Almost 600 years old, these wooden doors of a medieval chapel, long sunken they say, built around 1453 near Snagov Monastery, 40 km northward from Bucharest, can still be admired in the Art Museum of Bucharest.
For the weary traveler, approaching the chapel as a meditation, its wooden doors with their visual and scripting messages would have been the first welcoming sign: arms folded in prayer, ready to open, to receive, and to fold around, in absolution.
On the history of Snagov Monastery
Monks settled on Snagov Island, this snake shaped lake, during the times of Mircea the Elder, Mircea cel Batran, Vlad Dracula’s paternal grandfather and ruler of Wallachia during the 14th century.
Vlad Țepeș (Vlad III or Vlad Dracula) too improved the monastery and he would have come here to pray, for his people, for Wallachia, for good fortune in fighting the Turks.
And perhaps Vlad Țepeș came here to pray for enlightenment and forgiveness too.
Will he forgive the double crime?
It is said that a storm pulled the chapel from the ground and threw it in the lake nearby, where it sank. Its doors floated on the waters to the nearby hamlet of Turbați (today Siliștea Snagovului). The nuns from the convent here rescued, dried and kept the carved, kingly doors safe. The hamlet was aptly named Turbați, Rabies, for the nuns were skilled in curing rabies.
On a Monastery Built for Peace and on Medieval Plots and Revenge
You see, in 1447, while Sultan Murad II had young Vlad III and his brother Radu in captivity, their father Vlad II (Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Dragon), ruler of Wallachia, had to balance his crusader oath and his his pledge of neutrality to the sultan. To honor and protect Christianity. Or to keep his two younger sons alive.
John Hunyadi, leading Hungarian military figure, wishing his puppet, Vladislav II, on the throne of Wallachia, invades it. So the local boyars (noblemen) revolt against Vlad II. Caught between the three forces Vlad II is captured and killed by Vladislav while his oldest son Mircea is tortured by boyars and burried alive.
So Vladislav II now rules Wallachia. And in 1453 he build the chapel of Snagov Monastery with these wooden sculpted doors.
Come 1456, Vlad Țepeș defeats Vladislav II in a hand-to-hand combat. Fair and square.
Thus Vlad Țepeș second reign of Wallachia had begun.
Finally, the Chapel Door and its Three Panels Carved in Wood
The carved wooden doors are meant to depict the Feast of the Annunciation, Bunavestire.
The top panel: Angel Gabriel (on the left side) and Virgin Mary (on the right side, praying).
Do you see the vase with flowers? One of them should be a white lily, believed to be the first flower cultivated by humans, associated with purity and, Christianity, the Blessed Virgin.
The median panel depicts saints: Saint Basil the Great (Vasile cel Mare), Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (Grigorie din Nazianz), Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (Ioan Gură de Aur) and Saint Nicholas (Sfântul Nicolae).
The lower panel: we see Saint George, Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe, on his horse, slaying the dragon with his spear, a symbol of Christian faith, at any cost.
The inscription is a prayer in Slavonic, for hospitality that each weary traveler shall find in this place of worship.
Since we are at Snagov, you might like to know tat in 1475, the year before he was killed, Vlad Țepeș ordered that a defense wall be raised around Snagov Monastery, a bridge, a prison for robbers as well as a secret underwater passage that will confer a secondary exit from the island.
For Norm’s Thursday Doors, joining art and photography lovers from around the world.