Make your own free website on
A random image of Chisinau:

See more images of Chisinau

This site has moved to You should be redirected there within 10 seconds. If you are not redirected automatically, please click here. Please update your bookmarks.

Orheiul Vechi (The Old Orhei) Site

In this page I will try to show you the beauty of one of the main historic monuments of Moldovan cultural heritage, which I to my shame have visited only once in the summer of 2003. Go directly to photographs

"Orheiul Vechi" ("The Old Orhei") is a mediaeval monastery to the north from Chisinau (about 50 km, near the town of Orhei), that was carved in the rock in the Middle Ages. The only part of the monastery that rises above the rocks is a small bellhouse that incorporates the entrance into the monastery. Currently there are construction works under way to build a small chapel nearby, but by the look of it, it has been abandoned for some time (probably because of lack of funding).

The monastery was carved in a ridge that was created by an S-shaped bend in the Raut (Reut) river, rendering a unique for this region canyon-like landscape. The ridge is quite high, I estimated it to be between 50 and 100 metres high. Some millions of years ago Moldova was at the bottom of an ancient sea, so the ridge is not really rock - its limestone, hence not very solid.

The monastery was built around the 13th century and before the arrival of the Soviet Union to these lands in 1940 it had around 70 monks. In the spring of 2003 there were only 4 and in July 2003 there were just two left. The monks don't have enough land to grow crops and therefore are forced to leave for other monasteries where they have a chance of physical survival. Tourism seems to be their main source of cash, currently there are some facilities being built at the base of the ridge, most likely a fast-food restaurant, a parking area and maybe a motel. After a powerful earthquake in the 1970's the rock cracked (you can see the crack in one of the pictures below), a few outer terraces partly collapsed, but the monastery survived. There is no modern technology whatsoever in the monastery. No electricity, no heating, no gas, no water supply except the river beneath.

The road to the monastery and to the two villages nearby runs through a foundation of a fortress (see the first image below).


Sorry for the poor quality of the images. I had to scan them, and didn't think at that time that they will end up on the web.

Please note: clicking an image will permanently replace it with a larger version (until you reload/refresh the page).

Foundation of an Old FortressThis is my sister and I sitting on the corner of the foundation of the fortress that used to protect the monastery and the villages. As you can see, there was no way of passing it by as the steep side of the ridge ends in the river (see the next image)Left slope of the ridge parallel to the monastery

The ridge where the monastery isIf you look to the right from the fortress (i.e. towards the other slope of the ridge where we are now), you'll see the bellhouse and the new chapel:

The bellhouseTo get to the monastery, you need to go down into the valley (to the right from the fortress), then go through the valley to the bridge (again, to the right after you get down). From the road to the bridge you will see the monastery in the following way:

The chapelThe dark spot under the bellhouse is an exit from an inner room onto a terrace, and other spots to the left are windows from monastery's rooms.

Sitting On the CliffWhen going up the ridge where the monastery is, you can see its rocky edges and even look down. Here you can see me sitting on a cliff, it's very scary, trust me :)

The Stone Crossat the MonasteryThere's a cross on a cliff near the bellhouse, made of stone, Sasha and I hardly had the guts to get a photo near it.

The Bellhouse under RepairThe bellhouse looks really 'underpriviledged':

The Ridge Beyond the BellhouseIf you look further along the ridge, here's what you will see.

The Ridge Before the BellhouseAnd if you look back, you will see the other side of the valley. Near the left edge of the photo you can see the cross that you saw above with Sasha and me trying hard not to fall off the cliff.

The Ridge from the Far EndThis is the view from the new Chapel towards the Bellhouse.

The Staircase into the MonasteryWhen you enter the monastery through the Bellhouse's door, you have to climb down a staircase carved in the ridge's rock.

Inside the MonasteryAt the bottom of the staircase there's a little shopping desk, to the right - an altar:

Monks' apartments... to the left - the living quarters for the monks. You can see the sections - each one representing a bed space for one monk:

A powerful earthquake left a crack in the MonasteryThe crack in this image was left by a powerful earthquake.

The outer terraces were destroyed by an earthquakeAnd opposite to the entrance from the Bellhouse there's a doorway to a terrace, which used to lead to entrances to other rooms in the rock, but a part of it collapsed after an earthquake. At the bottom of the photograph you can see the gap left from a section of the terrace.

One of the monastery's two remaining monksThis is one of the only two monks remaining in the monastery: