At Capriana monastery, the bell calls us …
The first data regarding the existence of this monastic settlement, registered under the name of “the monastery of Vâşnovăţ where the abbot of Chiprian lives”, dates back from 1429. By this act Alexandru cel Bun donated the monastery on the valley of the river Vâşnovăţ to his wife, Princess Marena. At that time the estate of the monastery included a mill and several villages. Marena gave the monastery a unique collection of ecclesiastical clothes. Made between 1427 and 1431, they are the oldest embroidery of this genre that has come to our day.
Having the status of a royal monastery, the monastic settlement enjoyed the care of several rulers of Moldova. The first stone church, dedicated to the Assumption of the Mother of God, from which the foundations, discovered by archaeologists in 1993, were preserved, was built during the reign of Alexander the Good, around 1425.
Stephen the Great also made repairs to the original church (Capriana I) following the earthquake of 1471. That first place was more massive than the present church, but a new, more powerful, earthquake brought him great damage in 1516.
In 1542 – 1545, the ruler Petru Rares made extensive restoration works, as recorded in the chronicle of Grigore Ureche. He erected the church upon the foundations (Capriana II, the present one). From that time until today, only the walls up to the cornice have been preserved, the vaulting system being rebuilt in the modern age, in neoclassical style. The church plan remained the typical Moldavian medieval age – this being, as a matter of fact, the only monument of cult preserved from that period on the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
Alexandru Lăpuşneanu, born in the Lăpuşnei area, has carried out new works of reinforcement and development and made important donations to the monastery. The founder was also the ruler Vasile Lupu, who renovated the passage, the pavement and the iconostasis of the voivodal church. At the end of the seventeenth century Capriana monastery experienced a period of decline. In 1698, the monastery was dedicated to the Zografu monastery on Mount Atos.
The Tsarist period
After the annexation of Bessarabia by the Russian Empire (1812), Capriana monastery passed in 1813 under the churches of Chisinau, the new form of Archbishop of Bessarabia, headed by Metropolitan Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni (1746 – 1821). He undertook important works to rebuild the stone church with the patronage of “Assumption of the Virgin”, giving him the present look. In 1840, a second church of the monastery was erected, dedicated to St. George, and in 1903 a third “winter” church, dedicated to St. Nicholas.
The Soviet period
During the Soviet period, Capriana monastery, as well as all the places of worship in the Moldavian SSR, suffered much, the wealth being confisctaed by the state, in 1962 it was closed and devastated. As early as 1949, the Soviet authorities tried to close the monastery because, as it was written in a document of the time: “At present the monastery creates obstacles in the process of collectivization in the village of Capriana. Monks have a hostile attitude towards the colchosome and through various methods seek to prevent its organization. ” At Capriana, there was the largest monastery library in Bessarabia. Despite declaring the monastery a “state-protected architectural monument,” library books, bells, and many cult objects disappeared. In the cells was opened a sanatorium for the children suffering from tuberculosis, in the church “Saint Nicholas” the village club was organized, and the church “St. George” was transformed into a warehouse.
Only in 1989, with the national revival of Romanians in Moldova, in the context of the more liberal politics promoted by Mihail Gorbachev, the monastery reopened its gates.
Between 2003 and 2012, Capriana monastery had ample restoration works with money from the state budget, but also from numerous private donors.
It should be remembered that the communist regime promoted the image of the Tsarist church, built in 1903, to the detriment of the voivodeship monastery which does not correspond to the Russian architecture or to the Romanian monastic architecture, similar to that of the monasteries in Northern Moldova. Numerous clips and movies feature the new Tsarist building as the historical church of the Capriana monastery, which is even more damning than the true voivodal church, located just a few yards from the new church, is still renovated inside. The Communist regime of President Voronin announced the completion of the renovation works of the monastic complex, although the works in the true voivode of Stephen the Great had not yet been completed. The confusion between the two churches is maintained today to the detriment of the authentic voivode creation,