Tismana Monastery

The Holy Monastery of Tismana is one of the oldest, the most important and the most beautiful monasteries in Romania. This monument, built in the middle of nature, is perfect for those who want to gather their thoughts, to be close to God and to know the Romanian Orthodox religion.

Settled on Starmina Mountain, surrounded by wooded, rocky peaks, the monastery took its name from a coniferous tree called “tisa”, that used to grow around here long time ago. On the occasion of some archeological works, there were discovered the ruins of an old Daco-Roman fortress; in the ancient language of the Dacians, the word “tismana” meant “fortified place”.

It was founded in the 14th by Saint Nicodim the Pious, with the financial support of the ruling princes Radu I (1377-1383) and his sons Dan I (1384-1386) and Mircea the Old (1386-1418) from Besserab dinasty. Near the monastery, there was a small church made of the wood of a big “tisa” tree. It was consecrated in August 15th, having the dedication on the Pure Vergin’s Dormition and it is historically attested in a charter of Leader Dan, written on October 3rd, 1385.

The architecture of Tismana Monastery is in the Byzantine style of the 14th century, resembling the churches in Macedonia and Athos, also showing a few Romanian architectural elements. The actual church of the monastery is built directly on the rock, following a triconic plan with steeples on the nave, pronaos and porch. Along the years, it suffered many transformations. The church was painted in 1564 by Dobromir from Tîrgovişte, being financially supported by the great magistrate Nedelcu. The painting is in the post-Byzantine style, in a polychrome fresco, applied on the initial monochrome fresco. In 1732, the archimandrite Ioan restored the painting in the Saint Altar and in the naos. In the pronaos, the fresco from 1564 was not destroyed but there was applied a new fresco in 1766. Beginning with 1955, the paining in the pronaos started to be prickled and placed on the walls of the museum and on the corridors of the hermitages. The first fresco, thje one from 1564, was restored. The porch of the church had been demolished in Prince Bibescu’s time (1842- 1848) and it was rebuilt in 1983, following Saint Nicodim’s plans. In the same period, the whole monastery and all its dependencies were restored, the coordinator of the restoration work being the engineer Ioan Sălăjan, the actual bishop of Harghita and Covasna. In 1994, the porch of the church was painted by Grigore Popescu from Câmpulung Muscel, in a Byzantine style, having an appropriate design and a discrete harmony of colours. The iconographic presentation is also unique, as some newly discovered Daco-Roman saints were painted for the first time.

The Monastery of Tismana had an extraordinary treasure, now lost because of the numerous hardships that came over the monastery during the centuries. A great part of the valuable objects of the monastery are now at the Art Museum in Bucharest. Among these objects, the most valuable is The Saint Nicodim’s Gospel – a complex work of art, valuable by the beauty of its writing and the miniatural ornaments. Its covers are made of golden silver. This is the oldest Romanian manuscript and the oldest silver cover. The museum also has a rich collection of mural paintings (taken from the pronaos in 1766), old icons on wood, religious objects, old books and clerical robes.

Inside the church there is a holy silver coffin, made by Gheorghe Stoica. It contains three pieces of holy relics of: Saint Nicodim, Saint Ignatie Theofor and Saint John the Golden Mouth, together with the cross worn by Saint Nicodim. On the cover and inside the holy coffin these saints are presented in medallions. On the exterior there are some life scenes and some miracles made by Saint Nicodim. In the porch of the church there is Saint Nicodim’s tomb, watched by an ever burning candle.

The Holy Monastery of Tismana is a special place not only for its wonderful position but most of all for its spiritual mission that was given to it in the life of the Romanian people. It is a holy place where we can feel close to God and His saints, it is a place where miracle is present every day. It cannot be otherwise, for when Saint Nicodim was on his dying bed, he promissed to give his love and help to all those who would come here, to Tismana (from www.manastireatismana.ro).