[Romania] Curtea de Argeș
Curtea de Argeș literally means The Court upon Argeș and refers to the former status of the town as the capital of Wallachia.
One of the oldest towns in Wallachia, Curtea de Argeș was the capital of a small local state which was the start for the unification of the lands south of the Carpathians at the beginning of the 13th century.
The town was founded by the legendary ruler Radu Negru also known as Negru Vodă. It is believed that he came from the north, from the Făgăraș area in Transylvania, because in 1289 the Kingdom of Hungary forced all nobles (including those in Transylvania) to adhere to the Roman Catholic Church, an act which could have determined the ethnic Romanian to seek out new lands.
One of the most important sites in Curtea de Argeș is the Royal Court with the Royal Church. Known also as the “Saint Nicholas” Princely Church, the construction of the inscribed Greek cross ground plan edifice, began on the site of an older church between 1340 and 1352 under Basarab I and completed by his descendants, Nicolae Alexandru Basarab and Vladislav I Vlaicu.
It preserves in good condition remarkable original frescoes of Byzantine Paleologan Mannerism executed in 1363 – 1369, as well as frescoes fragments dating from the 18th and 19th century. The church was completely renovated in 2003-2004.
The church resembles a stone fortress, connected through catacombs to a guard tower on a nearby hill. In the courtyard, ruins of the Prince’s Palace Complex are still visible.
Inside the court compound, archaeological excavations revealed the presence of 14 tombs among which the most important is that of the Vladislav I Vlaicu, one of it’s founders.
Basarab I, was the one that established the House of Basarab, when he defeated the Hungarian army of King Charles I in the battle of Posada in 1330 and founded the first independent Romanian principality.
The most famous and visited site in the town is the Curtea de Argeș Monastery. Its construction was started in 1512 by Neagoe Basarab and completed in 1526 by Radu of Afumați, his son in law.
The beautiful construction is surrounded by many legends. One legend describes how Neagoe Basarab, while a hostage in Constantinople, designed a splendid mosque for the sultan, returning to build the cathedral out of the surplus materials.
Another very popular legend is that about Manole and his wife Ana. The master builder Manole, who was the chief architect of the monastery, had to sacrifice his own pregnant wife for the completion of the building. It is said that Manole built one of the walls of the church with his wife inside it.
Neagoe Basarab was the Prince of Wallachia between 1512 and 1521.
The Basarab’s Boulevard is uniting the two major attractions and it’s a nice place for a stroll, with many restaurants and terraces and very good prices.
Curtea de Argeș is located at 100 minutes from Bucharest, 45 minutes from Râmnicu Vâlcea and 2 hours from Sibiu. Other interesting sites close by are the Poienari Fortress, Stan’s Valley and Vidraru Dam and further to the north, on the Transfagarasan Road, the Bâlea Lake.
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