24 feb. 2015

The Orthodox Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary from Izvoru Muresului, also known as 'the monastery of Romanians everywhere', is the place where all Romanians can find their peace and solace. The scenery around the monastery, the story of its building and the peacefulness felt by visitors once they passed beyond the monastery gates, make them think of a 'slice of heaven.'

Located off the national road linking Miercurea Ciuc with Gheorgheni and surrounded by a stone wall as the medieval churches used to be, the monastery from Izvoru Muresului was built in a record time, due to the care of the Archbishop of Covasna and Harghita, His Eminence Ioan Selejan. Soon after he was installed Bishop, in 1994, His Eminence Ioan realized the need of building a monastery for Romanians everywhere to gather here for the major religious feasts, in the context in which there didn't exist any monastery in the area where Romanians could go for celebrating and praying on such important occasions, being forced to cross the mountains and go to the places of worships existing in Moldavia.

'The need was felt for a communion between the Romanian communities in the area, scattered across the mountains as they were, and I decided that they should have a place where to be able to gather at least for the major holidays,' said the Archbishop. 


The monastery was built on the precise spot of a former sty and landfill
His Eminence recounted how, while he was looking for a place where to build the monastery, a local from Miercurea Ciuc offered him 'a sty and ten acres of land at Izvoru Muresului.' The high priest received the offer with joy, while he was already starting to imagine how the monastery would look like.

'The idea of being offered a sty to build a monastery on its precise spot sounds more like mockery. However, I went there, I saw the sty and the next thing I know is that I was already started to imagine how I should part it. Right here the chapel, here the priest's room, there the kitchen and the monk cells,' said the Archbishop. One day, while walking down the Mures, through the woods, not far from the sty, His Eminence met an old man, who told him that he was standing right then on 'the priests' land.' And that's how he found out that, actually, the four hectares of land that today belong to the monastery used to belong to the Orthodox parish from Izvoru Muresului, which he later discovered it was bought by Christians, in 1936, with the intention to erect a monastery there. However, the locals weren't able to stick to their plans and see their dream come true, because of the World War II and the dark times that followed.

His Eminence Ioan believes that he was chosen by God to build the monastery, which walls were finally standing thanks to the prayers of tens of faithful who, over the years, wanted to see this monastery in place. 'While until that moment I used to think that I was the initiator of the plan to build the monastery, now I believe that I was only the second one to come up with this idea. It was not me, but these Christians who, while crossing the mountains to Moldavia, to go to the Neamt, Agapia and Varatec monasteries, while seeking the holy settlements over the years, they may have thought to themselves: how great would it be if we had our own monastery at home. And here it is, 60 years later, God chose me to make their dream come true and I believe now that this monastery it's the result of their prayers. It was not my ambition [...] but the result of so many believers' prayers to heaven to send someone here to build a monastery on the plot of land that they had bought especially for this purpose back in 1936,' said Archbishop Ioan. 


The foundation stone of the monastery was laid in 1996 and the whole construction was already completed 22 months later, within a record time, the high priest saying that he felt the people's prayers during the entire time of the construction works. 'I felt their prayers during the entire time of the construction works at the monastery. Within 22 months we already had the big structure in place and almost one kilometre of monastery wall and every other building there started, which is a lot,' said His Eminence Ioan Selejan.

The monastery was inaugurated for the first time on August 15, 1999, and consecrated one year later, in the presence of the Patriarch back then, His Holiness Teoctist.

The Monastery from Izvor Muresului, showing a Brancovenesc style, pleases the eye not only through the beauty of the buildings and the beautiful scenery surrounding it, but here there is also the largest fresco painted in Romania, made in Neo-Byzantine style, about which father Ioan said that it covers 'thousands of square metres.' The paintings on the monastery walls tell the history of the people living in this area, by marking its most important events.

'Among the paintings on the monastery walls there are also some that tell about the history of the Romanian people, ever since the Genesis and until today, with a clear pedagogic intent. Thus, any of the pilgrim groups or the groups of children with their teachers who come to the monastery are told, through images, colour, about the history of Romania, which is practically an entangled history of the Church and of the Romanian people, since the Church is an institution that belongs to the people [...] There are stories about Brancoveanu, Mihai Viteazu (Michael the Brave), Avram Iancu, Tudor Vladimirescu, Nicolae Balcescu, Horia, Closca and Crisan and all the great men of Romania who, in one way or the other, brought their essential contribution to the building of Romania,' said the high hierarch. 


The painting was made by painter Liviu Dumbrava, with whom His Eminence collaborated in Jerusalem, when the former painted a Romanian church there. The iconostasis of the church is also very rare, being made of wild pear-tree, its form and sculpture also very special.

The monastery's abbess is Miriam Oprea who, under the guidance of His Eminence, worked side by side with the workers during the building of the holy settlement. Nun Miriam is a gentle but very determined woman who always has a kind word for those who come to the monastery with a pure heart. The monastery also hosts one of the most modern religious painting workshops in Romania, where the nuns already painted almost 20 altarpieces for monasteries around the country.

'The paintings were made in the workshop at the monastery and they are now in churches in over 20-22 localities countrywide, so that, when they go to church, the faithful are looking at the paintings made by the nuns from Izvoru Muresului Monastery,' said Archbishop Ioan. Moreover, the nuns also make church vestments here and various other cult objects, some of them available at the shop at the monastery and also wood carvings.

The nuns also take care of the whole place to look like 'the Garden of Heavens', with tens of species of flowers, especially roses of all colours, and also a glasshouse and they even breed animals at the monastery, so that they are sure to eat healthy food and also to give pilgrims healthy food. For every pilgrim who stops by the Izvoru Muresului Monastery gets something to eat and can also spend a night here for only a small amount. The pilgrims are allowed to participate in the religious services held during the day and the evening, they can walk through the garden or rest in the nearby woods, where the nuns put gazeboes. Among the nuns who live here some speak several foreign languages, so that they can gladly offer information to foreign tourists arriving at the monastery. 

Izvoru Muresului — Monastery of Romanians Everywhere 
For many years, the Izvoru Muresului Monastery was nicknamed 'the monastery of Romanians everywhere', since, His Eminence Ioan explained, 'under the roof of the monastery there also takes place the Summer University from Izvoru Muresului, following the pattern of the University that was founded by historian Nicolae Iorga in Valenii de Munte.'

Every year, invited to attend this event are Romanians from all continents who come here to ask for the blessing of the Archbishop and receive messages of encouragement and solidarity. Among those who come to Izvoru Muresului are also Romanians from the communities along Romania's borders, who are exposed to a powerful denationalization process and for whom the religious service delivered in Romanian language represents a great joy. 


The Monastery represents a joy for Romanians from Harghita and Covasna counties, for they have now their place where they can pray to the Mother of God to strengthen their faith inherited from their ancestors and to help them maintain their national identity. 'For the Romanians living here the monastery represents a joy, a spiritual solace and also a place where they can gather every year, at least once a year, for the Assumption of Virgin Mary, and meet with their brothers from Covasna and from all the other neighbouring counties. This is a monastery of joy and they live now with the feeling that they are not alone here, in this space between the mountains,' said His Eminence Ioan.

All those who come to the monastery located 'at the bottom of Hamasul Mare Mountain, in between the two chums, Oltul and Muresul', as Abbess Miriam Oprea like to put it, find a place of faith, solace, and beautiful scenery. The Izvoru Muresului Monastery is, as the famous cultural personality Razvan Theodorescu used to say 'the most beautiful Romanian and Orthodox challenge I could ever imagine.'AGERPRES