An Accidental Visit to Rudi Monastery
I mentioned in my post about my trip to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Rudi that my driver took me to the Rudi monastery by mistake. The problem stemmed from a combination of language barrier and the fact that my driver had never heard of the Struve Geodetic Arc. But he had heard of the Rudi Monastery, so that is where we went. What a fabulously happy accident! Who doesn’t love a good visit to a funky old monastery, especially one as beautiful as this one:
The Founding of Rudi Monastery
Rudi Monastery (also called Rudy Monastery and Rughi Monastery) was built in 1777 in the middle of the Rudi-Arionesti. The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and is built in traditional Moldavian style (often referred to as a Witch’s Hat). The monastery is situated near a tributary of the Dniester river.
The monastery was built with the blessing of the Bishop of Hus on the Rudi family estate and financed by the Donicul merchant from Movilau. The same Old Church Slavonic inscription that describes the founding also states this amazing tidbit:
“In the name of the Holy Trinity, in the days of the blasphemed gentleman Gregory Alexandru Ghica, with the blagoslovenia of Bishop Inochentie of the Hussites, in 1777, June 1.”
A Cursed History?
“We do not have our own land, the nursery cells are built from slopes, in number 19, maintenance subsidies are not received anywhere.” Owner Mihail Bogus, grasping the Rudi family’s estate , further ruined the monastery. He forcibly took the orchard, the vineyard, the pastures, the prisaca. But, as a punishment for the mischiefs committed, in 1845, Bogus’ daughter, Anastasia, suddenly dies, and in another year the other daughter, Anna, is quitting. At the age of 62, he goes out of his life. The Bogus family was buried on the territory of the abandoned hermitage in 1846. At present, a tombstone on the left side of the church is preserved and the name “Mihail Bogus, deceased in 1856” is inscribed. Next to him were the graves of his daughters. On the left wall of the church narthex there is another funerary inscription: “Here are the bodies of the founders of the holy temple Teodor and Andronachi Rudi.”
After this dark time, the monastery was abandoned completely until 1921, when it was reopened, ultimately becoming the home to thirty monks. However, the monastery was endangered again in 1948, when Soviets forced the place to close down. The monks living there were forced to find other monasteries where they could live and work.
During the rest of the Soviet era, the monastery went through several phases. It served as a school, and children’s hospital, and a children’s home. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was abandoned again, from 1990-1992.
In 1992, three monks decided to move in and re-open the monastery. These monks were from Romania, and they wanted to rekindle the lost monastery. Within a year, restoration began to re-beautify the church.
Of course, all of this wonderful history I learned after my visit, as not a single person at the site or my driver spoke English. Unlike many monasteries I’ve visited, this one did not have a gift shop or any commerce on site, so there wasn’t a English brochure or book that I could buy to fill me in. While many of the more touristed monasteries do have English-speaking guides, many do not. However, most of them have some kind of English book. Have I ever mentioned that I own a lot of books about monasteries? They make for handy research tools after trips, because too many of these gorgeous monasteries don’t have that much documentation online.
Beyond not being able to learn the history until later (not a big deal), I was also dressed inappropriately. Considering I was covered wrist to toe, this seemed a bit crazy to me, but I went with it. The nun working the gate dressed me (literally, not figuratively). She started with the polyester skirt (my knee length skirt was too immodest and my leggings too hip-hugging). She pulled the skirt over my head in a swift motion as if to say, “oh child, why don’t you know how to be modest?” Then she expertly tied the kerchief on my head, and I was allowed on the premises.
I’ve walked into mosques with more skin showing than I was allowed at this monastery, but it was worth it. Because inside the church is stunning.
So much of the Orthodox churches I’ve seen has such clear callbacks to what was popular in Constantinople, but this one didn’t. There was none of the same blue background or familiar faces of the same icons. From the Troodos Churches in Cyprus, to Meteora in Greece, to Voronet in Romania, so many of these places have such similar artwork. But Rudi felt completely different.
Instead of bold blues, reds, and yellows, Rudi monastery is covered in lilacs, pastel greens, and soft pinks. Where many other Orthodox monasteries are overpowering and dark, Rudi is vibrant and light. It was a very special place to see, and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it!
The grounds are stunning too. Large and vivacious, they were covered in gorgeous spring greenery. I got to stroll alone around the gardens, seeing the graves that I would learn about later and watching the nuns and priests go about their work.
A nun’s life is hard, and I gained a deeper respect for the ones that live here when I realized that the only restrooms on site were outdoor latrines. I would not want to live there in winter!
After exploring the church, the grounds, getting lost looking for a toilet, and politely turning down the latrines (just to my driver. I didn’t have to go that bad!), we were off to hunt the Struve Geodetic Arc.
During my visit, I didn’t see any other tourists there. This was partly due, I’m sure, to the fact that I was there on a weekday. However, from what I could find out about the monastery online, it looks like it is a popular place for religious tourism and tour groups.
The monastery is an important part of Moldovan history and a strong point of pride, along with connecting the country of Moldova to it’s Romanian roots. The Romanian region we call Moldavia is called simply “Moldova,” and it is part of the larger historic Moldova.
To celebrate the monastery, Moldova issued a stamp featuring a picture of the church in 1996. You can see the stamp here.
The monastery was commemorated again in 2000, when the Bank of Moldova issued a coin series celebrating the Monasteries of Moldova, including Rudi. You can see the coin here.
Tips for Visiting Rudi Monastery
- From Chisinau, you can rent a car or hire a driver. I did not use public transit, but the monastery is not on a main road.
- Ladies, come in your most modest attire and bring your own kerchief or scarf if you’re uncomfortable borrowing one.
- There are no snacks or commerce of any kind on the premises.
- No one told me not to take photos inside, but I didn’t explicitly ask for permission.
- Don’t forget to walk around the grounds.
- The restrooms are outdoors, so bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer or wait until your next destination.