Curtea de Argeș is the first capital of Wallachia, Romania's southern region, and it is a truly charming place, full of history and surrounded by a curious legend. The main attraction of the town is the Curtea de Argeș Monastery, built between 1515 and 1517 by Neagoe Basarab. It is one of the most famous architectural monuments in Wallachia, and it is part of Romania's list of historical monuments. During the rule of Carol I, the cathedral was turned into a necropolis for the Romanian royal family.
The monastic complex was destroyed by two fires in 1866 and 1867, but Carol I brought in a famous French architect, Lecomte du Noüy, to restore some of the original work as well as to create additional frescoes and internal structures. But despite the incredible beauty of the whole complex, most tourists visit the location not for the architectural style, but for a fascinating legend that enriched Romania's mythology.
A long time ago, the architectural jewelry known today as Argeș Monastery, was being shaped by the skilled hands of Manole, who was one of the greatest master builders of his time. The legend says that Negru Voda, the first ruler of Walachia, gave an order to Manole and his team to build the monastery, but the ruler wanted his name to be forever remembered, so he requested that his future monastery should be more beautiful than everything built before. The construction site was somewhere near the Argeș river, where an old wall was standing in ruins for years. The place was considered cursed because no one ever succeeded to build something there. He made a promise to all the workers that if they will indeed succeed to create a unique monastery, they will become very wealthy. But if they will fail in their quest, they will all be executed.
Therefore, the team started to work tirelessly. But what they zealously build during the day, collapsed during the night. All their efforts seemed in vain, and the ruler’s anger grew each day. One night, Manole had a strange dream; a “whisper from above” told him that only a human sacrifice will put an end to the curse. He discussed this with his workers, and they all agreed that the first woman to come in the morning and bring them food will be sacrificed.
The next morning, they all waited anxiously for the sunrise and hoped that the first women to be seen over the horizon will not be their wife. After several minutes, a woman was seen heading over, and Manole started to slowly recognize her as Ana, his pregnant wife. His eyes filled with tears, and he started praying to God to chase her away, he prayed to the winds to blow her away, and he prayed to the clouds to bring a powerful storm. But nothing seemed to stop her, and Manole slowly realized what needed to be done. When Ana reached the construction site, he asked her to step inside one of the walls, and he started laying bricks around her. At first, she thought that everything was just a silly game, but as the walls surrounding her got taller, she started screaming in horror, but the builders continued their work until she was completely surrounded by bricks.
The monastery was finally complete, and Negru-Voda was happy with the work of the builders. While the workers were laying the finishing touches of the roof, the Wallachian ruler asked them if now, after gaining experience from this project, are capable of building another monastery, larger and more beautiful than Argeș. When Manole heard the workers accepted their new task with a lot of enthusiasm and without giving it much thought, he got so mad that he destroyed all the scaffolds and the ladders, leaving the builders isolated on the roof of the Monastery. They tried to escape by building wooden wings and flying off the roof, but they all failed and died in their attempt.
Today, in the place where Manole supposedly died, a fountain was built to commemorate his sacrifice, and the wall where Ana is said to have been sacrificed is marked by a red stamp.
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