In Transylvania, a region where Romanian, Hungarian and German communities lived together for centuries, religion has been an anchor in troubled times, and churches, monasteries and sketes tell us today their story. Two years ago I was surprised by the shape and the story of the ”St. Nicholas” Church in Densuș. Last year, I learned the story of the Cistercian Abbey from Cârța and I admired the locals’ skill in capitalizing this place of worship and last month I explored with mixed feelings the rupestral monastery of Şinca Veche.
Şinca Veche is a picturesque village situated at the foot of Făgăraş and Perşani Mountains. From the center of the village, the road goes to Pleşu Hill, where you can find an unusual and mysterious place of worship. It has several names such as „The Temple of the Weirds”, „The Temple of Sinca Veche” or „The Rupestral Monastery of Șinca Veche”. The origin of this place of worship is uncertain even if the site has been dated to around 7,000 years old. There are some different symbols harrowed in the walls such as a The star of David and a Chinese yin-yang symbol. The first documentary certification dates back to 1789, when the reformed pastor of Fagaras was writing to Iosif Benks about the existence of an Orthodox monastery dug in sandstone with no roof. One hypothesis would be that the church had two altars and therefore does not have Christian origin, and another one claims that initially there were two contiguous churches that by caving assumed the present form. Some rooms collapsed as an effect of the sandstone erosion, as well as because of the excavations made by people in search of some treasure. Another mystery is related to the origin of the local people’s faith in the miraculous powers of this place filled with positive energy and blessed by God. People were used to leave objects of worship, icons, water and clothes in the rooms. After a while they recovered and carried them back home, hoping they were loaded with positive energy. It is also said that the water spring „Buna Vestire” (which is at the entrance) has healing powers, a scientific explanation being that the nearby Perşani Mountains are famous for the springs with mineral and thermal water. The most bizarre occurrence is that of a cameraman from the National Television whose video camera, during a shooting, went uncontrollably and finally stopped inside the monastery. Back in the television studios, he had a big surprise. When he opened the video camera he observed sparkles of glowing light that roam deep into the church.
Near the monastery there was built a skete dedicated to Saint Hierarch Nectarios from Aegina. The path passes through a forest along big rocks. The skete is very small and has beautiful works of worship. The chapel in which the service is performed keeps a relic of Saint Nectarios. The location of the two places of worship, in the middle of a forest, invites you to rest and relax. I cannot help to mention that the Orthodox Cultural Foundation „Holy Mother – Unexpected Joy” arranged this place in suit with nature. The alleys bounded by walnut fences are cobblestone here and there, the garbage bins and the toilets are covered with wood, and the tourist information center, where you can buy religious books or presentation brochures, is completely covered by vegetation. In addition, the road between Șinca Veche and the monastery is in very good condition.
If you are a religious person or simply if you need peace and calmness I recommend you to visit this special, mysterious and charming place.