Cetățuia Monastery

The Cetățuia Monastery, located on the hill of the same name, guards the city with its slender silhouette.

Originally conceived as a medieval complex of fortifications, the monastery is the founding of Lord Gheorghe Duca. It served as a refuge for several Moldovan rulers, including Dimitrie Cantemir, during the Russian-Turkish war of 1710-1713, or Mihai Racoviță during the battle with the Austrian army of Captain Ferentz (1717). In the eighteenth century, a part of the western wall collapsed due to a landslide, and the monastery was used in certain periods as a warehouse of the Turkish army (1788) or as a military hospital of the Russian armies (1788-1792 and 1806 -1812). Besides the destruction during the wars, earthquakes, fires and carelessness destroyed the monastery complex. It burned in 1822, when the Turks set on fire some nearby houses. The monastery was a ruin at the end of the 19th century, being described sadly by writers like Alecu Russo, Vasile Alecsandri and Nicolae Iorga as deserted, collapsed and with grounded walls. It was partially restored in 1910-1911, the First World War transforming it into a military hospital. In 1911, the famous aviator Aurel Vlaicu flew over the city of Iasi with his plane, making several turns around the monastery. At the time the royal family of Romania, visiting Iaşi, admired from here the aircraft built by the pilot himself. In 1930, at the initiative of Nicolae Iorga, the church and the monastery rooms were restored, followed by further consolidations between 1964 and 1971.

The monastery was surrounded by tall stone walls, ramparts and a guard road, with a monumental tower and four corner towers for defence. At the level of the belfry tower (1670) one can see the emblem of Moldavia carved in stone, framed by two circular chambers which were previously equipped with canons. Above there is an oriental mosaic representing the Virgin with Baby Jesus.

The church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul (1672) was built between 1668-1672 according to the plans of the architect Grigore Cornescul and represents the simplified version of the Three Hierarchs Monastery. There is a braided median girdle and octagonal tower with a square base and a star, but without the stone lace from the Three Hierarchs. The interior is remarkable because of the hosting of the paintings of 1673 best kept in the porch, alongside with the ones restored in the 19th century. To the east, Cuhnea Domneasca (the former bath) is the only one of this type preserved in a monastery complex. On the southern side is the Abbey with the Gothic Hall named “Anastasia Doamna”, with elements of Brancovan architecture. It was originally painted in the fresco and housed the ruler’s secret counsel. In the basement there are cellars that host the wine where wine tastings are organized. On the western side there is the Princiary Palace with the Monastic Museum. This building served as a refuge for the reigning family and the monks of the monastery. Further, there is the Group of monk cells, which feature the tower called “Pilgrims dining”, from which you can see a beautiful panorama over the city.

Legends say there are dozens of cellars and secret tunnels under Cetățuia, but one leads directly to the Royal Court from the Palace of Culture, thus facilitating the rapid evacuation of those in distress.

Str. Cetățuia 2, Iași 707317
Photo by Cezar Suceveanu

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