Cornetu Monastery

Cornetu Monastery is located on Olt River Valley, Călineşti village (now part of Brezoi town), Vâlcea County, Wallachia, Romania. Initially a skeet for monks, it was transformed in a convent for nuns. The dedication day of the monastery is The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, 29 of August. In Romanian, Cornetu signifies a forest of European Cornel (Cornus mas) trees.

The monastery has a characteristic, probably unique in the world: the railway passes under it! When the railway was built through the Olt Gorges in the late 19th century, because of the narrow space it was decided to construct the embankments under the church.

The hermitage was built by marele vornic Mareş Băjescu and his wife Maria, great feudal close to the Cantacuzino (or Cantacuzène) family. He choose the place carefully, on one hand near his domains, on other hand near Transylvania, thus providing an ideal refuge for the founder and his family in harsh times to come. According to the original dedication inscription (Romanian: pisanie) carved in stone, the works were finished on August 29, 1666, during the reign of Radu Leon (1664-1669). Mareş Băjescu transferred to the hermitage the possession of Copăceni village, Saşa and Cornetu mountains, as well as some terrains in Pripoare, Titeşti, Ostrov villages.

In 1761, during the reign of Constantin Mavrocordat, a certain Alecse căpitan za Lovişte ordered to recover the altar painting, work done by painters Mihai, Iordache and Radu - as is said in another inscription located in the southeast corner of the nave. Another important moment in the history of the worship place is the 1808 fire, which almost completely destroyed the church and the cells, for a period the monastic life being interrupted. Only in 1835 the new abbot Irimah recovered the buildings and murals. During 1864-1949, the church was administered by Eforia Spitalelor Civile of Bucharest, which in 1885 financed the construction of the oak iconostasis, and a year later the painting of the wooden icons. Between 1923-1925, in cooperation with the Department of Monuments, were restored the dome of the tower and the shrine destroyed by shells during WWI (the fights of 1916).

In 1898, when it was dug the tunnel under the walls of the monastery site, the Department of Railways demolished a part of the old wall and the annex cells, building later the present ones. Were preserved the watchtower, the tower and the walls on north and east sides. The last major renovation was in 1960, under the patronage of Directorate of Historic Monuments, when was restored the mural painting.

The complex is surrounded by a square stone; on three corners of the enclosure rises polygonal towers and on the southeast corner is a pavilion. In the middle of the enclosure is the church, the only that kept its original form. Built on a three-lobed plan, it has a bell tower with eight sides over the narthex and the 'Pantocrator' tower with ten sides and narrow windows over the nave. The wall is from horizontal rows of visible bricks between plaster panels, divided by a double belt of rounded brick, that surrounds the niche of the icon of dedication on the western facade. The cornice is made of brick arranged in the shape of saw teeth, with a row of buttons below it and a frieze of glazed tiles framed by bricks set on edge. The pedestal is made of boulders in brick boxes.

Important architectural monument of 17th century, the monastery is considered by scholar N. Ghika-Budeşti as "one of the most interesting and the most picturesque of the time, as architecture".