Those who arrive for the first time in Giurgiu by bus from Bucharest or by boat from Vienna to the local port may wonder what they can find in this place that is droughty and almost man-forsaken.
Photos by Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE
Few know that just 35 km from Giurgiu and also as many from Bucharest City there are still living trees from the Vlasia Forest where centuries ago ruler Vlad the Impaler himself, the founder of the Comana fortified monastery, dismounted on an island surrounded by swamps. Today, in the same places, trees of the century-old forest are still growing. The swamps of the years past became the Comana Pond, which scientists consider to be a second delta of Romania. Today’s visitors can battle the shadows of the Ottomans in a modern adventure park, climbing up secular oak trees, while accommodation places welcome them for rest and relaxation.
First time travellers at Comana want to walk into the footsteps of Vlad the Impaler and get full of sacredness at the Comana Monastery. Thus, immediately as they get in touch with the local history, they learn that the monastery was in the beginning a small wooden church. For the first time on September 27, 1461, the Comana toponym was officially used in a decree issued by the Chancellery of Vlad the Impaler that mentioned the border of the monastery should stretch all the way to where it touches the Comana Pond, right into Lake Calnistei.
Vlad the Impaler, founder of the Comana Monastery
‘The history of the Comana Monastery was continued in 1588 by boyar Radu Serban of Coiani, today’s Mironesti in Giurgiu County, who started the construction of a monastery on the land inherited from his mother, Maria of Coiani. The site was chosen because it was the place where the walls of Vlad the Impaler’s older monastery were standing,’ Comana father superior Mihail Musacriu tells AGERPRES.
In 1609, Radu Serban, who became ruler of Wallachia, painted the Comana Church and added royal insignia to the paintings. Radu Serban died in 1620 in Vienna and his mortal remains were inhumed at Comana by his sister, Elina.
Elina’s son, Draghici Cantacuzino, who died in Constantinople, was also buried here in 1667, along with Constantin, the son of high-ranking royal official Draghici, with these successive burials marking the switchover of Comana to the care of the Cantacuzinos.
In 1699-1701, grand steward Serban Cantacuzino started restoring the monastery, while in 1709 he died and he was in his turn buried at Comana.
Comana Monastery — Portraits of rulers who are linked to the history of this place of worship
In December 1769, the monastery was besieged by an Ottoman detachment and in 1802 it was hit by a strong earthquake. In 1854, the monastery was redesigned and the church was rebuilt from scratch. Few people know that in 1877, the monastery housed the Prefecture House and the local school opened in another wing of the building.
In 1908, the entire architectural compound of Comana was restored and in 1932 a mausoleum of WWI Heroes of the Neajlov River Battles was added. The church was also damaged in earthquakes in 1977 and 1986, but it was fully consolidated in 1988-1990. In 1991, upon the initiative of then Patriarch of the Romanian Christian Orthodox Church Teoctist it was turned back into a monastery of monks and refurbishment works were started to prepare it for its 550th anniversary of its first written record in 2011.
Because the place is filled with the footsteps of many rulers and damsels whose tombs are here, there is a local legend that says the founder, Vlad the Impaler, haunts the enemies in the plains scaring them away. It is said that when he fell prey to his enemies, somewhere between Bucharest and Giurgiu, his body fell into the hands of his rival Basarab Laiota and it was buried without the head, which had been sent to the Porte, and without exquisite ornaments and also without a tombstone, in the nearest monastery founded by him, Comana. In the yard of the Comana Monastery, there is a small billboard with information about the famous mediaeval ruler and a modest tombstone with an inscription almost fully erased that monks claim belongs to the ruler’s tomb.
Archaeological research in 1970-1975 established that the necropolis around the small church was used in the second half of the 15th century — the first half of the 16th century, while close to the narthex of the church, damaged by the passage of time, the remains of a decapitated male were found without any royal insignia, around whom coins minted under the rule of Vlad the Impaler were scattered. People say that could be Vlad the Impaler himself.
Tombstones in the cemetery of the monastery
Legend also has it that when the ruler was decapitated, thousands of streams gushed out like tears and the land reddened by the blood gave birth to butcher’s broom unseen there before, and after the ruler’s body was buried in the monastery, monks dag a well with clear and blessed water today known as ‘The Fountain with a Walnut Tree’ or ‘The Fountain with Health Remedies,’ and the place is overrun by butcher’s broom, another reason why Comana is unique. Because the butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea area, at Comana it is protected as part of a scientific research at the Comana Natural Park.
Comana Natural Park
The Comana Natural Park is a unique reserve in Europe that houses tens of species of plants and animals protected by international laws; it is also deemed Romania’s second delta, covering 25,000 hectares and including an ecosystem specific of a delta, known from times past as the Comana Pond. Specialists claim that this delta is second in terms of biodiversity, after the Danube Delta Reserve.
Comana Natural Park
‘The park was created in 2004, when the Comana Pond was declared a natural reserve for the 140 species of birds, half of which are internationally protected, more than 200 plant types and subtypes, 70 of which are about to go extinct, living in the peony, butcher’s broom and lily-of-the-valley reserves, along with tens of bird, mammalian, reptile and fish categories protected under the Berne Convention and the national legislation, all gathered in one place, the Comana Natural Park,’ Spokesperson for the Giurgiu County Environmental Protection Agency Daniela Neagu tells AGERPRES.
Comana Natural Park
Some years ago, a private entrepreneur who loves the place and says he can feel the history coursing through his veins, turned his holiday house here in a boarding house, and to prove that he is a preserver of history, he named each room of the boarding house after a ruler or damsel and designed the rooms as a combination of history and modernism.
‘The first floor is dedicated to the Cantacuzinos; the guest rooms on the second floor are dedicated to the family of Craiovesti Basarabi, while a room on the third floor is dedicated to the family of Draculesti, with a room for Vlad the Impaler,’ the investor tells AGERPRES.
The rooms have wooden floors, panels, cabinets and tables manually painted, with the wild peony flower, a protected flower in the Comana reserve, a central element. The bathrooms and utilities are among the most modern, with the room dedicated to Vlad the Impaler offering Jacuzzi and massage services.
Comana Natural Park
Those wanting to spend time in the great outdoors find something for any temperament. Thus, lovers of extreme sports can choose between tree climbing and rope walking with various degrees of difficulty as well as a zip line over an adventure lake. The most calm of them can choose boat trips for fishing, bicycle trips in the woods, while gardening lovers can pick their greens and vegetables directly from the greenhouse of the local restaurant. A cellar of the Grand Cupbearer has been recently opened for wine tasting. The tourists arriving at Comana can walk in the footsteps of history while also feeling like being in Europe. AGERPRES