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The International Ecumenical Centre at Vulcana Bai, Dambovita County, unique in Europe, has three houses of worship: a synagogue, a mosque and an Orthodox church, where tourists come from all over the world.

Photo credit: (c) Cornelia DUMITRU/ AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The centre was built in 1991, and two years later, it started operating under the auspices of the UNESCO — the National Commission of Romania. Located 20 kilometers from the city of Targoviste, the interfaith settlement of Vulcana Bai is a place of pilgrimage for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Access is from the national road DN 71 Targoviste — Sinaia, continuing west on County Road DJ 712 B.

The synagogue, mosque and church are built on three hills in an area called Braneasca of Vulcana Bai to stand for the world’s three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Photo credit: (c) Cornelia DUMITRU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘Church services are currently held at the Orthodox church only. The synagogue and mosque have remained only symbolic, but church services may be held if there are believers who want to come to pray here. The Orthodox church was declared monastery in 2000. It was founded on the highest hill and is larger than the other two churches, built in a traditional style in the form of a cross, with an open porch in the Brancovenesc style. The fresco paintings are by painter Emil Stoica of Sotanga, while the interior sculptures are made of linden wood by the Dobra family of Vulcana Bai. Some small relics of St. John the Baptist are kept inside the church that were donated by Patriarch Diodorus I of Jerusalem,’ says spokesman for the Targoviste Archbishopric Marian Puiescu.

Judaism at the International Ecumenical Centre is represented by a Hebrew synagogue. The building is a simple one fitted with 12 windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel. There is also the Star of David and a seven-arm menorah.

The mosque at the International Ecumenical Centre is different from the other buildings in that it faces towards Mecca, instead of the East.

Helping with the construction of these houses of worship were a Christian called Ion Popescu, two Hebrews, brothers Rubi and Michael Zimmerman, and a Muslim family, Leila and Omar Akill.

‘The International Ecumenical Centre is not intended to be a parliament of religious denominations, or some religious authority, and it has not set to create a fusion between the denominations or to practice religious syncretism. It is simply designed to impart knowledge, to achieve rapprochement and understanding that ultimately determine vivid, dynamic and harmonious collaboration between ethnicities and religions,’ reads a description posted on the website of the Vulcana Bai’s Mayor’s Office vulcanabai.ro.

Photo credit: (c) Cornelia DUMITRU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

At the Ecumenical Centre in Vulcana Bai, tourists come from all over the world, especially on weekends. They may pause for prayer and relax watching the unspoiled beauty of the place. Entrance to the centre is free. AGERPRES

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