Fr. PhD SERGIU-GRIGORE POPESCU, The Contribution of Oltenian Monasticism to the Formation of a Romanian Cultural, Social and National identity

Publishing House, Mitropolia Olteniei, Craiova, 2017, ISBN 978-606-731-027-6

Through this paper we intend to bring before the readers some historical arguments that strengthen once again the statement that the Romanian Orthodox Church, through its monastic supper on the right bank of the Olt, had a major contribution to the formation of a Romanian cultural, social and national identity. . The territories that today form the historical province of Oltenia have been over time the place of events that marked, to a greater or lesser extent, the destinies of the entire Romanian Orthodoxy, but also our becoming as a nation, as a nation with a strong identity. (cultural, social and national). The Oltenian monks from the great monasteries built on these lands by Saint Nicodemus of Tismana and his disciples were no strangers to these events either. Yes, on the contrary! These worthy servants of the altars were often in the middle of these events, they were the main characters.

The statement is not at all exaggerated if we consider that among the first strongholds of the Romanian people were the monasteries of St. Nicodemus, placed like a cross on the borders of Wallachia, with the clear mission to defend both the spiritual (Orthodox) identity of these inhabitants and the national (Romanian). Also on these lands, one of the oldest Romanian printing houses was established, the one from the Govora monastery (1635) and one of the most prolific printing houses functioned, that of the Râmnicu Diocese, with a clear mission, to spread light in the territories. beyond the Carpathians, where the brethren had been so bitterly under foreign rule for so long. The beginnings of Romanian education are also linked to Oltenian monasticism. The first schools in Oltenia that we have information about today were set up next to some monasteries, and the first teachers were monks “eager to learn”, eager to help form new generations more enlightened, able to look both to the future, wishing and a united and strong nation, but also towards the past, understanding well the great origins. The Oltenian monasteries were also the first archives, museums and libraries. They understood the importance of property deeds, heritage objects and manuscripts or books.

The church has had an important social role in the state since ancient times, which has been harmoniously intertwined with the religious moral mission. The needy and suffering people also needed social protection, support, help. In Oltenia and throughout Wallachia, the first steps in this field were also made by monasteries and their inhabitants. Many data are known today about the monastic diseases, about their importance in a certain period of time. But even these diseases were the result of a long evolution in terms of the social apostolate of the Church. They arose when the feeling that determines these philanthropic works and sustains them (love) needed new forms of manifestation. Within the Church, charity was never commanded, but it has always been a natural component of the human being penetrated by divine love, which produces essential transformations in the Christian. Another area of ​​great importance in the development of any people is the formation of a national identity. Oltenia was, during the period mentioned above, directly involved in both the struggles for national independence and social movements, and the monastic dinner here had its role in the events. Thus, it should be noted that in Tudor Vladimirescu’s Revolution of 1821, some Oltenian monks had a decisive role, through the support given to the worthy Pandur and Mr. Oltenian, from the years of education until the last moments of life. In the planning and development of the Revolution of 1848, many Oltenian monks played a leading role, being “commissioners” of progressive ideas, urging the people to rise up against any national or social oppression, or even laying the foundations of revolutionary clubs inside monasteries. (the case of the “Gănescu” monastery from Craiova). During the War of Independence of 1877 1878, the monks and nuns from Oltenia raised, for the needs of the Romanian Army, significant sums of money, food and other offerings so necessary for the soldiers fighting on the front, but also for those who treated their wounds in hospitals specifically established in Craiova or in other cities. Among the nurses who cared for the wounded soldiers were monks and monks from the monasteries of Bistrița, Hurezi and Dintr un lemn. The same happened in the two world conflagrations, when both the Union of Romanians and the preservation of this state unity were considered objectives of utmost importance by the Oltenian monastic supper, making every effort to support the Romanian army and to increase the morale of the occupied population.