Saint patron day: Coverage of the Holy Mother of God (October 1)
Year of foundation: 1997
Mother Superior: Magdalena Ghindaş
Cenobitic life: 8 nuns
Accommodation: 10 persons

The Brebu Monastery is a place of spiritual fulfilment where man, far from the unleashed world, can reconcile in mysterious harmony with himself and with God, and then he feels a hot throb of forgiveness and pure exaltation.

The tour of the monasteries in the Mountainous Banat ends in the Priest Valley, where the Brebu Monastery is located. From the Reşiţa-Caransebeş National Road (DN 58), 15 km from Reşiţa and 27 km from Caransebeş, the road to the monastery leads through a wonderful gate of oak wood, carved in Maramureş style by master craftsman Ioan from Năneşti, in 2001.

A valley retreated from the world became a blessed place, when Toma Iţariu’s family donated the land for the construction of a monastic settlement for nuns in 1997. There was nothing random. On this terrain of divine beauty there was an old walnut which, during a storm, was struck by lightning. When the owner cut it, a cross was found inside the walnut, with the following inscription:                      

“Go ahead and if what you are looking for what it does not exist yet,

be sure God will create it under the Veil of the Virgin Mary,

to reward your boldness in everything you do!”   

This message urged the faithful to donate the two hectares of land and the Brebu Mayor’s Office agreed to raise the monastic settlement.

Thus, in the fall of 1997, the foundation of the monastery church was laid by the Bishop of Caransebeș, Laurenţiu Streza, now Metropolitan Bishop of Transylvania. In 1998, the nun Sofronia Crâşmar came together with four other nuns from Vasiova Monastery. Through their care and diligence, and with the help of the faithful from the neighbouring villages, Brebu, Soceni, Ezeriş, Cornuţel Banat, and with men of goodwill from Reşiţa and Caransebeş, the construction works ended in only two years and on the 1st of October 1999 the church was sanctified with the patronage of “The Virgin Mary’s Cover”. The church on top of the hill is rectangular, with a narthex, a nave, a shrine and a closed porch. It is 13, 20 m long and 4,60 m wide,  having a 25 m high tower.

The interior painting is done by the young painters Eduard and Victor Kara from Cluj-Napoca, and the iconostasis is carved by Vasile Apucaloaie, from Târgu-Neamţ, with ornamental shapes known in Orthodoxy: wine or oak leaves and twisted rope shaped columns. The Icon of the Mother of God in a rich silver gilt covering and the large chandelier brought from Greece are the most precious pieces.

Today, through the care of Mother Superior Magdalena Ghindaş, at the Brebu Monastery services and prayers are held in mysterious harmony with God, through which all who come to the monastery feel a throb and a hot thrill away from the unleashed world.        

 Theme Park no. 10. MAN’S REDISCOVERY:  

                                     Painting on glass and pottery in Mountainous Banat

                                                        ROOTS AND PERENNITY   

At the end of your trip through the Mountainous Banat, you cannot leave without taking a “souvenir” that will always remind you of these wonderful places. That is why we urge you to visit “the fairs” either at the exhibitions at the Corneliu Diaconovici House of Culture in Reșița and George Suru Cultural House in Caransebeș or those that are held all through the Banat villages: Răcăşdia, Mehadica, Sasca Montană, Old Șopot , Eftimie Murgu, Ocna de Fier, Great Zorlenzu, Bania, Berzovia, Marga, Rusca-Teregova, Armenis, Domaşnea, Marga, Glimboca, Obreja, Bouzari, Bucova, Carașova, Moldova Veche, Cărbunari and Sicheviţa.

Try to buy skilful things made by the artisans from Banat, among which the icons on glass and the ceramic objects are unique.       

If Romania can state itself with something authentic and unique in the European art, the glass painting and pottery can be certainly the items considered real pennants of pride.

The cradle of the glass painting is in Transylvania, in the Land of Fagaras, where the icons made by Savu Moga (1816-1899) are very famous , he came from the northern Transylvania and settled in Arpaşu de Sus (Sibiu), as well as the icons realized by Matei Purcariu Ţîmforea (1836-1906) from Cărţişoara (Sibiu). The icon-painter style can be identified by: the elegance of the drawing, the chromatic harmony, the refinement of the luminous Byzantine warmth and the richness of the symbols. Compared to the recognized centres from Nicula, Făgăraş Country, Olt Country, Şcheii Braşovului and Sebeş Valley, Mountainous Banat was and it is still less  known.

As you can see in the “Banat Icons Exhibition” at the Romanian Peasant Museum from Bucharest, the icons on glass from Banat are of genuine beauty, but very rare. The old ones were made in the villages of Cărbunari and Ştinăpari, near Gheorghe Peak in the Locvei Mountains, where there was a painting centre for icons on glass, discovered in the 1960s by the writer Toma George Maiorescu. The inhabitants of the two villages are known as “Bufens.” 

They came from Oltenia to Banat at the beginning of the eighteenth century to make wood charcoal, an occupation called charcoaling. The name of the Bufens comes from the word “bufa”, which means owl, night bird. There were people who, at that time, were forced to “walk at night” to cross the mountains to Banat. 

What is astonishing for the viewer is the “freedom of expression” of the Banat icons realized in hard colours (dark red, blue and green), vivid and fresh colours. Even the theme used in the old icons surprises through the scenes from the Old Testament, less approached by the iconic peasants from other glass painting centres.

Coming in front of the icon, the tourist is called to enter into its endless story at the crossroads of Byzantine painting style and in the naive drawing of an anonymous peasant painter at the dawn of the nineteenth century. The oldest glass icon in Banat dates from 1838.

The artistic freshness of Banat’s glass icons is preserved precisely by the icon-maker’s desire to envelop himself in an anonymity in which his creation is not altered by the influences of a certain school, and is distinguished by a colour orality or sign.

Moreover, the painter master becomes one with the Mountainous Banat space. The mountain calls to solitude, to refuge, to the journey inside the soul of the peasant, and because his illiteracy, the painter of icons found the joy of the creation act on the “glass patch” or the “glass eye”.

The inspirational sources were the painted icons on wood, which can be seen today at the “Old Icon Exhibition” at the Caransebeș Episcopate. The iconographic theme is repeated on the glass, like the utterance of a prayer, respecting the Byzantine canons, but the anonymous iconographer took the liberty of artistic imagination.

Looking at the Banat icons on glass, you will see that all the richness of decorative elements, symbols, signs, colours, and lines have a certain meaning that cannot be translated into words, being understood only by the eyes of the heart and the eyes of the mind.       

With their grace, the Banat glass icons create an aura of holiness and tranquillity around them, a state of well being, unveiling the mystery veil that the iconic peasant had created, with the thought of the thirsty desire to approach heaven and God .         

The beauty of the Banat glass icons is not given only by the talent with which the icon-maker realized the shapes and combined the colours, but also by the beauty of his sense and faith, through which he manages to say his prayers through the talent of his hands.

While the Banat glass icons are so rare, ceramic objects can be found at great number at the “Permanent Ceramic Exhibition” at the Corneliu Diaconovici House of Culture in Reșița. Other two thematic exhibitions are organized here about the Banat pottery: “The road of clay“, during the cultural manifestation “7 days, 7 arts” in May, and “The last clay pot“, in October, the second largest manifestation of the institution, “Reșița in ten dimensions“. Arriving to the permanent exhibition in Reșița, no one can tell you better and with more passion the “story” of ceramics from Romania and of the pottery from the Mountainous Banat than the director of the Reşiţa House of Culture himself, Horaţiu Vornica:           

Pottery has always accompanied man and, as Blaga says, it is from the very beginning. If man was moulded by God from earth that had to be the clay. The name Adam derives from the Hebrew word Adamus, meaning yellow earth. The clay has miraculous powers and it was present in the man’s household long before the fire had been discovered. This earth left in the sun is drying up, and therefore the famous amphorae were made of it. On the territory of Romania, the craftsmanship comes from the mist of the times and it is present in several pottery centres. At MargineaSuceava there is the famous black pottery from the Dacian times. The ceramics from CorundHarghita is as famous, here there was a gradually transition from the utilitarian ceramics to decorative ones. Flower vases, baskets of various shapes, candlesticks, jugs and decorative plates, almost all have floral motifs, carved simply in clay before baking, and after staying in the oven, they get different shades of brown. Among the utilitarian ceramics made in Corund the stuffed cabbage pots and the coffee mugs stand out clearly, as well as the wine and bandy glasses, sculpted and enamelled in very attractive colours: cobalt blue, emerald green, lemon yellow or reddish brown. In Obersia Hunedoara, the yellow earth is so frequent that the pot can be left with water without being dried in the sun. Instead, at Horezu Vâlcea, the earth is so spongy that only large plates, so-called “cineres”, can be made. The enamelled ceramics became famous through the “Horezu Rooster”, learned from the Byzantine pottery craftsmen, and brought by the rulers of Oltenia in the fifteenth century for the decoration of the churches. In order to enamel a ceramic object, it is first burned at 500-600 degrees, then it is removed from the furnace, the pattern is made, it is sunk into enamel and then burnt at minimum 1000 degrees.[Crişciu T., 2010].

You should look especially for the traditional yellow-red ceramic objects from the Mountainous Banat, made at the “Potter’s wheel”, as we are reminded in the direct dialogue by Mr. Horatiu Vornica: “Genuine ceramics, sought also by strangers, is not that which is poured into a mould, but that obtained at the wheel and it is not “scratched” by the chisel, but only by the stones of the river. In Banat, they worked with the yellow ceramics of Roman origin, namely that with the natural colour of the burned clay, with that hint of yellow with little reddish streaks. If in the past there were 9 main localities in Mountainous Banat where genuine ceramics had been made (Lapusnicu Mare, Sasca Monatană, Sasca Romana, Slatina Nera, Cărbunari, Socolari, Moceriş, Ilidia and Binis), today we can speak only of a single centre pottery, Binis, where the last and the most famous potter lived, the craftsman Ionica  Stepan. In the folk mythology it is believed that pottery craftsmen are God’s chosen people, true alchemists who know how to grasp the natural colours of clay, which are maintained permanently on the pottery pots. Only they know how to prepare the white and yellow veins of earth and how to catch the reddish colour they want by fire. It is of course a curiosity that yellow ceramics, as well as black ceramics are obtained from the same clay. If the clay is allowed to burn at 1000 degrees, you will get a yellow ceramic object, like the well known colour of the clay. In order to get the black ceramics, burning is made in the furnace up to 600 degrees, using hardwood, beech, oak, orchard or hornbeam, then the fumes are clogged and softwood is put in, rot of fir; due to the lack of oxygen it is a smouldering fire, emitting lot of smoke. The smoke is deposited on the object and it gets imprinted so deep, that it never goes out. This technique also has a funny story with a curious young Chinese named Pin, who once asked how black pottery was made, and a witty potter answered him: “This is done only at night!”

For pottery enthusiasts, there is a potter’s wheel and two burning furnaces at the “Corneliu Diaconovici” House of Culture in Reșița, one working with methane and the other with wood. The theme park also includes “the path of the Banat’s clay” and a visit to the pottery workshop of Ion Stepan from Binis, where they can see and buy ceramic objects in two forms: large shapes and deep shapes.

There are some authentic large vessels like for example: “cinere / plates,” cipsiile de crumpi “(pots for roasting potatoes in oven),” bowls “, the bowls for cabbage rolls and the steak roasting trays.

The deep vessels are just as unique and beautiful as the former: the spring pitcher, the brandy jug, the milk pot, the food pot carried to the field, the yogurt or cream pot, the oil pot and “badaniu” (the vessel) used to obtain the butter.           

All these pots of yellow ceramics are made by the potter’s hand in his workshop, where the pottery wheel is situated in front of a window

“The wheel is made up of two walnut disks, a small one at the top, and at the bottom a big one, both of them joined by a metal shaft. This shaft, with the two discs, is mounted in a table with a seat. Using the big disk, the potter turns the wheel with his feet, imprinting a speed to the wheels, from left to right. At the top of the disk, the potter shapes the bowls with his hands. When shaping the clay, transforming it into pots, the potter uses as utensils: the hornbeam, beech or cherry wood comb, forming the shape of the pot; the linden tree spindle, making holes at the mouth of the pitcher; the water bowl, in which the potter washes his hands when working on the pots; and the feather and brush for decorating the vessels; the piece of leather for finishing the lips of the vessels and the wire rod that cuts the pots from the wheel. “[Olaru M., 2002].

Watching the two films “Roots” and “Perenity” about the work and faith of the Ionica Stepan pottery craftsman of Banat, visitors will experience a “pottery day”, discovering the mysteries of clay for making a “carceag” (pot) by answering the following questions:

            How …

            •to leave at sunrise with the “wooden trickle pot” to get white earth for the pot and yellow earth for the enamel from the pasture and after that the clay is “macerated” with the sand and the water;
            • to mould the “clay” like bread, passing them from one hand to another;  
            • to start the wheel with the feet and how to soften the hands in the bowl to wet the bush and to centre it on the wheel;        
            • to shape the vessel by: pressing it with both hands to lift it; pressing down with the big fingers making a “hole” in the middle; thinning the walls with the left palm inside, less the thumb, and with his right hand outward, watching with the tip of his fingers the maintaining of the round    shape of the bowl;        
            • to make the neck by the synchronous movement of the hands;   
            • to make the “belly” of the pitcher when pushing the wall of the bowl outside  into the centre with the left hand inside and the fingers folded, while with the right one, on the external part,   the rounded shape of the bowl is kept; for finishing the shaping “comb” is also used finally;
            • they make the decoration of the pot with “the feather” using yellow earth and traditional motifs such as: the wave, the spiral, the circle, the parallel and the broken lines, the fir tree, etc.
            • to make the “glove with tit” of the pitcher by: drilling the bowl with the “spindle”, inserting a “string” along the handle, applying the glove from the mouth of the pitcher to the right hole drilled with the spindle, then pressed with the finger they remove the knife;    
            • to detach the bowl from the wheel by cutting the bottom of the bowl with the wire;           
            • to burn the pitcher in one of the two ovens with the dormant ash in the furnaces expecting to be  lit and heated with oak wood.

When you try to spin the wheel with your feet, you will discover the mystery, the love, the call and the song of the clay, as did the most famous potter in Mountainous Banat, which has led the tradition of this craft abroad. He exhibited in Paris, Hamburg and Brussels. His words are heard today too as a lament:        

You have to talk to the clay, and it has to feel you clean, feel that you love it. Under a thousand degrees, the clay sweats, I say it weeps, and over a thousand degrees the pots become jewels. Being a potter means being free. Now when I am preparing for my departure, to make pitchers at the angels, I want to urge you: Wet your hands, spin the wheel with your feet and do not let the clay unattended, otherwise it is ruined! Clay is like a baby. Just as I was a kid in the early years of my work, 1935-1936, when my dad put me at the wheel for the first time. Then we went to sell the pots to the Almăj Valley and the Timiş Plain, where we were taking them with our chariot shouting: “Come and buy pots, come and buy pots”. The women used to ask me: “What is the price of the pots, children?” We exchange them for cereals. They filled the pot with grains and I gave them the empty pot. After a life of toil, I did not become a rich man. For me the biggest gain of life is humanity.

The ceramics from Biniş-Banat are recognized by the simplicity of its colour and the craftsmanship of the work. You should buy these unique clay pots urging you to return to its origins, in the countryside of Banat, where you can drink cold spring water from the pitchers, cook delicious dishes in clay pots, drink wine from clay jugs. As long as the potter’s wheel is spinning, the rural and green tourism will work together.

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