The Romanian region of Moldavia distinguishes easily among the other tourist areas of the country due to its numerous old churches and monasteries. Bucovina is, undoubtedly, the most famous part of Moldavia but, Neamt is also a very special destination. With no good reason, Neamt is less visited but no less impressive.
From ancient times, this region was home to many monks that looked for solitude in the wilderness of the Carpathians. Slowly, they gathered in small communities and started to build tiny wooden hermitages inside the thick forests. In time, these modest places of worship grew into churches and monasteries which were often financially supported by the nobility. This was also the case of beautiful Agapia Monastery which is now home to more than 350 nuns.
The fresh air, the wonderful mountain landscapes and the serenity of Neamt made this region one of the most sought summer residences of the intellectual class, especially during XIX – XX centuries. While some owned houses and manors, others preferred to stay in the guest houses of the monasteries and Agapia Monastery. Poets and painters came here to rest and find inspiration, politicians found here a perfect place to clear their minds and the noble ladies loved spending summer here as the temperature was more bearable.
Agapia Monastery – unique paintings
Agapia Monastery became more famous after the church was painted on the inside by the young and yet, genius, Nicolae Grigorescu. The uniqueness of his paintings derives from the fact that he represented the Orthodox Saints in a very personal manner. Even if the rules of religious painting are quite strict in terms of colors, themes, and even style, Grigorescu got inspired by the warmth of the local people. So, he painted the Saints with Moldavian faces and the result was spectacular! More than that, the Saints’ eyes were painted in a special technique giving the impression of allowing you across the church. The feeling of being watched is so real that, for sure, you will remember Grigorescu and Agapia Monastery forever. After Grigorescu finished his work, the superior nun asked him to organize a painting school inside the monastery, which still functions today.
Nowadays, Agapia is not only a charming monastery and a great tourist attraction but also an important center of promoting the traditional crafts. The nuns here run an amazing workshop focused on weaving carpets in the traditional way, using 100% natural local wool. And the best part is that the carpets are for sale, though they hardly cope with the demand. Along with this workshop, there are also others focused on embroidery, bakery, and pottery.
Visiting Agapia Monastery is, more or less, like a travel back in time. Outside the monastery walls, there is a small village where the nuns are living in approximately 140 traditional Moldavian houses. The houses are very well maintained and the porches are, from spring to autumn, full of colorful flowers. Walking around here is so relaxing that you will easily understand why this place is equally beloved now as in the past.