“The unshakable faith is a fortified tower and Christ helps the one who believes”
The Monastery of Nicula
Mother of God icon painted in 1681 by Luke Orthodox priest
The Monastery of Nicula, one of the oldest monastic establishments in Romania (dating back to 1552), was termed in 1659 a “school for the care of the soul and the education of the children”. With the year 1699 and the miracle of the Icon of the Mother of God, the monastery became a center of spiritual life and culture, famous for its large pilgrimages and the art of painting icons on glass.
In the year 1326, Nicula was a forest in which the Orthodox hermit Nicholas (Nicolae) was leading a solitary life. He lent his name both to the village and the monastery above. The first historical witness of the monastic house dates from the year 1552. At that time, there was a wooden church here, built in a “Maramuresan” style, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Between 1712 and 1714 the church was restored, but in 1973 it was completely burned down by a fire that ravaged the monastery. It was therefore replaced by a wooden church, dating back to the 18th century, moved here from the small village of Năsal nearby.
In 1659 the monastery comprised not only a monastic community, but also an “imperial school”, in which the children from the surrounding villages studied. The monks had also the task of teachers.
Starting with the 15th of February 1699, Nicula becomes widely known as one of the places chosen by the Mother of God. Her icon – painted in 1681 by the Orthodox priest Luke (Luca) from the village of Iclod – cried for 26 days in a row, as a forewarning of the sad events that were to hit, around the year 1700, both the monastic life and the whole Orthodox Church of Transylvania. From this moment on, the Mother of God became the hope of salvation from serfdom, illnesses and all sorrows. Because of this, the faithful began to come yearly in pilgrimage, on foot, with church flags in their front, singing the hymn: “We came, our dear Mother, to see You again; To tell You the sorrow, and all our pain!”
The weeping of the icon also gave birth to the art of painting icons on glass, a monastic craft which was also learned by the peasants. Nicula thus became the first such school in the country. This tradition is dearly kept by the monks to this day, together with the painting of Byzantine icons on wood.
The stone church was built between 1875 and 1905, and the inside painting was finished in 1961 by Prof. Vasile Pascu. The iconostasis that adorns it, sculpted in linden tree in 1938 by Samuil Keresteşiu from Tăşnad, has in its center the Miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God. Through its solar shape, the iconostasis is unique and of a rare beauty.
The abbot-house, built between 1978 and 1989, houses a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas and an important collection of old icons on both glass and wood, as well as a collection of old Church books, among which the “Cazania” of Metropolitan Varlaam, printed in the year 1643.
2001 is a historical mark for the Monastery of Nicula, through the intervention of Archbishop Bartholomew of Cluj, who refounded the monastic establishment, reorganizing it and starting – together with the monastic community – the construction of new buildings: the Church, the Creation House, the Center of Patristic Studies, the Administrative House and the Belfry. Until today, the Creation House, which comprises the residence of the Archbishop, the library and the painting workshop of the monastery, has been completed. Also, the Church-building approaches its completion, as well as the Center of Patristic Studies.
The monastic brotherhood, 30 strong, struggles incessantly to follow, through prayer and labor, the call of Christ the Savior: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”