Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Romania circuit - The morning of the fifth day - the Agapia Convent - The 24th od May 2012

By the time we left the Monastery of Voronet it had started to rain and upon reaching the Agapia Convent it was raining really hard, though it did not affect our visit to the main complex of Agapia din Vale, whose convent Church was built in 1644-47by Prince Basil.

Its helmet-shaped copola is fairly similar to the one at the entrance gate tower. Nicolae Grigorescu, the country's foremost  painter at the time  is said to have repainted the  church's interior  when it was restored between 1858 and 1861.

The gate tower is said to aim at concealing rather than protecting the whitewashed enclosure around a beautiful looking garden we came across the moment we walked in.

Outside the convent and going down the village we walked past a row of nuns' cottages. along which was the Casa Memorial Alexandru Vlahuta, where the author is said to have spent several summers visiting his mother and sister, who were both nuns there.

Similarly to what still happens in a few convents in Portugal the nuns sell a wide variety of jams and syrups, all of which are home produced.

It was a fairly interesting visit which preceded a change in the itinerary, once the arrangement regarding the Neamt Monastery and lunch in its premises had to be altered, as we headed to the Monastery of Secu instead.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The forthcoming trip to Praia, Cape Verde (additional information)

I have today been handed two birthday presents for some of the girls whose birthdays  are in August - Josefine and Mena (whose "godmothers are Cecilia and Silvia respectively), to which I myself have added some for two additional girls (Josseanne and Ineida), together with some balls and two T-shirts I have bought for some of the boys at the emergency shelter in Achada de Santo Antonio. I have been promised some second-hand clothes for the boys by Ana do Vale, which I must confess made me particularly happy as so far I have not been able to collect any.

A dress and some matching earrings bought by me on behalf of Cecilia for her "protégée" Josefine's birthday (left) and a birthday present (a dress and a book) for Mena  bought by her "godmother" Silvia, who has also handed me the money for her forthcoming school fee (right).


The birthday presents I have bought for Ineida (left) and Josseanne (right).

The gifts I have bought for some of the boys at risk staying at the emergency shelter centre at Achada de Santo Antonio in Praia.

 Some gifts I have bought for the cooks who helped us organize the birthday party by cooking all the food and baking and decorating all the cakes for the group of 28 children last time and are likely to be doing the same for 24 children next time.

I am already concerned with the weight, which seems to always be a problem, particularly when travelling alone (or even in pairs) taking into account the actual number of children we are "helping" and the local needs, though I trust Marie Hélène and I will be able to (at least) carry what is imperative with us.

The most important is not to let the local communities down ... but I know they acknowledge our difficulties and are undeniably thankful for the energy and effort we are instilling into this project.

The Romania circuit - The morning of the fifth day - The Monastery of Voronet (cont.) - the 24th of May 2012


Every time we finished visiting any of the painted Monasteries I had the distinct feeling that no other Monastery would impact me like the one I had just seen and yet I must confess that they all impacted me in very similar ways, even though the paintings were different.

We could have stood a lot longer in front of many of the scenes depicted and I am sure none of us (including those who were not particularly fond of either religion or Art) would have suggested we moved somewhere else. The explanations provided us with a thorough insight into the epoch and the implications of some of the characters ... but the frescoes themselves provided the rest.  

There were many more painted Monasteries in the region Christian and I would be interested in visiting, and the fact that they were not included in this circuit will definitely lead us to consider going back some time to further explore the area we trust to be worth being thoroughly looked into.

Note : We were not allowed to photograph its interior.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Romania circuit - the morning of the fifth day - the Monastery of Voronet - the 24th of May 2012

We headed fairly early towards the Monastery of Voronet, which according to Ion Neculce's chronicle it was founded by Stephen the Great in 1488 to fulfil a pledge to the hermit Daniil, his confessor at the epoch who had assured him that should he undertake a campaign against the Turks, he would be successful.

Once the Turks were forced back across the Danube, the Monastery was erected in just three months, though its superb frescoes were added between 1547 and 1550. The Voronet blue obtained from lapis lazuli  has been  put alongside  the Titian red and the Veronese green into the lexicon of Art and Voronet often referred to as the "Oriental Sistine Chapel".  


The western wall is fully painted with the last judgement, considered to be the finest single composition among the painted Monasteries.

Fish tailed bulls, unicorns and other zodiacal symbols form a frieze  below the eaves, beneath which  Christ sits in majesty above a chair symbolizing the "Toll Gates of the Air", where the deceased are to be judged and prayers for their souls counted;

On either side of those in limbo stand the Turks and Tartars destined to perdition.

Beneath them, devils and angels can be seen pushing sinners into the flaming river that sweeps them down into hell, in response to which graves open and a sunken ship is returned from the depth with animals bearing the limbs of those they have devoured, with the exception of the deer, symbol of innocence and the elephant, which presents no threat to Romania.






(To be continued)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The forthcoming trip to Praia, Cape Verde

Thanks to the precious contribution of Mr. Breitenstein and myself the children staying at the emergency shelter centre for abandoned children and children at risk in Achada de Santo Antonio will soon be getting some reading books, dolls, skipping ropes and a wide variety of artistic materials.

This alone will not suffice to alter their lives but will at least allow them to be creative and build up memorable and hopefully  "special" moments.

The artistic material and books bought with Mr. Breitenstein's money

The dolls and skipping ropes bought with my money

I will hopefully be able to collect second-hand clothes for the boys, which are in need as in accordance with the information provided last time we visited the centre.

Some of Mr. Breitienstein's money together with Cecilia's  financial contribution have been used to buy  some of the things needed so as to organise a second birthday party for the children of Calheta whose birthdays are from May to September.

Some of the shaped balloons, to be put inside each of the bags the children will be getting, bought with Cecilia's money.

Some shaped balloons, decorations, colourful, plates, glasses and clown hats for the party bought with Mr. Breitenstein's money.

The bags and holders gently provided by Carla Cordeiro as well as plastic cutlery, colourful napkins, gift bags and small bracelets bought by me for the party.

Some of the "godmothers" have already contributed with the birthday party fee (Dora, Maria João, Cecilia and myself) for the "protégées" included in the next group and the remaining ones are expected to do it till the end of August.

I am proud to announce that five more people have joined the project, three of whom have already been given the names of the children they will be helping in the near future (photos will soon be published)

Regardless of the crisis Portugal is going through at the moment it is good to know that solidarity does exist and some people are still willing to contribute to help these children. My gratitude goes out to them and those who have stood by me since the beginning of this project.