Tismana Monastery is one of the most important religious, historical and architectural monuments of Gorj County, also being among the most impressive Romanian Orthodox monasteries. Located in an idyllic natural spot, perched on a rock over the Tismana River valley, the monastic complex is protected by mountains and features a small waterfall beneath. Surrounded by forests and with the tall peaks of the Carpathian Mountains in the distance, the monastery creates the impression of a fortress, with strong walls surrounding the inner courtyard.
Location of Tismana Monastery
The monastery of Tismana is located in the town with the same name, about 5 km north from the center, along the river valley towards the mountains. Tismana is roughly 30 km west of Targu Jiu, the capital of Gorj County, along the 67D national road, then following the modern road across town heading north. The setting of Tismana Monastery is truly stunning, built on top of a small rocky plateau above the river valley and with a small waterfall falling from the monastery walls to the river. Visiting the monastery is free, but proper dress code is advisable.
Presentation of Tismana Monastery
There is few historical account as to the foundation of the Tismana Monastery and although the first documents to attest it are from 1385, it could be a little older, to the times that a famous monk known as Nicodim the Pious lived in the area, founding several other monasteries. The monastery itself is built in Byzantine style, with thick stone and brick walls. From its beginnings in the 14th century, each new era brought modifications and extensions with a tower bell, sanctums for the nuns, paintings and other features. Even the rulers of Wallachia considered the monastery an important spiritual and strategic point, along the years being sacked by the Turkish or transformed in a military establishment by the Austrians, many valuable artifacts being lost or destroyed in those times.
Although restored and renovated starting with 1844, some of its important authentic features were lost forever under a new layer of modifications that were unsuitable. Inside the complex, along various rooms for the nuns and other activities, there is a beautiful brick chapel, as well as a small museum that shows interesting documents and historical accounts about the monastery. The main church of Tismana Monastery is a truly fascinating architectural masterpiece, although its original shape has been damaged by modern intrusions. A truly significant value holds the original paintings from late 16th century which can still be seen in the narthex, representing the oldest Byzantine paintings in country.
One of the most important moments in the history of the monastery happens during World War II, when the whole thesaurus of the National Bank of Romania has been hidden in the small cave located next to the monastery. In total, there were about 380 tons of golden ingots, together with 3 tons of gold from the Polish Thesaurus, moved here to protect it from the Russian Army. Today, the Tismana Monastery is one of the most important and interesting in Romania, presenting a fascinating history, enchanting architecture and a beautiful location. Near the monastery, up a charming mountain path, visitors can also reach two secluded hermitages where several nuns live in perfect communion with nature.