Tag Archives: Romania

Come and Worship With Us

Fresco from Romania

Fresco from Romania

As we worship this weekend at Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Norfolk, Virginia, Princess Ann Road at Upper Stockley Gardens) may we offer our prayers for the people of France, wounded in mind, body, and spirit by the terrible attack of Friday, November 13 in Paris.

The Vatican has said,  “At the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way, together with the pope and all those who love peace. We pray for the victims and the wounded, and for all the French people. This is an attack on the peace of all mankind which requires a decisive and supportive response by all of us to counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all of its forms.”

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Brasov: A City of Transition

Brasov is another important Saxon town with a rich heritage. This is the town hall where the city leadership in the mid 16th century joined the Protestant movement so the town became Lutheran.

Saint Nicholas housed the first Romanian school.

Gazing Heavenward

The local Orthodox priest gave me a tour of the first classroom and with a smile on his face pointed out the computer, the abacus and the iPad, the small chalk board, and the pedagogical method, the big stick!

There is an extensive collection of books and this is a translation of Saint Ephrem from Syriac into Old Church Slavonic. Of course it attracted my attention.

A beautiful cover for the Book of the Gospels

 

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At a time when they had no wood, they wrote icons on glass.

Father was very proud to demonstrate the printing press and the impact it had on the dissemination of Romanian language and literature.

Rom21-025805Father pointed out the remains of exterior frescoes that once covered the church. However when the town embraced the Protestant movement, the Lutherans, like the Muslims, whitewashed iconography thus destroying a precious aspect of Romanian heritage.

The walls are covered with fragments. As I walked around thinking of this destruction my thoughts turned to an article in the British paper, the Telegraph which stated that Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII embraced the Protestant movement and in his fanaticism destroyed what is estimated to be 97% of English art. This thug hacked statues, smashed frescoes, pulverized mosaics, shredded manuscripts and burned carvings. The Telegraph pointed out that his obliteration of a religious heritage has strong parallels to what we are witnessing in the middle east today. There are a lot of thugs in history whose fanaticism destroys what is so precious:  art inspired by religious faith. Gazing on the fragments I was heartbroken over the destruction, then as well as now, of the cultural patrimony of our humanity.

Yet what remains witnesses that history proves where wisdom lies.

This is an example of one of the wall paintings been revealed centuries after the Lutherans white washed them.

The Romanian school

Saint Catherine Gate

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This church that was dedicated to the Virgin Mary is called the Black Church because of a fire.

In the mid 16th century it became Lutheran and as the signage points out the Catholic elements such as the high altar were destroyed so little remains except a beautiful Gothic structure that soars to heaven.

The apse

A wonderful panorama of the town square recently restored.

Traveling in Romania

  

On this journey I have travelled many miles, in fact, almost 2000 kilometers, to see many beautiful monasteries and castles. The journey in the country has afforded the opportunity to stay in small hotels that have charm. For example, Bella Musica.

 The service is wonderful and the staff is so eager to make you feel welcomed and the food is unbelievably great.

The breakfast room

The hotel in Sighisoare which is housed in a 16th century building

The rooms are small however they are charming.

The dining room

The dining room

    

Not only have I experienced great food and hospitality but also I have been able to be hosted in private homes. This has been such a treat for me.

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Arriving in Sibiu

This is the Catholic cathedral in Cluj which is from 14th century with subsequent additions.

It is dedicated to Saint Michael.

Gazing heavenward

 

Pulpit in the Catholic cathedral in Cluj

Pulpit in the Catholic cathedral in Cluj

The Orthodox cathedral in Cluj

The Orthodox cathedral in Cluj

The bell tower of the city.

 

The Jesuit church which today is the Holy Trinity Catholic Cathedral where I will attend Sunday Mass.

 

Late Saturday evening we arrived at Sibiu which is a city whose architecture was heavily influenced by the Germans as well as the Austrians when this part of Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The central square has recently been restored.

Resistance and Witness

    
We went to a museum that housed a memorial to those who resisted the terror of Communism and suffered and were tortured. My guide who grew up under the terror gave me such insight into the terror. We often think of the Nazism terror and forget the terror of Communism under such people as Stalin.

The walls were covered with pictures of victims of the terror and I noticed how many priests and bishops and religious were on the wall with those who witnessed to freedom. Our presentation in the USA often underestimates how the Church resisted both Nazism and Communism. I did not realize the extent of the resistance until I have visited these museums and seen memorials in churches. Maybe because they are understated and hidden but then perhaps that is the greatest witness.

Rom-101629The experience of such terror made me think about the 20th century that has been the bloodiest century that humanity has known and the most irreligious as well. It is hard to comprehend that the Communist butcher Stalin butchered over 20 million alone.

Then from 1939 to 1945 in WWII 50 million lives were lost, so many by the cruelty of the Nazis who imprisoned and murdered perhaps 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews. And, as Pope Francis recently referred to, the Armenian genocide.

Millions more in the Chinese civil war then add 90,000 American lives the Korean and Vietnam wars claimed, the millions that Pol Pot claimed and the millions in Nigeria and the Communist Derg in Ethiopia, and add the poison gas in WWI and the saturation bombing of WWII and such firestorms as Dresden, all this came to mind as I walked through a powerful museum memorial to those who suffered under Communism. Just a quick calculation is sobering in that the 20th century was the most barbaric and most irreligious century the world has experienced and our cultural elites insist religion is the main source of violence.

That is absolutely a thought driven by ideology and not reality.

I pondered so much that day. My guide said the Communists practiced what they called deportation. If you had a home they would evict you, take you to the middle of nowhere in burning heat and say good luck.  The inhumanity of it all, by a system that hated religion and did all it could to stamp it out.

As I looked at the pictures of all those clergy and Christians who resisted (for example, Father George Calciu) I stepped back for a moment and said a prayer through the intercession of Saint Vladimir . We saw a huge picture of him and my guide remarked that he admired him. I admire him as well and did not even know he existed until about a week ago.

Church of Bogdan Voda

The Bogdan Voda Wooden Church. In the Iza Valley, this is the most renowned church.

Rom-073052The church is one of the oldest in the region and it was built on a stone church from 1330. Lord Bogdan who was the founder of Moldavia built this church.

15th century. The interior painting on wood walls is original.

The wooden chandelier dates from the 18th century.

The paintings on the wall date from the late Baroque period and they exude so much life. The inscriptions are in Romanian but with Cyrillic letters.

The Virgin Mary.

Since the revolution the people who still do not enjoy a high standard of living are sacrificing and new churches are being built everywhere and monasteries as well. I am amazed at the commitment of the Romanian people who are committed to building churches. It is awe-inspiring. This is an example of a new monastery for sisters which began less than 20 years ago.

The energy of the people who were oppressed under Communism for 50 years humbles me. If we had but a fraction of their commitment we could make a huge difference.

The iconographic themes are traditional but in a modern idiom.

Gazing heavenward.

The quality of the craftsmanship in wood is stunning.

My favorite icon is the Dormition of the Virgin.

Rom-083458This is a popular tradition saint from ancient times but dressed in traditional attire.

    We briefly stopped by a wood craftsman who was highlighted in the 1999 Smithsonian folklife festival in DC.  He is quite the craftsman and has a great sense of humor.

Painted Monasteries of Romania


Voronet Monastery


This is the synaxarion or the room where there is a fresco of every day of the liturgical calendar marking feasts and saints.


The Jesse tree, showing the geneaology of Jesus, on the south wall of Moldovita.

 

 


On the lower left hand corner is the siege of Constantinople. The Christians lived for centuries under the threat of Islamic domination. The fresco of the siege of the most beautiful Christian city in the world is well known.

 


Gazing heavenward

 


The offering of bread and salt which is the traditional sign of hospitality.

More about the painted monasteries: http://romaniatourism.com/painted-monasteries.html

Hidden Gems of Bucharest


This morning to continue celebrating Julian Easter I decided to enjoy another walk and listen for the sound of church chant that would lead me to prayer. The church reflected in the glass was consecrated on September 8, 1850 hence its name: The Birth of the Virgin Mary Church. The original structure from the 17th century was destroyed by an earthquake.


This is the interior of the church of the birth of Mary which is reflected in the glass of the building.

The chanting lead me back to the chapel that once was part of a medieval palace complex of Vlad Tepes who is often portrayed outside of Romania as Dracula. In Romania Vlad Tepes is a symbol of freedom in that despite his monaker the Impaler he defended Romania against the Islamic aggression of the Ottoman empire. The myth of Vlad Dracula and vampires has nothing to do with this man who led his people to resist aggression.

Buch-032155Here are the recently excavated ruins of his citadel that dates to mid 15th century.

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As I walked I became even more attentive to the beauty of some wonderful architecture which stands in such stark contrast to the Soviet style which is out of proportion and just plain ugly.


I continued my walk to Unirii Square which testifies to the Communist dictator Ceaușescu’s plan for urban development. He destroyed much of old Bucharest in the process. I became intent on discovering a few churches that survived the demolition. This church survived and is hidden behind huge apartment complexes.

My next quest was to find vestiges of the old Jewish community in Bucharest which prior to the second world was thriving and strong in the city.

A Jewish synagogue, hidden, like the churches, by Ceaușescu block apartments.

     

Buch-042348And I found another church unexpectedly hidden by Communist block apartments. Saint Nicholas Church: what a find!

This is the Parliament which is another Ceausescu creation that amount to a multi million project undertaken in 1984.

Once again, the beautiful walled Saint Antim monastery of 1715 is hidden by Communist block housing.

This is a hidden work of beauty.
Buch-050305Stunningly beautiful



In the evening I attended an evening piano recital at the Athenaeum given by Vassilis Varvaresos.

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Revolution Square; and a Romanian Saint


When my flight was preparing for landing in Bucharest, my thoughts turned to the revolution of December 1989 which overthrew the Ceaușescu regime. His final speech was given from this balcony. Although he escaped, we all witnessed his execution on the news.

 

On this same plaza is the Romanian Athenaeum which is the heart of Romania’s musical tradition. As I walked around today I can understand why Bucharest was named the “Paris of the East.” At first it is hard to recognize that because of a severe earthquake a few decades ago and the decades of neglect under Communism; however the restoration of some of the buildings creates in one’s mind the former late 19th century architectural splendor of the city.

Across Revolution Plaza stands the former royal palace from the early 19th century. From the photo you can see it sustained much damage during the 1989 Revolution.

In front of the building stands this memorial commemorating the Revolution.

 

 

In Saint Joseph Cathedral, as you leave the church, there are two mosaics: to the left, Divine Mercy; to the right, Blessed Ghika. He demonstrated true mercy through his witness to the truth of the gospel that liberated people from deception that degrades humanity.

Celebrating Julian Easter in Bucharest

At the noon Angelus address today Our Holy Father extended his Easter greeting to those who follow the Julian calendar. So today was Easter Sunday morning for the Romanian orthodox. This made my morning walk in the narrow cobbled stone streets of the old city where tiny churches are tucked away very easy. Mass is broadcast into the streets so you follow the chant and find these exquisite jewels.

    
Kretzulescu Church

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Stavropoleos church. I could not get in; however it is beautiful.

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Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church, shown above, and here, reflected in modern glass.

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Annunciation church, from the mid-16th century is one of the oldest in Bucharest. The church was part of the palace complex.

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Saints Emperors Constantine and Helen Patriarchal Cathedral, the Orthodox basilica in Bucharest.

Gazing Heavenward.