Tismana Monastery is the first religious settlement in Wallachia and one of the oldest churches in the country. It was founded in 1375 by St. Nicodim, with the help of Radu Negru Vodă, the ruler and alleged founder of Wallachia.

St. Nicodim was a Macedonian monk who left home at only 16 years old to go to Mt Athos. Due to his exceptional qualities, rulers from many regions ask him to come and found Orthodox churches and monasteries. Approximately in the same period with the erection of the monastery in Tismana, St. Nicodim also founded monasteries in Serbia (Vratna and Manastirita), Wallachia (Vodița, Gura Motrului, Topolnița, Vișina and Aninoasa) and Transylvania (Prislop). After the death of Negru Vodă, the monastery’s building was continued by his sons, Dan I Basarab and Mircea cel Bătrân. St. Nicodim’s work at Tismana did not end there, but he founded a school for writing and also wrote himself what is now known as St. Nicodim’s Gospel. This book, now on display at the National History Museum in Bucharest, is supposed to be the oldest Romanian book.

Tismana Monastery was built in 14th century Byzantine style, also presenting elements of Romanian architecture. Through its importance and dimensions, the edifice is similar to the series of princely churches to which Dealu, Snagov and Curtea de Argeş Monastery belong.

The church’s initial painting was made in only one colour (ochre), but it was replaced in the 16th century by a polychrome painting in post-Byzantine style. The 1564 icons, work of painter Dobromir from Târgoviște, are considered to be the first Byzantine paintings from Wallachia. Along the years, the church suffered many transformations. The paintings were restored on many occasions, and some parts of the church were destroyed and rebuilt several times. Nowadays, visitors can admire the 18th century gilded oak iconostasis, the imposing chandelier and the two icons on glass donated by the Transylvanian poet George Coșbuc, as well as the monumental Romanian-style gate placed at the entrance in the monastery.

Surrounded by a high wall, the church also served political and military purposes, being the meeting place for rebels in the 1821 uprising. Towards the end of World War II, here it was hidden Romania’s National Treasury, approximately 380 tons of gold. But this is not the only treasure the monastery possessed. From rare books to valuable religious objects and an important collection of murals, icons, the treasure from Tismana is now housed at the monastery’s museum or at the National Art Museum in Bucharest. The church also hosts the relics of St. Nicodim and two other saints.

Phone: +40 253 374 317

How to get there:

Tismana is situated 130km north-west of Craiova.

By car: From Craiova, take DN6/E70 to Filiași, and DN66/E79 to Târgu Jiu. Here head west on DN67D to Tismana.

By bus: There are regular bus and maxitaxi rides from Târgu Jiu to Tismana. From the Târgu Jiu Bus Station, there is a bus leaving Târgu Jiu at 7:00 and returning from Tismana at 13:30, as well as other private maxitaxi companies.

By train: Take the train to Târgu Jiu and then take a bus to Tismana.