Snagov Monastery, located 40km (25miles) north of Bucharest, built on a small island surrounded by a thick forest, is one of Romania's most famous tourist destinations, mainly because of its connections with Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula.
The lake and the forest are part of a natural reservation of 1700 hectares. Snagov Lake is about 17km (10.5 miles) long and 9m (30 feet) deep in some parts.
The church of Snagov was mentioned for the first time in a document written by Mircea the Elder in 1408. It seems that the church, dedicated to The Mother of God entering the Church, was built even earlier, during the reign of Vladislav I (1364-1379).
The entire monastic complex was surrounded by a strong wall and protected by a watching tower used at the same time as a belfry. Neagoe Basarab, another prince of Walachia, took care of the church and renovated the whole complex between 1517 and 1521.
It is said that Vlad the Impaler, killed in a fight not far away from Snagov, was buried inside the church, according to some historians. In fact, there is a grave right in front of the iconostasis (the wooden screen which separates the altar from the rest of an Orthodox church) which was open in the first part of the 20th century. Bones belonging to a man and rich vestments were discovered, but there is no evidence they belonged to Vlad the Impaler.
The Snagov Monastery was known not just as a praying place but also as an important cultural center. Starting with the 17th century, the church had a printing press. The peak of the complex was registered at the beginning of the 18th century, during Brancoveanu’s reign. It is said that during the 18th-19th centuries, the monks’ cells were transformed into a prison for different noblemen. Here, 54 people, who revolted in 1848, were imprisoned and finally drowned in the lake.
After the secularization of 1864, the monks left the monastery, the cells were destroyed, and the church started to decline. Today, only the church and the belfry resisted the fight against time; the walls, the cells, and the other two churches didn’t last. In the 20th century, the church was renovated many times, starting in 1904 and ending in 1995.
Snagov church is made of brick, its facades being covered by blind arches on two rows. It has four towers, each of them with windows surrounded by concentric arches.
The plan of the church is related to the plans of some churches from Athos Mountain in Greece. The narthex (the room before the nave), in a square shape, is covered by a tower sustained by four central columns. Initially, this room was an open porch, but it was closed in 1563, the same year when it was painted. This room is at the same time a funeral chamber because here, some noblemen were buried. The nave, covered by a tower, has a Greek shape with two apses, while the altar, separated by the rest of the church through an iconostasis made of bricks, is covered by two smaller towers.
The church was painted by Dobromir the Young in 1563. His paintings lasted only in the narthex. George, the Painter, had redone the rest of the frescoes in 1815.
The road surrounded by the beautiful and thick forest, the boat ride on the lake, and the beautiful medieval church shrouded by an interesting history and legends make this place an important tourist destination.
The Schedule of The Snagov Monastery:
Daily: 08:00 – 19:00
Entrance fee: around €3.50
Address: The Island of The Snagov Lake, Snagov (map link)