A most spiritually intense summer so far! Full of such dramatic ups and downs! Personal tribulations and divine interventions, violent, ‘rough seas’ in the ‘world’ and hesychastic pilgrimages and retreats in monasteries!
This week I am entering the atmosphere of Romanian Orthodox Christianity and undertaking together with very special Romanian spiritual brothers and sisters a pilgrimage to various, notable monasteries to the south of Romania.
My first stop was the Monastery of Zamfira, famous for its ties with Greek Revolutionary history, and specifically Nicolae Mavrocordat, and for its amazing paintings by the skilful young Romanian painter Nicu Grigoresku.
This monastic complex is located in the Teleajen Valley, halfway between Ploiesti and Valenii de Munte. It has two churches (monuments of art), a collection of religious art and the cells of the nuns.
The first church (named The Big Church) is located the large yard of the convent. It was founded by Metropolite Nifon and was built between 1855 and 1857 with the aim of transferring the monks from the “Rosioara” hermitage of Filipestii de Padure. The artistic significance of this church is based on its painting, because it is the first church entirely painted by the great Romanian painter, Nicolae Grigorescu, at the age of 18.
This painting is considered to be unique since it the only one created in “fresco” by Grigorescu. The mural painting and the icons of the iconostasis were completed in an extremely short time, i. e., in less than 14 months.
This painting has undergone several restorations, the last and best one being done between 1986 and 1989 by the painter and restorer, Chiriac Ion. He carefully removed all the repainted portions, hence making the original painting visible once again. It is a remarkable restoration.
The collection of religious art containing objects dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries belonged to the two churches or to the various donors: icons on wood or glass, books of worship, invaluable objects of worship, carved pieces embroideries, etc.
Frescos of the great Romanian painter, Nicolae Grigorescu.
The chanting of the nuns was breathtaking, the kneeling during its long services surprisingly soothing, a balm to the wounded heart, and the Vespers and Matins services dedicated to the veneration of St. Paisios the Athonite, my patron Saint and spiritual grandfather, incredibly moving! What a surprise to find his Icon and seek his intercessions at the very heart of Romania! Even the strangeness of praying in a language you can barely follow was a special blessing, a long-sought-for emptying, a kenosis, allowing all this silence and deep peace of Christ ‘invade’ you!