Monastery of Horezu
Monastery Of Horezu
Cultural Romania Europe And North America Vâlcea County, Region Of Wallachia

The Monastery of Horezu represents an important centre for the diffusion of culture. The Horezu School of painting was pre-eminent throughout the region in the 18th century

Wallachia was a Romanian principality that was recognized as an independent state in the 14th century. It was never part of the Ottoman Empire and so it was able to undergo a post- Byzantine cultural evolution that distinguishes it from the artistic Balkan family to which it belongs. The only artistic centre in this region in the 17th century was Mount Athos (Greece), which prospered as a result of the patronage of sovereigns and nobility in the Romanian principalities and Russia. The Athonite tradition was fostered in Wallachia by its rich and cultured Cantacuzene rulers and gave rise to the flowering of Wallachian art.

The Monastery of Horezu was founded in 1690 and richly endowed by the Cantacuzene Prince Constantin Brancovan. He and his family were responsible for the creation of many monastic ensembles and churches in Wallachia, paintings, richly adorned with wall sumptuous iconostases, and other decorations. This artistic effort was followed by many other noblemen and church dignitaries, giving rise to the remarkable artistic flowering known as Brancovan art.

The catholicon of the monastery, situated in a picturesque landscape of wooded hills and dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helena, was built in 1690-92 and the interior decoration was completed two years later, the work of the Greek artist Constantinos, who founded the celebrated school of mural and icon painters of Horezu. It is laid out according to the precepts of the Athonite Order around the catholicon, which is enclosed by a wall and surrounded by a series of skites. The overall layout is symmetrical on an east-west axis, the skites forming a cruciform plan. The catholicon is three-aisled with a very large narthex, following the pattern laid down by the church of the Monastery of Arges (1512-17). Inside the narthex, the lower tier of the walls is entirely filled with votive pictures of Constantin Brancovan, his wife, and their 11 children. The east wall of the exonarthex is entirely occupied by a large Last Judgement. The carved wooden iconostasis is of exceptionally high quality. The paraklesion over the refectory is rectangular in plan and surmounted by a turret over the naos, with an open exonarthex. Its mural paintings and iconostasis are original. The Monastery suffered badly in the Turko-Austrian and Turko-Russian wars of 1716-18 and 1787-89 respectively, all the buildings lying outside the enclosure being destroyed.

Other buildings constructed at the same period included the prince's residence, on the south side of the enceinte, ranges of two-storey monks' cells, kitchens, and other monastic offices. It is a two-storey rectangular building with important architectural features. The entrance was originally in the centre of the western wall of the enclosure, where the paraklesion was located, but this was shortly afterwards converted to a refectory, access being provided beneath the bell tower on the south wall.

The church of Bolnica, which is a subgroup of the main monastery, was founded by Princess Maria, wife of Constantin Brancovan. It has an unusual mural in its exonarthex, on the subject of the life of the good monk.

The Church of the Holy Angels at the former skite of Tigania was founded by the Horezu community in the first decade of the 18th century.

Other contemporary foundations by members of the princely family include the skites of the Holy Apostles and St Stephen and the foisor of Dionysus Balaceşcu. These contain contemporary votive paintings and other liturgical elements of high quality.