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Curtea de Arges

Curtea de Arges is the capital of the Arges county, Romania, situated on the right bank of the Arges river, where it flows through a valley of the lower Carpathiansd on the railway from Pitesti to the Rothenthurm Pass.

Table of contents
1 Population
2 History
3 The cathedral
4 Legends



The city is one of the oldest in Romania. According to tradition it was founded early in the 14th century by Prince Radu Negru, succeeding Cāmpulung as capital of Wallachia. Hence its name Curtea, the court. It contains a few antique churches, and was created a bishopric at the close of the 18th century.

The cathedral

The cathedral of Curtea de Arges, by far the most famous building in Romania, stands in the grounds of a monastery, 11/2 m. N. of the city. it resembles a very large and elaborate mausoleum, built in Byzantine style, with Moorish arabesques. In shape it is oblong, with a many-sided annexe at the back. In the centre rises a dome, fronted by two smaller cupolas; while a secondary dome, broader and loftier than the central one, springs from the annexe. Each summit is crowned by an inverted pear-shaped stone, bearing a triple cross, emblematic of the Trinity.

The windows are mere slits; those of the tamhours, or cylinders, on which the cupolas rest, are curved, and slant at an angle of 70, as though the tambours were leaning to one side. Between the pediment and the cornice a thick corded moulding is carried round the main building. Above this comes a row of circular shields, adorned with intricate arabesques, while bands and wreaths of lilies are everywhere scupltured on the windows, balconies, tambours and cornices, adding lightness to the fabric. The whole is raised on a platform 7 ft. high, and encircled by a stone balustrade.

Facing the main entrance is a small open shrine, consisting of a cornice and dome upheld by four pillars. The cathedral is faced with pale grey limestone, easily chiselled, but hardening on exposure. The interior is of brick, plastered and decorated with frescoes. Close by stands a large royal palace, Moorish in style. The archives of the cathedral were plundered by Magyars and Moslems, but several inscriptions, Greek, Slav and Roman, are left.

One tablet records that the founder was Prince Neagoe Basarab (1512-1521); another that Prince Ioan Radu completed the work in 1526. A third describes the repairs executed in 1681 by Prince Serban Cantacuzino; a fourth, the restoration, in 1804, by Joseph, the first bishop. Between 1875 and 1885 the cathedral was reconstructed; and in 1886 it was reconsecrated.


Its legends have inspired many Rumanian poets, among them the celebrated Vasile Alecsandri. One tradition 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 version makes him employ one Manole or Manoli as architect. Manole being unable to finish the walls, the prince threatened him and his assistant with death. At last Manole suggested that they should follow the ancient custom of building a living woman into the foundations; and that she who first appeared on the following morning should be the victim. The other masons warned their families, and Manole was forced to sacrifice his own wife. Thus the cathedral was built except the roof. So arrogant, however, did the masons become, that the prince bade remove the scaffolding, and all, save Manole, perished of hunger. He fell to the ground, and a spring of clear water, which issued from the spot, is still called after him.