On the right-hand side of Olt Valley, about 20 km north of the town of Râmnicu Vâlcea, visitors will be delighted to find one of the oldest and most complex historic and artistic monuments in Romania. Cozia Monastery - because that is what we are alluding to, under the patronage of the “Holy Trinity”, was first known as Nucet Monastery, and then it borrowed the name of the neighboring mountain.

Cozia

It was commissioned by Mircea I of Wallachia (Mircea the Elder) and erected by Moravian masters between 1387 and 1391, of white-toned hard rock. The precision and artistry of their work is astounding. As you pass its gates, the cobbled alley takes you to the church, while on the right you can see “The Well of Neagoe Basarab,” built in 1521 by the Wallachian voivode (prince) whose name it carries. The decorations on the 1.3 meters-thick monastery walls are made of stone lattice; of particular interest are the rosettes, the window frames and the arches. At the entrance to the church there are frescoes painted by Serbian artists, while on both sides of the door leading to the choir there are some of the most remarkable paintings of all Romanian churches. Mircea the Elder is portrayed on the church nave as a crusader knight, holding a scale model of the monastery and having his son Mihai by his side. The epitaph was embroidered with silver thread by the monks here and has been preserved to this day, being exhibited at the Romanian Museum of Art.

Did you know?

  • Cozia Monastery was the site of the first school of scriveners and calligraphers in Wallachia.

  • The monastery has also witnessed dark times. Between 1879 and 1893, the authorities turned it into a prison, which determined poet Mihai Eminescu to write a virulent article about this, published in “Timpul” gazette.

  • There are almost no authentic original furnishings left in the monastery, with the exception of a piece from Mircea the Elder’s tombstone. He was buried in the church pronaos, traditionally reserved for this funerary role.

Cozia

  • Mircea the Elder erected the monastery after having a dream that he interpreted as divine.

  • The pronaos also hosts the grave of Queen Teofana, mother of Michael the Brave, who took the habit after her son's death.

  • The monument bears the stamp of several great Wallachian rulers: the paintings inside the church were reconditioned by Neagoe Basarab, who also built the well in the yard which carries his name. After 1706, Constantin Brancoveanu built the stoop in the architectural style now known as Brancovenesc of Wallachian Renaissance.

  • Nicolae Ceausescu left a significant mark on the monastery, although he only visited it once. His and his wife’s portraits were exhibited for many years as center pieces of the monastery museum, together with those of the great kings and voivodes who brought their contribution to the construction of the fortress. The stained-glass portraits were taken down and hidden in the monastery attic, as per the advice of foreign visitors.

Therefore, if you happen to be around the Olt Valley, do not miss this edifice of astonishing beauty and rich history. Cozia Monastery attracts annually an impressive number of tourists, being the most visited monastery in Romania. The monastery museum can be visited at no charge.