A great place you should visit in northern Dobruja is the Saon Monastery.
[adsense]A group of monks that left the Celic-Dere monastery after it became specialized in nuns founded the Saon chapel in 1846. They first built the Cilicul de Jos hermitage not far from the Cilic valley, before finally settling on this beautiful site on the banks of the Saon lake.
They chose this place because it was close to Celic and also because it was just 11 kilometers from the village of Niculițel, one of the most important places in the history of Christianity in Dobrogea. In the village, you’ll find the oldest basilica in Romania while just outside, in the woods, you’ll find another monastery, Cocoș.
In its early years, Saon functioned as a chapel under the control of priest at Celic. After Dobruja was reunited with Romania in 1978, all the remaining monks at Celicul de Jos were moved to Saon which became independent.
The Old and the New Churches
[adsense]That very same year, the monks built the first church on the site. Although they used simple materials like mud and wood, it still stands today, known as “The Old Church” or “Biserica Veche”. They use it mostly to hold the service in the winter.
At the start of the twentieth century, a big fire destroyed most of the site. The church survived unharmed, but the following years were difficult financially and Saon was put under the administration of the Cocoș monastery. It regained its independence in 1916, and in 1930, it became a monastery for nuns.
In 1909, under the rule of bishop Nifon, they started building a new and much bigger church, with three towers.
The First World War slowed the pace of the building, however, especially that the Danube became a front line. Later, the church sustained gread damage during the earthquake of 1940, when the towers collapsed. They were finally rebuilt between 1956-59 and they started service here.
Unfortunately, that year this holly site was dissolved and all its posessions were taken by the Lower Danube Episcopate.
Saon reopened its gates in 1972 and it finally became a monastery in 1990.
The Windmill, the Peacocks and the Ostriches
What I like about Saon is that they still preserve one of the many windmills that once covered the whole of Dobruja. The structure of the one here resembles that of the mill in Celic Dere monastery, only that instead of six paddles, this one only has four.
One other thing that I particularly enjoyed was the ostriches that the nuns raised here. It was the first time when I saw ostriches in real life and I was surprised how big they were. I fed them some grass I tried to see if they would bite me. Turns out that it doesn’t hurt as bad as you’d think 🙂
They also have quite a few peacocks. Unfortunately, it’s quite obvious that the climate here is not really appropriate for them and they don’t really display those huge colorful feathers.
How to get here?
Fairly simple. If you’re in Tulcea, head west on DN22 for about 23 kilometers. About here, you’ll find a road on the right DJ229D. Follow it for another two kilometers and turn left on the DJ229E and in just a little over a kilometer you’re there.
On the other hand, if you’re coming from Galați or Brăila, all you have to do is to follow the DN22E or DN22 respectively and after you pass Isaccea and Niculițel, turn left when you see the sign to Saon and Parcheș.
If you’re coming from Bucharest following the DN22A, you can take a shortcut by turning left on the DJ229A in the village of Cataloi.