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Promoting Neamț among young people

21 May 2024 No Comment

As the host of two national Olympiads, the Visual Arts, Architecture, and Art History Olympiad, and the Religion – Orthodox Cult Olympiad for grades IX-XII, Neamț County was visited and discovered this month and in April by over 850 students, teachers, and members of the national evaluation committees. The meritorious young people from all over the country, aspiring to the title of Olympians, enjoyed two excursions to cultural, spiritual, and historical landmarks on the Piatra-Neamț – Bistrița – Pângărați – Bicaz – Bicaz Dam route and the Piatra-Neamț – Agapia – Humulești – Târgu-Neamț – Neamț Fortress – Vânători Neamț Natural Park – Neamț Monastery route and back.

All participants were extremely delighted with the natural beauties they discovered in Neamț, the historical and spiritual significance of the monasteries on the two routes, Bistrița, Pângărați, Agapia, and Neamț Monastery.


Bistrița Monastery – dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God, is among the oldest voivodal foundations in Romania. The first founder of this monastery is considered to be Petru I Mușat, ruler of Moldavia (1375-1391), who built a wooden hermitage here. The true founder of Bistrița Monastery is considered to be Alexander the Good, ruler of Moldavia (1400-1432), who built an imposing stone church in 1402, a true Musatine cathedral. Maintaining the classic Moldavian style, this place of worship was considered at that time on par with Neamț Monastery. In 1418, Lady Ana was buried under the slab in the church’s crypt, and on January 1, 1432, Alexander the Good was also brought there. In 1498, Stephen the Great inscribed his name among the founders of the monastery by erecting an imposing bell tower with a paraclis. Petru Rareș (1527-1538 and 1541-1546) is another founder of Bistrița Monastery, but the works he started were continued and completed by his son-in-law, Alexander Lăpușneanu (1552-1561 and 1564-1568), thus inscribing himself among the founders of this famous place of Romanian faith and culture. In the church built by him lies the tomb attributed to chronicler Grigore Ureche and, as evidenced by the inscription on the tombstone, the grave of Alexandrel, the first of Stephen the Great’s sons, laid here in 1494.

Pângărați Monastery dates back to the 15th century, in 1460, when the venerable Simeon the Hermit, one of Stephen the Great’s advisors, built the first wooden church, which was later burned by the Turks in 1476, forcing the monks to hide in the mountains until the end of the war. Nearly a century later, voivode Alexander Lăpușneanu built a stone church here, dedicated to the Holy and Glorious Great Martyr Saint Demetrios also called the Myrrh-Streamer. Almost 250 years later, in 1806, abbot Macarie transformed the crypt beneath the church founded by Lăpușneanu into another church, this time dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. Thus, the monastery church has a unique architecture among all monastic establishments in the country, the massive stone construction housing two superimposed churches with different entrances and dedications. The two churches communicate through the interior of the place by a very narrow and steep spiral stone staircase, the exterior image of the church, with its unique dimension, contrasting with the narrow interior decor.

Photo Gallery: Participants of the Visual Arts, Architecture, and Art History Olympiad

Neamț Monastery, first documented in 1210, is the result of successive foundations from the 14th-15th centuries by rulers Petru Mușat, Alexander the Good, and Stephen the Great. The monastic complex includes the church dating from the 14th century, a museum, and a library dating from the late 14th century, which in 1862 contained over 12,000 volumes, testimonies of important historical, theological, cultural, and artistic medieval deeds. The clerkly and spiritual traditions of this establishment are also linked to the brilliant activity of a famous school of calligraphers and miniaturists, trained and guided by the first teacher, calligrapher, and writer of philocalic works, Gavriil Uric, and a printing house organized after 1500, which increased the fame of Orthodoxy.

Agapia Monastery is first documented in 1437, but was rebuilt by monks around 1600 and consecrated in 1647. With the dedication to Saints Michael and Gabriel Archangels, it has housed a community of nuns since 1803. The main attraction of the monastic settlement at Agapia, the Church of the Holy Archangels, was painted by the one considered the founder of modern Romanian painting, Nicolae Grigorescu (1838-1907), during the renovation of the settlement in 1858. Over three years until 1861, the artist created original frescoes, dozens of compositions depicting biblical scenes in motion, and icons full of the light of faith, the vitality of the Romanian character, and realism, about which Vlahuță said, “Of all the churches we have in the country, none contains such a distinguished artistic treasure, so much heavenly life expressed so beautifully, so purely and with such power,” and our great painter said, “We must paint the icons warmly, to resonate with our souls, otherwise they are nothing but photographs.”

The monastic villages of Văratec and Agapia together represent the largest orthodox monastic settlement in the entire world.

Photo Gallery: Participants of the Religion – Orthodox Cult Olympiad

The two routes also included other tourist attractions that the young people admired in Neamț County: the majesty and beauty of Ceahlău Mountain seen from Izvorul Muntelui, Lake Izvorul Muntelui or “the sea among the mountains”, the largest reservoir on the interior rivers of Romania, with over a billion cubic meters of water, held back by a colossal concrete dam. The construction of the Bicaz dam lasted 10 years (1950-1960) and over 15.000 people, specialists, workers, and political prisoners, worked on it, while over 18.000 people had to move their homes from the area now occupied by the lake. In total, 22 villages from the Bistrița Valley were relocated before the construction of the 127-meter-tall stone colossus, ranking it third among the tallest dams in the country and ninth in Europe.

On the lake, tourists can take a ride by kayak, boat, motorboat, paddle boat, or board the Reșița boat, the oldest one in the Bicaz port, and from the Poiana Largului Viaduct to the Bicaz port there are 35 km of water and mountains. In summer, the lake tour is organized by canoe and kayak, and the Bicaz Kayak Fest, a large-scale event, is held annually.

The lake captivated the young people with its grandeur, its dreamlike landscapes, the reflection of the Ceahlău massif in the water on clear days, the picturesque Baicului area, or Poiana Largului and the Poiana Teiului viaduct, all beauties of Neamț.

Photo Gallery: Participants of the Visual Arts, Architecture, and Art History Olympiad

The young people also visited Neamț Fortress, a medieval monument and grand testimony of the turbulent history of the medieval Moldavian state, as well as the “Dragoș Vodă” Carpathian Fauna and Bison Reserve, the only rural zoo in Romania, where the first bison from Poland were brought, and the stop at Vovidenia Hermitage was a balm for the soul. At the Memorial House of Mihail Sadoveanu, built by the Metropolitan of Bukovina Visarion Puiu and which was the summer residence of the famous novelist, Father Archimandrite Mihail Daniliuc spoke from the heart to the young people.

Photo Gallery: Participants of the Religion – Orthodox Cult Olympiad

By organizing and financing these excursions for meritorious young people from all over the country, the Neamț County Council contributes to the valorization of the cultural, historical, and tourist potential of our county, promoting this particularly rich, beautiful, and valuable area.

See the accommodation possibilities from Neamt County

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