The “St. George” Monastery Feredeu

manastirea feredeuA place of worship with a long history, given the approximately 200 years of certification and more than 300 years according to the legend, it is located near the commune of Șiria. After 1989, near the old monastery located in the woods, a “metoc” was built, which was, along the years, elevated to the rank of monastery. Here at the Vale Feredeu believers come and participate in religious services that take place under the religious rule of monastic prayer, and those who want peace and silence go up to the Feredeu Hill, where believers could pray “tacitly” in the high church during the Communist era (1987) and where they can clean with the miraculous water of the spring which gave its name to the monastic sanctuary.

The reasons for this ancient pilgrimage are clearly understood. In its favor stand the many testimonies of those healed. One of them, a German from Santana, raised in 1870 a crucifix which still exists today (The Blind Woman’s Cross) in recognition for the healing of his daughter, who was blind. Later on in 1932, the healing of a paralytic is recorded. Having been made the Holy Unction and drinking water from here, “Father Nicolae Biru told her ‘Reach out and take up his cross.” And the man said he cannot. The Father repeated his instructions three times, each time saying: “See that you do not have faith.” But the third time he was able to move his hand,” the monk Bălan, guide of the monastery, tells us. The pilgrims come to the monastery Feredeu also for the beauty of the services, especially on Friday nights, when the liturgy is organized in the church in the mountains.

Located in the Zărandului Mountains, the cross of the old monastery church, The Hill Feredeu, can be seen from below, from the road leading to Arad. And from above, “from atop the Feredeu, looking around takes you further, down through the Siria plains from the memories of Ioan Slavici, with the pastoral wells of the Sudenaşului over the Bucket Well under the castle, the inspiration of the composer Emil Montia, over the endless carpets of Arad vineyard vines, that the humanist Nicholas Olah calls the Mureșana and writes that it produce very good wines all the way to the blurred horizons of the Arad Plain, which gives the viewer a green-gold mosaic. One’s gaze pervades the horizon further through the Pannonia Plain,” Vasile Cucu (Brother Cyprian) describes the hermitage settlement in his monograph on the Feredeu Monastery.

Feredeu, a name preserved in local tradition, probably comes from a hermit who lived hundreds of years ago near this spring. His name is not known exactly, but on a stone laid in the foundation of the old church was engraved with Greek letters the name of Theophilus or Filotei or Philemon; thus, it is assumed that the spring would have taken its name from this hermit Filotei. The people, not knowing Greek, simply gave it the name Feredeu which has been kept until this day. On the other hand, linguists argue that the name is related to Hungarian, where Feredeu means ‘spring’. Anyway, what matters is that the name of the two places monastic settlements comes from the miraculous water of the spring.

Also regarding this first monk met at the Feredeu hermitage it is said that he has been killed by the Turks. “During the withdrawal of the Turks from Șiria, after the peace at Karlovitz in 1699, they chose this monastery as a point of destruction, also killing and Father Philemon by decapitation, because he appears to have ordered the Turks to leave with a cross in his hand” says the Theoctistus father about the hermit who sacrificed himself here for 20 years. It seems that the tomb of Father Philemon, says local tradition, would be somewhere behind the altar of the church.

According to some historical data, the settlement dates back to 1787, when, by order of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, the Army General Bukow destroyed with the cannons a large part of the hermitages and monasteries in Transylvania, including this settlement. Further information on the existence and age of the hermitage derives from certain ethnic songs and carols, which show the existence of an altar with windows facing the sun, where “seven popes served”, which reminds us that the celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Unction was held here. The first steps for this holy fountain and chapel to be made available to devout Christians have been made since 1906 by Professor Nicolae Biru, then a teacher in Otlaca, near Siria. He came a few times a year on pilgrimage with students at the old monastery, where they says prayers and washed with the water of the Feredeu. Having become a priest later on, after several requests addressed to Bishop Gregory Gh. Comșa of Arad, in 1920 he received the authorization to hold the holy services. If until then he only came with students, now he comes along his believers. However, the first Mass committed here was the feast of St. George in 1930. The inevitable happened and “in 1931 the foundation stone of this little chapel with an open porch, made of stone forest, was laid. It was completed in 1932, when he led the consecration. And beside the chapel a small building was erected in 1934. Since 1932, many services were celebrated; pilgrimages were made to the most important holidays such as the “Inaltarea” of the Holy Cross, the Healing Spring, the Great Martyr George” says Ierom. Theoctistus Bălan.

The installation of the first abbot, monk Pachomius from the Monastery Hodoș Bodrog takes place in 1937, who tends to the monastery until 1943. The first monastic tonsure at the monastery was made during the management of abbot Bessarion Şintescu when, on 29 August 1944, with the blessing of Bishop Andrew of Arad, the brother monk David Voinea had his tonsure by the abbot, hefty given the name Andrew. The year 1944 ends, as we learn from the documents of the monastery, with a sad event for the country, namely the beginning of the war, the invasion of the Hungarians, who reached the hermitage. On September 19, 1944, there was heavy fighting around the hermitage. With this sad event the missions in the hermitage ended that year.

“In this period we witness a miracle of divine justice, when a group of tourists come to this place, having rude behavior. On their departure, at the intersection with the main road, where before there was a tram stop, two members of the group were killed by lightning,” says the guide of monastery. “The Monument of the Tourists” in Șiria, which represents a marble lightning, lays witness.

There followed other monks who each cared as they could to the monastery, but the settlement closes 1959 due to the Decree 410 given by the communist regime, which closed most of the monasteries in Romania, and the monks were sent into world. Thus, from 1959 to 1985, the Hermitage was closed. The old church was dilapidated; there were no longer tiles on the roof, the building thus looking just like an unkempt house. At Reverend Timothy Seviciu’s initiative, the current Bishop of Arad, the hermitage’s activity resumes, Revered Timoth being a native of the place, right in Syria. He remembered that when he was a kid people came here and worshiped at the little chapel, where they washed and tasted the spring water, and he decided he wanted to reestablish the settlement. That is why, in 1987, he sent the current abbot Ilarion Tăucean. He built on the current site of the old chapel a church dedicated to St. George, and near the church other buildings were built subsequently for the needs of the congregation.

In March 1989, a stretch of land was received at the foot of the hill, just 4 kilometers from the forest, where a subdued building and a household were built in 1992 to support the settlement above. The metochion was raised in 2000 to the rank of the monastery, according to the decision of the Holy Synod, receiving the name of Vale Feredeu and the hermitage in the mountains that of the Hill Feredeu.

After the year 2004, the road to the monastery was reabilitated with the help of the local town mayor engineer Valentin Bot and the Local Council of Șiria.

The lower church was built in honor of Saint Elijah, after the first name of the Father Elijah Tăucean, who became the monk Ilarion. The architecture of the church respects common church architecture, with a customary altar, icons, nave and narthex. The painting is performed by Radu and Alexandrina Jitaru. The sculpture of the monastery is made in oak in 1991 by the carpenter Dogaru Nicolae, while the furniture and veil was made by the craftsman Vasile Gavriloaie, both from Târgu Neamț; the chandelier is made in Timisoara.

Now eight souls live here, seven monks down below and one in the forest. Among them, four are hiero-monks, one is a monk and two are brothers, and the one in the hill is also a monk. Everyone enjoys the work of Father Abbot Ilarion. “I found everything readymade ; extensive work has been done, the father abbot’s hair turned grey too early because of the temptations and trials”, says Fr Theoctistus Bălan, the guide of the monastery.

The monks say that water never rots, just like holy water, but, regardless of this, it should never be consumed on an empty stomach. If before the water of the spring was properly honored, today “people come and take water in large quantities to use it over a whole week in their households, not for healing. And, indeed, it does not rot and it has a pleasant taste. However, unfortunately, many of them come only for the water, they take it and then leave, without entering the church,” says Fr Theoctistus with sadness. The miracle of healing depends on the belief with which we approach the sanctifying water. Probably for this reason nobody speaks today of sick people being healed here.