The Carmel, amidst faith and art

After 12 years of works the church of Snagov, in the monastery of the Carmelites, was finally dedicated, encompassing the East and the West

According to a Romanian saying, good things take time. It took about 12 years to complete the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of Snagov, some 30 kilometers from Bucharest, concluded with a solemn ceremony May 30 with the dedication of the church and the consecration of the Altar. The celebration, presided over by the metropolitan archbishop of Bucharest, Msgr. Ioan Robu, was attended by the Greek-Catholic bishop of Bucharest Mihai Fratila, 50 diocesan and religious, one thousand faithful from the parishes of Bucharest and neighbouring areas, a group of faithful and priests from Italy and a delegation from the Venetian province of the Discalced Carmelites. Seeking intimacy with God. Having arrived in Romania in the year 2000 from the Venetian province (Italy), a group of Carmelites, who used to live in an apartment in Bucharest, purchased a strip of land in a village near the capital and in 2003 the works of the Carmelite monastery began. “We wanted to create a beautiful environment, where people may rediscover themselves in the intimacy with God”, declared Father Antonio Prestipino, who coordinated the meeting. And they succeeded. The architecture, the mosaics, the window-panes, the flowers, the cloisters, and the entire complex express warmth, reception, peace and beauty and invite to elevate the hearts to God. An ecumenical endeavour. The entire building combines in a unique and harmonious way elements of Western architecture with the traditional Romanian ones. It’s the result of a joint cooperation of a Romanian Orthodox architect, Tudor Radulescu, and a Slovenian Catholic architect, Andrej Stepancic. “Romania is a country with different beautiful traditions, so we imagined a monastery where the two cultures were united and intertwined”, said Fr Prestipino. The monastery consists of a church, a tower, a convent and a reception home, which together create two cloisters: one reserved to the brothers, and the other for the general public. The reception house, which has a chapel, classrooms, a refectory and rooms for 2, 3, 4 and 5 people, totalling 150 beds, hosts retreats, conferences, ecclesial meetings, as well as religious and cultural events on a national and international scale. Rupnik’s work. The stained glass windows and mosaics of the church were made by Father Marko Rupnik, Slovenian Jesuit, along with his team of artists: 24 people of 10 nationalities, Roman-Catholic, Greek-Catholics and Orthodox, who made the mosaics in the course of a week. On the altar, from either side of the central scene with the coronation of Mary by his son, the artist has placed two groups of saints, some from the Carmelite family and saints related in some way to Romania, along with others honored also by the Romanian Orthodox Church: next to John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Edith Stein, there are the blessed Vladimir Ghika (Romanian), John Paul II, St. John Cassian and St. Helena. A unique church in Europe. The church of the Discalced Carmelites of Snagov is extremely rich in theological meanings: every architectural element, every window, every mosaic, every choice of the architects and artists tell a story, speak of God and of His love for man. The 12 columns which support the balconies inside the church are like the harps of angels; the floor of the church is striped white and light and dark gray ending with the white Carrara marble altar, all intended as a way of purification; the altar is square, because it is a nourishment to the peoples of the four corners of the world; the gate at the entrance to the church bears the theme of the Annunciation, with bronze bas-reliefs made by one of the Carmelite fathers, Tarcisio Favaro, while the handles represent the letters le letters “da” (i.e. the word “yes”) because when entering the church the faithful decide to become part and parcel of the history of salvation. In handing over the mosaics, Marko Rupnik said: “It’s the most beautiful modern church in Europe in theological and architectonic terms”. The gratitude of the archbishop. “I wish to thank the Discalced Carmelite fathers because they came to Romania, in our archdiocese; I want to thank them for their examples of courage, perseverance and faith. And I also wish to thank them for the gift of this beautiful church, a place of peace, pilgrimage and encounter of God”, said during the Mass Mons. Ioan Robu. The new church was dedicated to the Holy Virgin of the Carmel, declared by the archbishop of Bucharest Marian a diocesan shrine.

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