One of the oldest monasteries in Romania and definitely among the most fascinating sights of Gorj County, Polovragi Monastery is an exceptional byzantine style monument, a monastic complex located in a charming spot at the entrance of the impressive Oltet Gorges. With the sumptuous peaks of Parang Mountains in the background and the spectacular gorges and cave in the vicinity, the monastery makes for a perfect destination. It provides a wonderful journey into the past, representing the history of orthodoxy in these lands. An oasis of peace and spirituality, Polovragi Monastery has an important architectural and historical value.
Location of Polovragi Monastery
Polovragi Monastery is located in Polovragi village, about 50 km northeast of Targu Jiu. Access is fairly simple, following the 67 National Road up to Polovragi, then taking the left turn towards north and continuing through until the end of the village. The monastery is situated at the entrance of the gorges of Oltet River, right at the foot of the mountains. This setting is particularly fascinating, with the thin and tall opening of the gorges in the background, the distant snowy peaks of Parang Mountains and several enchanting natural protected areas in the vicinity.
Presentation of Polovragi Monastery
The oldest historical research established the beginnings of Polovragi Monastery around 1505, built by several local noblemen. Although the information is scarce, the monastery appears for the first time in official documents in 1648, followed by the visit of archbishop Paul of Aleppo who confirms the existence of a large monastery in Wallachia. The third founder of the monastery was ruler Constantin Brancoveanu who bailed it from being subordinated to the Holy Tomb in 1763 and adding new constructions to the complex. During the Austrian rule over the region of Oltenia, Polovragi Monastery was transformed in a defensive fortification.
The main church of the monastery is built in Byzantine style, with a proportional symmetry, the highlights including the exterior brick belt, the intricately ornate wooden iconostasis, the massive doors and the beautiful paintings that resemble the ones at Horezu Monastery, but also with unique features. The Polovragi Monastery also has a smaller church in the northern side of the complex, outside the strong walls. Built in 1732 and dedicated to Saint Nicholas, features exceptionally preserved frescoes in lively colors. The monastery also has a small museum with valuable religious artifacts and documents.
Like many other monasteries of Oltenia and Wallachia, the one at Polovragi resembles a walled fortress, with strong walls protecting the inner area, including the two churches, the nuns living quarters and other buildings. Right behind the monastery, the entrance to the spectacular Oltet Gorges opens up with tall vertical ridges separated by only a few meters, making it one of the narrowest canyons in Romania and Europe. Above the gorge, on the eastern mountain plateau there was once a Dacian fortress that today is marked by a stone cross.