Sunday, 1 March 2009on
Barsana is one of the big communes in the region of Maramures, lying on the right bank of the river Iza, 20 km off Sighetul Marmatiei. According to tradition, the Barsana monastery formerly stood across the river Iza, in the Slatina Valley, wherefrom it was moved here, to the right of the river, on the site that would be later called Podurile Manastirii (The Monastery Bridges).
The Barsana commune was first documented in 1326, when King Charles Robert I of Anjou acknowledged and reinstained by a deed in this places prince Stanislau, whereas in another deed the same prince is called son of Barsan. The toponymic Barsan comes from the shepards' tradition, who used to grow this breed (barsana) of sheep with long, rough, thick wool.
The descendants of prince Stan Barsan still represent the basic families of the village. A deed dated 21 July 1390 regarding the possessions of the Dragos family- rulers of Maramures, grandsons of Prince Dragos, founder of Moldavia -mentions a road which branched out already at the time to lead to the monastery and to the village of Barsana respectively. Documented are also a Momastery Valley and Dealul Popii (Pope's Hill), and a surveyor's deed dating from 6 November 1405, mentions a "plain of the monastery"; the monastery is recorded also in the other deeds regarding the Dragos family's possessions, between 1408-1480, the latter date referring to Batolomeo Dragffy, prince of Transylvania. The Barsana Monastery was built probably around the middle of the 16th centrury by the Dragos family, on one of their estates.
So, the worship place was contemporary with the famous monastery at Peri, with that at Biserica Alba, having the same founders and benefactors. The old monastic settlement, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, was one of the most important ones in Maramures, considering that, in 1738, it was the residence of the last Christian Orthodox bishop, Gavril Stefanca -a man of the place whose name is still preserved by the tradition of the village - before the bishopric was abolished, following the official expension of the Romanians' religious Union with The Church of Rome.
For all the pressure put on the Christian Orthodox worship places in the region, the monastery would resist until 1791. Documents from the 18th century mention the names of certain monks: Pahomie, priest in 1745, Grigoras, priest in 1757, Atanasie in 1769, 1776, 1777, Varava (a Greek) and Partenie, in 1776, Ierotei togheter with other three monks in 1777; but their number kept dwindling and, in 1787, only two residents were mentioned at Barsana.
The property of the settlement was confiscated by the Austrian state, on 12 July 1791, and turned over to the Greek-Catholic settlement of Cernoc (Munkaci). The last monk moved to the Neamt Monastery. The old monastic settlement of Barsana also meant a school for the priests of the villages in the region. It used to supply Romanian religious books, printed and brought from Moldavia and Walachia - from Iasi, Targoviste, Ramnic, etc. - and icons, maybe painted in its own workshops. Six hundred years since the monastery's first documentation and two hundred years after it ceased to exist, the monastic life returns to Barsana. In 1993, Bishop Justinian Chira of Maramures and Satmar blessed this place that loaded with the prayers of the ancestors, for a new monastery.
The monastic compound is made of wood, according to the local tradition, built only by Barsana masters, supervised by architect Cordos Dorel; it consists of the Maramures gate, the belfry, the church (12 X 12.20 m and 57 m high), the summer shire, the house with cells and chapel (with several floors), the house of the masters, the house of the artists and a more recently arranged museum that offers a comnprehensive image of the Maramures history, culture and civilization. The community is now led by the Prioress Filofteia Oltean and counts eleven nuns and three sisters. Every year, on 30 JUNE THE BARSANA MONASTERY CELEBRATES AND VENERATES THE 12 APOSTLES that are the protectors of this HOLY PLACE. May the prayer of our forerunners bring holiness and salvation to the founders of the monastery, to those who live here and to every person that enters this Holy Place dedicated to the ALMIGHTY GOD, THE FATHER, THE SON AND THE HOLY GHOST. AMEN.
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