“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure I announce the launch of a fresh Royal Endeavors episode on Saint Parascheva Feast Day – the patron of embroiderers, needle workers, spinners, weavers and marriage, dedicated to the wonderful Saturday I had recently spent with my family visiting the imposing Turnu Monastery, one of the most sacred Christian monastic dwellings of the Râmnic Diocese, sheltered by Cozia Mountain – a very remote and unreachable place for centuries.
I will begin this spiritual journey by mentioning how the blissful resonance of highly charged places of worship, infused with the pure energy lingering from noble acts such as divine communion, gratitude and prayer, always satisfies the soul’s hunger for hope, reason and inner freedom. As pilgrims find shelter in faith and strength in belief, I will always choose to surrender to the warmth of peace when I step into a temple of any religion.
“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”
– Kahlil Gibran
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
– Thomas Campbell
At the time of our visit, a very important celebration was taking place – The Commemoration of the the venerable hermits and patron saints of the Monastery – Daniil and Misail, along the consecration of a new silver reliquary and the sanctification of the land where a new church will rise. In spite of apparently being a secluded area, numerous pilgrims of all ages were attending the ceremony at Turnu Monastery, located on the left side of Olt River, about 2 km from Cozia Monastery, founded by Mircea cel Batrân King, from Călimanești City.
The name of the monastery comes from a massive tower, located on a rock called Teofil’s Peak, built by Roman army from Arutela Roman camp in the 2nd century. Given this fact, Turnu Monastery was first called “the convent behind the tower”, then Turnu Convent and finally Turnu Monastery.
History tells us that, in the 15th and 16th century, some monks left Cozia Monastery to live isolated, sheltered by caves, shacks and wooden houses.
Among those hermits, the most renowned were Daniil and Misail, whose caves lasted until today. At the middle of the 16th century, the hermits built a small wooden church, establishing Turnu Convent.
“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.”
– Max Lucado
In 1676, after being promoted as Bishop of Râmnic, the Father Superior of Cozia Monastery, Varlaam, gives very special attention and care to the hermits in Turnu. Becoming Metropolitan of Wallachia, he builds another church, made of stone and brick, located on the grounds of the former wooden chapel. Here he sheltered the relics of Daniil and Misail and since that time, Turnu Convent became a settled monastic place, protected by Cozia Monastery.
Between 1893 and 1901, Gherasim Timus, Bishop of Argeş, decided to build a summer residence at Turnu. The old church was destroyed by fire in 1932 – 5 groups of houses with 26 rooms, 2 sheds, the old refectory, the belfry, the dome of the small church, the altar screen with all the icons – only Gherasim Timus’s house and the velley cells escaping.
“You have two things of value: your monastery and your people. Translate the book for me, and I’ll let you keep one. Which will it be?”
– Faith Erin Hicks
The Bishop Nichita Duma build a new church, a square-shaped, storeyed building, having prayer precincts at the ground floor and at the first floor.
It has a central cupola, with access on the exterior stairs, which have been recently built on the southern facade.
A school of church singers had been functioning there by the year 1939, and between 1959-1975 the Turnu Monastery was closed and transformed, in resting house for the Râmnic and Argeş Diocese.
This absurd situation lasted until 1975, when monk Teoctist Dobrin (1975 – 1990) has been appointed as Superior and the Resting House has been evacuated and reestablished as a convent subordinated to Cozia Monastery.
Pious, gentle and hardworking, Father Superior managed to gather around him young people and to live a monastic life, with daily services. In the same year the access road to the Monastery was build due to the construction of a bridge over the Olt, at Lotrisor.
His greatest accomplishment was to bring the Hermitage at the level of Monastery status, event which occurred in 1988. For his exemplary life and work, both spiritual and economic, he was awarded by the bishop with the rank of Protosinghel.
Between 1994 and 1996 the western wing of the building has been restored and the ground-floor refectory became a bigger church, appropriate for the many pilgrims coming to the monastery.
The caves, in which once lived the holy hermits of Turnu, are still a special attraction for the visitors.
In the present time, at Turnu Monastery live, praying and working, over 25 monks and friars. The pilgrims find their rest here, in this wonderful and peaceful place, blessed by God and protected by Virgin Mary.
“Living in a monastery, even as a guest rather than a monk, you have more opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it.”
– Dean Koontz
In spite of the freezing cold reigning over the monastic complex, after visiting the holy ensemble, we have joined the pilgrims’ meal, traditionally cooked by the locals for the important celebration.
It was my first experience of such kind – simple but rewarding and meaningful in the same time. At the time of our departure the sun crowned the holy place.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
– C.S. Lewis
The truth is visiting Turnu Monastery was a transcendental experience, fully charged with symbolic relevance, just because I can leave no stone unturned.
This might be because, according to religious studies, my name, Petra, denotes a firm foundation and as such it serves as a metaphor for faith in Jesus Christ. Having participated to the sanctification of the land (laying the first stone) where a new church will rise is an astonishing synchronicity, moreover since we were not aware of it at the time of our visit, but it was revealed when the ceremony ended.
Given the fact the holy hermits had found shelter in the cold caves of the remote area, reminds me of how naturally we achieve divine communication when comforted by the realms of isolation, and how opened we become to the gift of receiving blessings when we shut down distractions and find ourselves in the surrender state.
Just as the realization of endless abundance and opportunities comes after experiencing scarcity, every event which trespasses the self-imposed limits of separation becomes an act of faith and gratitude.
I hope you had enjoyed this solemn Royal Endeavors exclusive episode.
Your Supreme Highness,
The One and Only,