church are both covered with bright paintings done in the "Brâncovenesc style", considered to be the only original Romanian art form. Unfortunately we couldn't film inside, but managed to get some fantastic shots on the portico.
Make sure you head out behind the main church, through the gate and up the hill. Here there's another small chapel covered in paintings, and you can really see how much of the monastery's original outer wall has been destroyed.
Read more from Joel on the Road here.
I visited the Monastery of Horezu WHS at about 8.30 on a Wednesday morning in early January 2017 by a rental car.
Anybody was able to enter the monastery compound freely for free at that time.
There was some sort of service going on in the main church of the monastery, in which photo is not allowed even without flash.
I walked around the compound to find a small chapel (photo left) further up the hill.
The entrance had double doors, a grill door first and a wooden door second. The grill door was locked, so I could not enter. But the wooden door was open, so I could see what's inside through the grill door. There was no sign for no photo, so I was able to get a snap of the interior (photo right).
Read more from Tsunami here.
This monastery is attractively located in the hills 4km north of Horezu village. Els' pictures accurately depict the buildings and frescoes, but I liked the small chapel beside the cemetery.
I reached the site by taxi from the bus station in the village. Buses link the village with railway stations at Petrosani, Craiova and Ramnicu Valcea.
The Horezu Monastery is located about a 2-hour drive south of Sibiu, on the road to Targu Jiu. I hadn’t found much visitor information beforehand, so I just hoped it to be open on a Monday morning in late August. When I arrived there were only a couple of cars in the parking lot, and one single souvenir stall out of a row that was open. It’s not a site that appears to be visited by hordes of tourists, certainly not foreign ones.
You have to walk uphill to get to the monastery. The entrance is via a gate in the thick surrounding walls. You can just walk in, there’s no entrance fee and it does appear to be open every day (as it is an active nunnery). From the gate my attention was immediately drawn to the church in the center of the grounds: it is very white and a bit odd shaped (I had seen that already in pictures), and its front portal is completely covered by wall paintings. Clouds had been covering the sun for most of the morning, but fortunately, the sun came out now to brighten up my pictures of this very pretty site.
I slowly walked around in the enclosure, which isn't very large. Under the bell tower is a small refectory, almost like a cave. It holds a table and about 40 chairs, and its walls are completely covered in paintings. What a place to eat every day! The Last Supper is depicted here too.
Several black-clad nuns were ambling about, doing their daily business of which gardening seems to be an important part. The grounds are well kept and adorned with flowers and plants.
I ended my visit at the church, where I first sat down gazing at the frescoes at the entrance. The crowded scenery depicts mainly mythological scenes. The interior of the church consists of two parts: the first holds wall paintings of the monastery's patron, Prince Brancovan, and his family. At the end, there is a massive wooden altar.
In all, I spent about an hour at the monastery. It's located quite far from any other sights (although there are other monasteries in the area). So I just had lunch at Horezu Town, of pottery fame, and after that made my way back to Sibiu.
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Bureau - pending better protection. Mission to be sent to Romania to help
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