Old Orhei – one of the most remarkable monuments of the dim and distant past. On the eastern outskirts of the fully stocked wood, in a valley formed by cliffed rocky banks of the river Reut, at the Cape Pestere ("cave"), it was the city - Old Orhei.
The history of Old Orhei brings us back to the far back in the past - fifteenth century: reign of Stefan cel Mare. In the summer of 1470, it was finished the construction of the fortress on the rocky shore of Reut. The city's population was about two thousand inhabitants. In the early 70-ies of the XV century Orhei reached its greatest prosperity as a handicraft and trade center of Moldavian Principality. Artifacts that were found during excavations tell about the development of pottery, smithcraft, nailery, leather craft, Shoemaking, jewelry and other crafts. After the attack of the Crimean Tatars in 1499 and in 1510 respectively, Orhei was not able to restore, but attempts to revive the city were taken by hospodar Jeremiah Movila. However, already in 1603, 1633 years Orhei-called "old" or “ramshackle”.
Many scientists and lovers of antiques made great efforts to find the Old Orhei, because after its destruction, no one knew where there was this town. In 1947, the first expedition of archaeologists under the direction of G.D.Smirnov to Cape Pestere allowed to determine where Old Orhei was. During 20 years, it has been found more than 200 installations: workshops, storage rooms, cellars, houses, tools, coins, and many others. But as it turned out, Old Orhei is not the most ancient settlement that existed in this place.
In the late 30's - early 40-ies of XIII century, upon the Europe descended the Tatar-Mongol hordes. They had reached the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Golden Horde khans duly appreciated the advantageous location of Cape Pestere and built a great town with two caravanserais, mosque, baths-hauses, and water supply system. There were minted money. The city has received the name of Shehr-al-Jadid ("New Town") and became the center of the western part of the Golden Horde during the reign of Abdullah Khan in 1364.
Such is the brief history of Cape Pestere, Shehr-al-Jadid, Old Orhei – the town, that knew periods of growth and prosperity, experienced the dark days of fall. But this story would be incomplete without a visit to the peasant dwellings of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where you will told about the history of carpet weaving, folklore and everyday life of the peasants, but an amazing legend "On a golden carriage", closely interweaves fiction and reality of what was happening.
The Curchi Monastery got its name from the founder of the monastery, monk Ioan Curchi. The monastery is associated with probably the highest amount of legends that tell of the Moldavian ruler Stefan cel Mare si Sfint and a local resident of the village of Morozeni, Orhei County, named Dumitras. There are also legends relating to Ioan Curchi himself and to his brother Mihail. The legends of the Curchi monastery can be regarded as a religious epic intertwining fiction and truth.
Iordachi Curchi bought two parts of the Morozeni estate from the Rezesh (peasants owning small estates) and appealed to the ruler of Moldova, Grigore Alexandru Ghica, in 1765, to obtain a confirmation of his rights to the land. In 1773, Iordachi Curchi built a wooden church in the name of St. Demetrius Solunski on that site and took monastic vows, receiving the name of Ioan. He left a last will and testament to his nephew Fiodor Carpov Curchi, containing instructions regarding the hermitage. A monk of the hermitage, Ghenadie, renovated the wooden church, enlarged it and added a bell tower to it in 1798.
В 1808 году в скит приходит офицер русской армии Федор Собев (Сабеу), который постригся в монахи с именем Филарет. Число братии возросло, и церковь Димитрия Солунского уже не вмещала монахов и прихожан. Монах Филарет обратился к молдавскому митрополиту Гавриилу Бэнулеско-Бодони с просьбой построить новую церковь. На свои личные средства он возвел большую каменную церковь во имя Рождества Пресвятой Богородицы. Её освятили в день храмового праздника 8 сентября 1810 года, а скит переименовали в монастырь. Монах Филарет построил для братии новые каменные кельи, погреб и кухню. Выкупил для монастыря фруктово-виноградные сады, лавки с каменными погребами в Кишиневе, дома рядом с Михайловским собором и пожертвовал монастырю все свои сбережения. В 1844 году деревянная церковь Димитрия Солунского была разрушена, и устроена в настоятельском каменном корпусе, как домовая «владычная» церковь.
A Russian officer, Fiodor Sobev (Sabau), came to the hermitage in 1808 and took monastic vows, receiving the name of Filaret. The number of monks increased, and the Church of St. Demetrius Solunski could no longer accommodate all the monks and parishioners. The monk Filaret turned to the Moldovan Metropolitan Gavriil Banulescu-Bodoni with a request to allow the construction of a new church. He built a large stone church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary out of his personal funds. It was consecrated on the day of the temple festival on September 8, 1810, and the hermitage received the status of a monastery. The monk Filaret built new stone cells, a cellar and a kitchen for the fraternity. He further purchased for the monastery fruit orchards and vineyards, shops with stone cellars in Chisinau, houses nearby St. Michael’s Cathedral, and donated all his savings to the monastery. The wooden building of the St. Demetrius Solunski church was destroyed in 1844, and the church was arranged in the rectory stone building as the “Episcopal” house church.
Archimandrite Varlaam ordered in 1870 to destroy the stone church built by Filaret Sobev, and a new stone church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in its place in 1872. The architect G.Lozinsky created a genuine miracle on our land, having built a temple resembling St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev and the Smolny Cathedral of the Resurrection Cathedral in St. Petersburg (by architect Rastrelli). The temple has a shape of a Greek cross in plane; it does not have its own bell tower, which is replaced by one of the five domes. The temple facade is decorated with Tuscan order pilasters.
The monastery courtyard becomes even more beautiful every year; the entire courtyard is surrounded by a stone fence, all the major buildings are made of stone as well. The restoration works have been carried out since 2006 till nowadays.
The Curchi Monastery is a genuine gem of architectural art. At various times it was the centre of work and unique creation of priests, monks, churchwardens, architects, landscape designers. Today the Curchi monastery revives the spirituality of the Orthodox people and preserves ancient traditions. The tourists visiting the monastery will find here peace of mind and become strengthened in the Christian faith.
Technical information: : Length of the route both ways - 170 km, duration - 6 hours, sanitary stops at refuelling stations and on the monastery’s premises. Shoes can be chosen at the tourists’ discretion, clothing for men: trousers covering the knees, shirts with at least short sleeves (no T-shirts), clothing for women: skirts, blouses without a deep cleavage, shoulders covered, and a head scarf. It is allowed to have drinking water and some food for a snack. One may bring sunflower oil, wheat flour, wine, and bread for the monastery (optionally).