arzareshti monastery was built by boyar Stan Varzari, contemporary of the ruler Alexandru cel Bun (1399-1432) and who is famous mostly for foundation and dedication of this monastery, whose name it carries. It is not known what exactly made this boyar raise this hallowed place, but there definitely exist anonymous memoirs with ancestral sources that have a folkloric nuance, in reflection of which this event was embellished and became a legend.
Stan Varzari was acquainted with the ruler Alexander cel Bun, who always visited this boyar while traveling over the river Prut during long-lasting administrative trips or for hunting aurochs, bears, deer and wild boars in Moldavian Codri. He was also the landlord of two hamlets with archaic names: Tabaieshti and Viscoaie that stood on the way of the travelers to Cetatea Alba (White Castle).
It happened that these two settlemens served as the first halt for those who were crossing the river Prut. It seems that Stan Varzari was a boyar with a big heart because he was concerned not only about the material needs of the citizens and travelers, but also about their spiritual thirst, as if he was astonished by the gospel words: ”For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Mt.16:26). Being inspired by this meaningful message, the boyar tried to find a worthy place to raise a hallowed shrine. And “since that time the whole week Stan Varzari was wandering aloofly being tormented by thoughts”. A peasant dared to ask him:
– Oh, Master, what are you worried about?
Finally the boyar unburdened his soul:
– Yesterday I had a dream where my guardian angel took my hand and led me to a hazel grove near an apiary, and showed me a purling spring. “Look, boyar, here you will raise a hallowed shrine for our Saviour, so that after your passing away you could come to the gates of heaven not empty-handed”. And now I am thinking about when and how to raise a monastery.
– It’s an incentive to good deeds, boyar!, some more peasants supported him.
– But what is the difference between a church and a monastery?, a talkative Gipsy asked him.
Stan Varzari explained:
– Monks and brothers, those who serve in a skete or a monastery can not get married, while priests in the churches can have a family.
– And do you think it is good to live like a hermit?, asked him that gipsy even more exaltedly.
– It is as it is, but we will start raising a monastery on this sun-washed place, enlightened by the Almighty! said the landlord, settling the discussion.
– Your will be done, boyar!, and the servants made him a low bow.
Soon the peasants carried from the wood on the oxen some long and straight beams, twigs, oak and cornel pegs.
At the ceremony of dedication of this church there were present clerics from the neighboring village, from Hushi and Iashi, boyars from Suceava and many other people.
– Brother Stan, you raised an icon of the soul in our Codri, told him his neighbor Shendrea and clapped him on the shoulder. I would like to bestow the monastery with the nearby plum tree garden, a sheepfold with sheep and this moneybag with gold coins.
Shendrea handed him the bag made of deer leather and added:
– Alexander Voda decided to visit you on his way from Nistru to Cheshenau Roshu. But for the time being he sent you this small fee.
After divine service several servants asked boyar Varzari for permission to become monks in this monastery.
– We swear you, our master, that we won’t let you down.
Thus, by God’s will there appeared the first monastery at the left bank of the river Prut. At the beginning the Varzareshti monastery was represented by a small wooden church, surrounded by a wattled fence and a crucifix near the gate. And its first property was the donation of boyar Shendrea: the nearby plum tree garden, a sheepfold with sheep and the moneybag with gold coins. That is why the village near the monastery carries the name Shendreni.
For the first time the monastery is mentioned in the documents dated April 25, 1410, when Alexander Voda, Moldavian ruler, issued a bill where he expressed his gratitude to Pan Vena for his deeds and loyalty and placed at his disposal the villages Corneshtii, Miclăusheshti, Lozova, Sacarenii, Dvornicheanii, Dumeshtii, Tsiganeshtii, Lavreshtii, Sadova and Homiceshtii. In this document it is also mentioned that one of the borders of this territory is monastery of Varzar.
Lavreştii şi Sadova şi Homiceştii. It means that by that time Varzareshti Monastery had been well-known and developed, and it was probably built long time ago before the appearance of this document.
As it was already mentioned, Stan Varzari raised a quite modest monastery with a small wooden church; this usually happens when a church warden wants to raise a shrine rapidly. Till 1770 there don’t appear any other evidences about the monastery and its organization. We cannot tell how the monks lived there or if on its territory there was build anything else. The only thing we know is that in 1770 the monastery was rebuilt, renewed after being devastated by Tatars for many times. There is not mentioned the exact year of monastery desolation by the Tatars, but according to the history of Moldova Tatars have violated this shrine for many times from 1538 till 1770.
After all this events, in 1770 the priest Vasile (whose name in monkhood was Varlam) and his son Constantin Macarescu, who was promoted to archpriest, began the renewal of the monastery, being supported by the peasants. In the monastery archives there remained a document dated 15 December 1820, that was issued by Kishinau Exarchate Department, numbered 56, where is mentioned, that Varlaam Macarescu is the church warden of Varzareshti monastery and that its reconstruction was effectuated by Ioan Macarescu and his brother Fiodor, who were probably relatives of this monk Varlaam. This time the monastery has been rebuilt not on its own foundation, but it was relocated to a peak named Dealul Morilor, 3 km to the south of its previous location.
Only in 1796 the reconstruction of Varzari Monastery was finished.
The monastic complex consisted of a wooden church, covered with shingle on a stone foundation, dedicated to St. Demetrius of Thessalonica, some cells of beams and planks for monks, a bell tower with two bells; this all was surrounded by a low wattled fence. The monastery was subordinated to the Monasteries and Sketes Exarchate of the district Orhei. The documents of this epoch prove that Stan (here it is not meant the church warden boyar Stan) and his brothers Arteni and Gabriel Varzari bestowed the monastery with the estate Varzareshti, where the monastery was situated.
Monastery of Varzari was known as a monastery for men, but information regarding the style and form of their life was not kept anywhere. We might suspect that there was a monastic community organized according to the rules settled by the famous parents of monasticism or may be they had a hermit’s life.
As well as the researchers of History of Romanian Orthodox Church, we believe that the religious settlements of that time, which existed within pre-moldavian territorial formations, were modest, and represented just several hermitages. The monks lived in an idioritmic way in sketes built of wood, hidden in the forest, in the valleys or mountains.
An important moment for the monastic life in Varzareshti took place in 1815, when here were brought nuns from the Cosautsi skete. From 1770, when the monastery was renewed, till 1815 the monastic community was edified by archpriest Constantine (1770-1800), hegumen Ioan (1800-1808) and archimandrite Victor (1808-1815), who was there the last monastic elder. From 1815 till 1959, when the monastery was closed by the communists, sisters were edified by nuns Sinclitichia (1815-1817), Nazaria (1817-1819), Anisia (1819-1835), Tecla (1835-1860), Olga (1862-1865), hegumene Olimpiada (1865-1881), Fevronia (1881-1888), Augustina (1888-1916), Evlalia (1916-1943) and the last eldress Platonida (1943-1959).
The largest number of nuns in Varzaresti monastery achieved 135 persons, not including the eldress, and was registered in 1918.
Among the most notable activities that took place after the establishment of nuns in the monastery of Varzari in the period from 1815 to 1959, can be mentioned: the construction of a stone church with heating in 1863-1868; near the old church there began the construction of a stone church and a wooden building with cells, with the help of church members; the stone church will be consecrated in the name of “the Nativity of the Virgin Mary”; there were also changed iconostasis in both churches; St. Demetrios Church was expanded. There were also established a school for girls in 1904, a charitable hospital, and were sponsored Theological Seminary in Chisinau and nursing for people in need.
The monastery would prosper if there didn’t start the violation of sacred places after the war organized by those, who were baptized in our churches, but who were carrying on their chests purple cards with the image of the greatest antichrist.
It was almost the Trinity Sunday of 1959 and the citizens of villages Shendreni and Varzareshti gathered together in the church, bringing with them some bread, candles and ripe cherries, when the divine service was interrupted in a barbaric way.
From the history of the monastery, which passed on from mouth to mouth, we can find out how the nuns and sisters were trying to resist this merciless devastation. They say that nuns mustered their martyrlike courage and decided to protect the church and its shrines at all costs.
Thus, when the trucks were full of church belongings and were ready to start, all the nuns kneeled before these cars in a row, protecting the shrines with the price of their own lives. But from now on it was evident that the communist terror was much stronger than their resistance. The summer church “St.Demetrios” became a storehouse, but the winter one in the name of “the Nativity of the Virgin Mary” was transformed in a club, where dominated depravity and outrageous lie. With time the church “Nativity of the Virgin Mary” was ruined, but from the “St.Demetrios” church there remained only walls. Monastic cells were given to a primary school. After three decades of devastation only winds were howling in the hills and some remains of the dome could be seen in the distance. Only from the hills you could notice several ruined monastic cells and understand that formerly there was a monastery. This place was abandoned and forlorn.
And when no one didn’t believe there existed a chance for the monastery to be renewed, the archpriest of Varzareshti Commune Vasile Plachinta took the responsibility for the first steps to its rebirth. Thus, in 1990 Varzareshti Monastery was revived for the third time and opened widely its gates for those who are called by Christ: „Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Early reconstruction of the monastery was started by Father Vasile Plachinta and a group of activists and believers. Later this work was continued by Father Sergei Novac who was appointed archpriest after the death of father Vasile, and who followed their progress until the appointment of an eldress in 1994 – nun George (Claudia Plachinta in secular life). Immediately after her eldress appointment she took over reconstruction activities together with the monastery hegumen-abbot Seraphim Plachinta, confessor of the monastery. First liturgy since the communist devastation was officiated in the monastery in 1995, in the feast day of summer church St. Demetrius.
In 1997, the monastery once again meets the Queen of Heaven and Earth, which was taken from the monastery barbarically – miracle-working icon of Our Lady of monastery Varzareshti. This year with the help of believers from Chernautsi region there was also constructed corps with monastic cells for nuns. The strictly necessary constructions were finished in 2000. In the day of celebration of St. Demetrius the monastery was consecrated. The winter church “Nativity of the Virgin Mary” was was razed to the foundation and its reconstruction was impossible. The only thing that remained is its project which it is kept in the monastery archives and its photos in state of ruin.
From the recent activities there can be mentioned:
In 2007 the wall painting in the monastery was started.
In 2008 there was demolished an old corps of cells with the intent to build a hotel for pilgrims and workshops. Other old houses, which served as cells, are still inhabited by old nuns, though they are in a poor condition.
On December 31, 2008 a fire occurred, affecting a corps of cells.
The current spring (2009) there was finish painting of the altar.
Regarding the monastic farm, it is necessary to mention that în 1995 there were constructed the first stable and sheepfold, where were kept 10 cows and 85 sheep, bestowed by believers. As the monastery is situated on top of the hill, there was no water. So it was necessary to construct an aqueduct 3 km long, and this work was done in 1998-1999.
In 1996, the monastery was connected to the telephone network. Everything that was mentioned has been achieved only with the help of christians.
Regarding the monastery property, it has to be mentioned that in 1995 the monastery was returned seven hectares of land, the farthest from the border with the village Varzaresti and of a poor quality. That is why the monastery had to change it twice until it got the forest from the top of the hill.
Being the eyewitness of intricate history of people from this territory, Varzaresti monastery was, is and will always be the SOIL of Orthodoxy in moldavian lands, an area of peace and solitude, a halt during the trip to the retrieval with himself and with our Creator – God.