Hodoş-Bodrog Monastery

The Monastery of Hodoş-Bodrog is one of the oldest monastic institutions belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is situated in Bodrogu Nou village, Felnac commune, Arad County, in Western Romania.

The monastic establishment was first recorded in a charter document of the Arad chapter of the church, dated 1177. The document specifies that it was constructed on the foundations of the earlier monastery, which had been called the Cenad Monastery and which had been erected on one of the banks of the Mureş River about the year 1000. Unquestionable documents dated 1216, 1233 and 1278 mention its existence in the following period.

According to some local legends passed, the monastery was built on the very place where an icon of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) had been found. It is believed that this icon appeared from under the dust of the ground while a bull was scratching it with its horns. The horns of this legendary bull can be seeing inside the church, above the entrance door.

The initial wooden church of the holy establishment, erected in the 12th century, disappeared in later years. Consequently, the present stone church, which can still be seen today, was built around 1370, according to a triconch plan (having apses with semi-domes on three sides of a square chamber), at a time when this architectonic type was spreading in all the provinces inhabited by Romanians. The belfry tower dates from the 14th century.

The Hodoş-Bodrog Monastery was also under Ottoman domination between 1556 and 1699. The Ottoman rule was briefly interrupted for a short time by the struggle for the independence and unification of the Romanian countries, led by Michael the Brave (1595). It is likely that, during the military operations, the monastery suffered serious damages. In the following decades, although continuing to suffer under the Ottoman rule, and even the hardships induced by the Transylvanian nobility, the monastery housed the residence of the bishops who shepherded this area. Among these were Sofronie, who visited Russia in 1651, and Isaia Diacovici, who stayed at Hodoş-Bodrog around 1694 (he would later established the Hodoş-Bodrog as the seat of the diocese of Ineu and Timişoara). From the last decade of the 17th century until 1864, the monastery was under the jurisdiction of the Karlowitz metropolitans (Serbia) and was the only contemporary orthodox monastery of the Arad diocese that faced great difficulties.

The church underwent several restorations throughout the centuries. The original structures were altered to some extent. After the 17th century restoration, a baroque helmet was added to the dome. The frescoes in the monastery date from the first decades of the 17th century. Several sacred objects dating from earlier centuries add new values to the artistic treasure of the monastery.

The monastery was rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century, thanks to bishop Sava I Brancovici, who resided in Lipova and later in Ineu. The outbuildings situated on the eastern side of the monastery, the Abbot’s house, were constructed in the second half of the 18th century. Since then the monastery has added a new church, an outdoor summer chapel, and other buildings. The monastic cells and the monastic chapel, situated on the western side, were constructed between 1904 and 1907. The old paintings into the church, which necessitated special restoration work, were reconditioned by master-painters Anastasie Damoan and Constantin Cenan in 1938; the outside walls were painted in 1967. The sculpture of the iconostasis was executed in 1940, and represents the creation of Father Ieronim Balintoni, the abbot of the monastery at that time.

The holy establishment performed its monastic activities without interruption until 1959. On that occasion, its official monastic status was withdrawn by the Communist authorities, and consequently the monastery was transformed into administrative headquarters, which were to be annexed to the Diocese of Arad. Fortunate opened in 1975, and it underwent extensive consolidation and restoration works between 1979 and 1985. After 1990, a new church and a group of monastic cells were constructed. Other outbuildings, such as a refectory and monastic house used as a refuge-place in case of inundations, were added to the monastery; throughout the year, this refuge-place serves as a guest-house. As the holy establishment is situated in the immediate vicinity of one of the banks of the Mureş River, it is often threatened by the frequent overflows of the river. Today, the monastery is within the boundaries of the Mureş Floodplain Natural Park, but the land and monastery are still owned by the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The monastic establishment shelters a rich collection of icons, old painted religious books, and other liturgical exhibits of great patrimonial value, which date from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Within the monastery there is a necropolis were the bishops were entombed.