The Sinaia Monastery, founded by Prince Mihai Cantacuzino in 1695 and named after the great Sinai Monastery on Mount Sinai, in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. It is now inhabited by 20 Christian Orthodox monks.
The monastery consists of two courtyards surrounded by low buildings. In the centre of each courtyard there is a small church built in the Byzantine style. One of them - "Biserica Veche" (The Old Church) - dates from 1695, while the more recent "Biserica Mare" (The Great Church) was built in 1846.
The monks possess a library that constitutes a repository for valuable jewels belonging to the Cantacuzino family, as well as the earliest Romanian translation of the Bible, dated 1668.
Until 1850, Sinaia consisted of little more than the monastery and a group of huts. In 1864, however, the monastic estate was assigned to the Board of Civil Hospitals (Eforia Spitalelor Civile), which opened a hospital and several baths, and helped develop mineral springs in Sinaia.
In 1948 the Monastery goes under the patronage of the Archdiocese of Bucharest from the Board of Civil Hospitals. The Romanian Patriarch Justinian restores the buildings between the years 1951 and 1957 with the money from the Archdiocese of Bucharest. At this point they fit the whole Monastery with running water, electricity and natural gas.
The Old Church
The Old Church was built in 1695. As of 2006 it is currently closed and it is restored to the old beauty.
The Great Church
The Great Church was first built during 1842-1846 as a smaller building. It happened under the leadership of the fathers superior (egumeni) Ioasaf and Paisie and with the money from the monastery.
Board of Civil Hospitals did rebuild parts of the church from 1897 to 1903. This change gave the Great Church the appearance of today.
The current appearance
The nowadays appearance is created by George Mandrea, an architect who combined the moldavian style with thick walls with the brâncovenesc style from Valachia. A green enamel belt encircles the building with three intrerupted lines. It is said this is the symbol of the Unity of Holy Trinity in one God and the Unity of the Three Romanian Kingdoms in one country.
The paintings are painted on gold mozaic - typical for the neo-bizantine style. These paintings are made by the danish painter Aage Exner. The main pictures shows five persons:
- Iosif Gheorghian mitropolit primat - he is the one who opened in 1903 the new building
- King Carol I (1866—1914) dressed as an officer and with his right hand upon a rock pillar missing a piece as a symbol of the missing Romanian territories at that time: Bucovina, Basarabia and Transylvania.
- Queen Elisabeta (known in the literary world as Carmen Silva)
- Princess Maria - queen's only child who died at an early age
- Mihail Cantacuzino - builder of the old church
The furniture is made from wood (paltin and oak) by Constantin Babic and his students at the Ṣcoala de Arte si Meserii from Bucharest. The thrones are gold plated. The King's throne has the royal emblem and the writing Nihil sine Deo (Nothing without God). The Queen's throne has the letters E.D. embossed.
The two russian icons of Saint Serghei and Saint Nicholas are a gift from Tzar Nicholas II of Russia given in 1903 to the egumen Nifon Arhimandritul for the baptism of Prince Nicholas (Nicolae), son of King Ferdinand (1914-1927).
Thanks to Carol I, the Great Church of the monastery has become the first church to use the electric lights in Romania.
The Bell Tower
During the leadership of egumen Nifon Popescu (1888-1909) there was added the Bell Tower. It was finished in 1892. The bell weights 1700kg and it was brought from the Colţea Tower in Bucharest.
Celebrating 200 years of the Old Church in 1895 they opened the Museum of the Monastery. This is the first exhibition of church objects in Romania.
Prince Mihai Cantacuzino founded the monastery as a thanksgiving for having escaped Ottoman brigands upon his return from a pilgrimage to St. Catherine's. It was named Sinaia in recognition of St. Catherine's.