The cave of Saint Andrew – the Bethlehem of Romanians

 

Few things are known about the cave of Saint Andrew the Apostle. It was discovered in 1918 by Jean Dinu, a lawyer, who, after dreaming one night, came in this area and found the cave in an advanced state of degradation. After cleaning the vegetation, he built a couple of cells and the first monks came in a short time. The cave was sanctified in 1943 but during the communist period it was destroyed and turned into a shelter for animals. In 1990, with the blessing of the Romanian Church, the cave started to be restored and the monastery of Saint Andrew was built nearby.

The cave shelters the icon of Saint Andrew, known as the apostle who Christianized the lands at the North of the Danube. There is a bed carved in stone in a niche of the pronaos. It is said that it was used as a resting place by Andrew the Apostle. In the course of time this has been a place to light candles, and now it is used by those in need of comfort from disease. Here, the priests also read prayers for sick people and the Mass of Saint Basil the Great.

The monastery has a smaller church built during 1994 – 1995, sanctified with the Holy Virgin’s Protection as its dedication day and the third bigger church was built during 1998 – 2002. In the small church are kept the relics of Saint Andrew. A cross in the shape of “X” can be found, on the left, in front of the altar of the smaller church. In the center of this cross is placed a part of the finger belonging to Saint Andrew. The finger was brought from the Trifiliei Metropolitan Church of Greece. On the four extremities of the cross there are the relics of the martyr saints of Niculitel from Dobrogea: Zoticos, Attalos, Kamasis and Filippos, Epictet the priest and Astion the monk. Near the cave there is a spring about which the legend tells that it appeared after Saint Andrew struck the rock with his staff in search of water. Thousands of pilgrims come each year to the Cave of Saint Andrew and this made this place to be rightfully named the Bethlehem of Romanians.

Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter, both of them being Apostles of Jesus. Before, he and Saint Apostle and Evangelist John were apprentices of Saint John the Baptist. After the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles drew the chances on where to go to preach Christianity and Saint Apostle Andrew went to the area of the Black Sea, including Scythia Minor of that time (Dobrogea of today). He secluded in that cave with two apprentices and started to preach. After he went to the region of Kiev and then he returned to Dobrogea. Because all went well he went to the city of Patras in Greece where he was crucified on a cross in the shape of “X”.

The Romanian Orthodox Church says that Saint Andrew preached the Gospel to the Dacians and Romans in the province of Dobrogea (Scythia Minor), whom he is said to have converted to Christianity. Saint Andrew spent 20 years on these territories preaching and teaching and felt very close to the Dacians because they were monotheists. During that period Saint Andrew traveled around the Danube territories and along the coast of the Black Sea, but mostly he was in and around his cave in Dobrogea (located near Ion Corvin village). Saint Andrew’s cave is still kept as a holy place. Later, John Cassian (360-435), Dionysius Exiguus (470-574) and Joannes Maxentius (leader of the so-called Scythian Monks) lived in the same area known as Scythia Minor or Dobrogea, in South East of Romania.

There are many traditions without religious meaning connected to Saint Andrew day on November 30, some of them having their origin on the Roman celebrations of Saturn. The Dacian New Year took place from the 14th of November until the 7th of December and this was the interval when time began its course. One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations was about wolves. During this night of Saint Andrew, the wolves are allowed to eat all the animals they want. It is said that they can speak, too, but anyone that hears them will die soon. Early on Saint Andrew’s day, the mothers go into the garden and pick tree branches, especially from apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, but also rosebush branches. They make a bunch of branches for each family member. The one whose bunch will bloom by New Year day will be lucky and healthy next year. The best known tradition connected to this night is the one about matrimony and premonitory dreams. Single girls must put under their pillow a branch of basil. If someone takes the plants in their dreams, that means the girl will marry soon. They can also plant wheat in a dish and water it until New Year day. The nicer the wheat looks that day, the better the year to come. All these traditions have no religious meaning, but they are approached during Saint Andrew day.

Early Christian History in Ukraine holds that the apostle Andrew is said to have preached on the southern borders of modern-day Ukraine, along the Black Sea. Legend has it that he travelled up the Dnieper River and reached the future location of Kiev, where he erected a cross on the site where the Saint Andrew’s Church of Kiev currently stands, and prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city, Jerusalem of the Russian/Ukrainian land.

Andrew is the patron saint of Barbados, Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta, and Esgueira in Portugal. He was also the patron saint of Prussia and of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The flag of Scotland (and consequently the Union Flag which also features on the flags of Australia, New Zealand and the arms and flag of Nova Scotia) feature St Andrew’s cross. The cross is also on the flag of Tenerife, the flag of Galicia and the naval jack of Russia. The Confederate flag also features a saltire commonly referred to as a Saint Andrew’s cross, although its designer, William Porcher Miles, said he changed it from an upright cross to a saltire so that it would not be a religious symbol but merely a heraldic device. The Florida and Alabama flags also show that device. Andrew is also the patron saint of the U.S. Army Rangers.

The feast of Andrew is on November 30 in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. In the traditional liturgical books of the Catholic Church, the feast of St. Andrew is the first feast day in the Proper of Saints.
 
The first Christian worship place in Romania
 

Saint Andrew’s Cave is one of the most important Christian places in Romania. The cave is considered to be the first Christian cult place and the entering gate for Christianity in Romania.

Dug into an afforested hill, with the entrance orientated eastwards, the cave preserved inside of it a block of stone having on its sides the sign of a cross. According to Christian sources, when he arrived for preaching the Christian tradition, Saint Andrew chose the place for its prayers in the cave dug in the heart of the hill. Legend has it that St. Andrew Christianized the people of these lands in the nine springs near the cave.

Saint Andrew called in the Orthodox tradition Proto kletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. The name “Andrew” like other Greek names appears to have been common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of the region. He is considered the founder and the first bishop of the Church of Byzantium and is consequently the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
 
Garlic, the magic ingredient that keeps vampires away in the night of Saint Andrew
 

The Feast of St. Andrew, accompanied with the Feast of St. George and Easter was acknowledged as one of the most feared times of the year in Romania. The Feast of Saint Andrew was in honor of Saint Andrew who was the patron of wolves and donor of garlic. It was on Saint Andrew’s Eve, in certain parts of Romania, that the vampire was believed to be the most active and dangerous, the vampires was also believed to continue their activity throughout the winter and rest at epiphany (January). During these perilous times, it was considered wise to rub garlic on the doors and windows to protect families within the residence from any vampire attacks.

Livestock was also at risk of an attack, so precautions were taken with them as well by rubbing them down with garlic. In the remote villages of Transylvania, people still believe that strigoi (vampires who were never born, but made by other vampires) get out and start a fight. If they do not find other strigoi to fight with, they get angry and hunt a human and suck his/her blood.

The Feast of Saint George was a very important festival in honor of Saint George. Also known as the “Great Martyr,” George was a beloved Saint. Not only was he acknowledged as the patron of England, but many other countries as well. He was also the patron of horses, cattle, wolves, and all enemies of witches and vampires. It was on Saint George’s eve that vampires all the forces of evil were most exquisite. People would remain in their homes with continuous light throughout the night. They placed thorns across thresholds, painted crosses on their doors with tar, put thistles on windows, lit bonfires, and spread garlic everywhere they could. Throughout the night, prayers would be recited repeatedly and naked blades placed beneath their pillows. If the night went well without any occurrences, the saint’s feast was celebrated with much exuberance that day. The thorns and garlic were then replaced by Roses and other flowers.

Bram Stoker, having done his research on vampire lore for his 1897 novel Dracula, included the fear of the villagers on Saint George’s Eve to warn Jonathan Harker that at midnight “all the evil things in the world will have full sway”.
 

Pestera Sfantului Andrei – Bethleem-ul romanilor

 

Puține lucruri sunt cunoscute despre peștera Sfântului Apostol Andrei. A fost descoperită în 1918 de Jean Dinu, un avocat, care, în urma unui vis avut într-o noapte, a venit în acest loc și a descoperit peștera într-o stare avansată de degradare. După ce a curatat vegetatia care pusese stapanire pe peșteră, el a construit cateva chilii si primii calugari au venit aici in scurt timp. Pestera a fost sanctificata in 1943 dar in timpul perioadei comuniste a fost distrusa si transformata in adapost pentru animale. In 1990, cu binecuvantarea Bisericii Otodoxe Romane, s-a demarat restaurarea pesterii si constructia manastirii.

Pestera adaposteste icoana Sfantului Andrei, cunoscut ca apostolul care a crestinat tinuturile de la nord de Dunare. Aici se afla un pat sculptat in stanca intr-o nisa din pronaos. Se spune ca acesta era folosit ca loc de odihna de Apostolul Andrei. De-a lungul timpului aici era loc pentru aprins lumanari, iar in prezent este utilizat de cei care cauta alinarea suferintelor. Tot aici, preotii citeau rugaciuni in trecut dar si in prezent pentru oamenii bolnavi, in special la slujba sfantului Vasile cel Mare.

Manastirea are o bisericuta construita in perioada 1994 – 1995, sanctificata cu hramul Protectiei Fecioarei Maria si o alta biserica mai mare care a fost construita in perioada 1998 – 2002. In mica bisericuta sunt pastrate moastele Sfantului Andrei. O cruce in forma de “X” poate fi gasita, pe partea stanga, in fata altarului micii bisericute. In centrul acestei cruci este pusa o parte a degetului apartinand Sfantului Andrei. Degetul a fost adus de la Catedrala Trifiliei din Grecia. La cele patru extremitati ale crucii se afla moastele sfintilor martiri de la Niculitel din Dobrogea: Zoticos, Attalos, Kamasis si Filippos, Epictet preotul si calugarul din Astion. Langa pestera se afla un izvor despre care legenda spune cas a aparut dupa ce Sfantul Andrei a izbit stanca cu toiagul sau cautand apa. Mii de pelerini ajung anual la Pestera Sfantului Andrei iar acest lucru face ca acest loc sa fie pe drept cuvant numit Bethleem-ul romanilor.

Sfantul Andrei era fratele Sfantului Petru, amandoi fiind Apostolii lui Iisus. Inainte de a fi Apostolii lui Iisus, el si Sfantul Apostol si Evanghelist Ioan erau ucenicii Sfantului Ioan Botezatorul. Dupa Invierea si Inaltarea lui Iisus si Pogorarea Sfantului Duh, Apostolii au tras la sorti destinele lor privind locurile unde vor merge sa propovaduiasca crestinismul si Sfantul Apostol Andrei a primit misiunea sa mearga in zona Marii Negre, incluzand si Scitia Minor din acea vreme (Dobrogea de azi). El s-a retras in acea pestera cu doi ucenici si a inceput sa predice. Dupa aceea a mers in regiunea Kiev-ului de unde a revenit in Dobrogea. Pentru ca totul mergea bine Sfantul Apostol Andrei a mers apoi in Grecia unde, in orasul Patras a fost crucificat pe o cruce in forma de “X”.

Biserica Ortodoxa Romana spune ca Sfantul Andrei a predicat Biblia catre daci si romani in provincia Dobrogea (Scitia Minor), pe care i-a convertit la crestinism. Sfantul Andrei a petrecut 20 de ani in aceste locuri predicand si invatand si s-a simtit foarte aproape de daci deoarece acestia erau monoteisti. In acea perioada Sfantul Andrei a calatorit prin teritoriile aflate de-a lungul Dunarii si de-a lungul coastei Marii Negre, dar cea mai mare parte a timpului si-a petrecut-o in si langa pestera lui din Dobrogea (localizata langa satul Ion Corvin). Pestera Sfantului Andrei a fost pastrata ca un loc sfant. Mai tarziu, Sfantul Ioan Casianul (360-435), Dionisius Exiguus (470-574) si Ioanus Maxentius (lider al asa numitilor Calugari Sciti) au trait in aceeasi zona cunoscuta ca Scitia Minor sau Dobrogea, in sud estul Romaniei.

Exista multe traditii fara insemnatate religioasa legate de ziua Sfantului Andrei sarbatorita pe 30 Noiembrie, unele din ele avandu-si originea in celebrarile romane ale lui Saturn. Noul an al dacilor avea loc intre 14 noiembrie pana pe 7 decembrie si acesta era intervalul in care timul isi incepea cursul. Unul din elementele care au provenit din sarbatorile romanilor si tracilor era legat de lupi. In timpul noptii de Sfantul Andrei, lupilor le este permis sa manance orice animal doresc. Se spune ca ei pot vorbi, insa, oricine ii aude vorbind, va muri curand. Dimineata in ziua Sfantului Andrei, mamele merg in gradina si aduna crengi de copac, in special crengi de mar, par, cires, dar si de trandafiri. Se face un buchet de crengi pentru fiecare membru al familiei. Celui sau celei al carei buchet inflorea pana in ziua de Anul Nou se spunea ca vor fi norocosi si sanatosi tot anul care urmeaza. Cea mai cunoscuta traditie legata de aceasta noapte este cea despre visele matrimoniale si premonitorii. Fetele nemaritate trebuie sa isi puna sub perna un buchet de busuioc. Daca vreuna din ele va visa buchetul de busuioc, inseamna ca acea fata se va marita curand. De asemenea se poate planta grau intr-o farfurie cu apa pana in ziua de Anul Nou. Cu cat mai bine va arata graul in ziua urmatoare, cu atat mai bun va fi anul ce vine. Toate aceste traditii nu au insemnatate religioasa, insa sunt legate de ziua si noaptea de Sfantul Andrei.

Istoria primilor crestini din Ucraina descrie ca apostolul Andrei a predicat in teritoriile sudice din Ucraina de azi, de-a lungul Marii Negre. Legenda spune ca a calatorit pana la fluviul Nipru si chiar pana la viitoarea locatie a orasului Kiev de azi, unde a ridicat o cruce pe locul in care se afla azi Biserica Sfantului Andrei din Kiev, si a profetit intemeierea unu mare oras crestin, Ierusalimul teritoriilor Rusiei/Ucrainei. Andrei este de asemenea sfantul protector pentru Barbados, Scotia, Ucraina, Rusia, Romania, Patras in Grecia, Amalfi in Italia, Luqa in Malta, si Esgueira in Portugalia. El este de asemenea sfantul protector si pentru Prussia si pentru Ordinul of Lanii de Aur. Steagul Scotiei (si implicit steagul Comunitatii Natiunilor – Commonwealth care se afla de asemenea si pe steagul Australiei, Noii Zeelande si din Noua Scotie) includ si crucea Sfantului Andrei. Aceasta cruce se afla de asemenea si pe stagul din Tenerife, Galicia si pe pavilionul naval al Rusiei. Steagul Comunitatii Natiunilor de asemenea contine o saltire (cruce de forma celei a Sfantului Andrei) la care se face de obicei referire ca fiind crucea Sfantului Andrei, chiar daca cel care a desenat-o, William Porcher Miles, a spus ca el a schimbat acest semn dintr-o cruce normala intr-o saltira si acest simbol nu reprezinta neaparat un simbol religios ci mai mult unul heraldic. Steagul statelor Florida si Alabama de asemenea contin acest simbol. Sfantul Andrei mai este de asemenea si sfantul protector al U.S. Army Rangers.

Sarbatoarea Sfantului Andrei are loc pe 30 Noiembrie atat pentru biserica ortodoxa cat si pentru cea catolica, si este ziua nationala a Scotiei. In cartile traditionale liturgice ale Bisericii Catolice, sarbatoarea Sfantului Andrei este prima zi de sarbatoare ca importanta a Sfintilor bisericii.
 

Primul loc crestin de rugaciune din Romania
 

Pestera Sfantului Andrei este unul din cele mai importante locuri crestine din Romania. Pestera este considerata a fi primul loc de cult crestin si poarta de intrare a crestinatatii in Romania. Sapata in stanca unul deal impadurit, cu intrarea orientata spre est, pestera pastreaza in interiorul ei un bloc de piatra avand pe margini semnul crucii. Potrivit izvoarelor crestine, cand a ajuns aici pentru a predica traditiile crestine, Sfantul Andrei a ales acest loc pentru rugaciune in pestera sapata in inima dealului. Legenda spune ca Sfantul Andrei a crestinat si botezat populatia din aceste tinuturi in noua izvoare aflate langa pestera.

 

Sfantul Andrei numit in traditia orthodoxa Proto kletos, sau primul chemat, este un Apostol Crestin si fratele Sfantului Petru. Numele de “Andrei” la fel ca si alte nume grecesti era foarte comun atat la evrei, dar si la crestini, si la alte popoare elenizate din regiune. El este considerat fondatorul si primul episcop al Bisericii Bizantului si este in consecinta sfantul patron al Patriarhatului Ecumenic de la Constantinopol.
 
Usturoiul, ingredientul magic care tine vampirii departe in noaptea Sfantului Andrei
 

Sarbatoarea Sfantului Andrei, impreuna cu Sarbatoarea Sfantului Gheorghe si Pastele erau cunoscute ca unele din cele mai temute perioade din an in Romania. Sarbatoarea Sfantului Andrei era in onoarea Sfantului Andrei care era protectorul lupilor si al usturoiului. Chiar in seara de Sfantul Andrei, in unele parti din Romania, unde se credea ca vampirii sunt cel mai activi si periculosi, se spunea ca vampirii isi continua activitatea de-a lungul iernii pana la epifanii (Ianuarie) inclusiv. In perioada acestor timpuri periculoase, era considerat intelept sa freci usturoi pe usi si ferestre pentru a proteja familiile din case de orice atac al vampirilor.

Vitele erau de asemenea in pericol de a fi atacate, deci erau necesare precautii pentru protectia lor prin frecarea animalelor cu usturoi. In satele indepartate din Transilvania, oamenii inca mai cred ca strigoii (vampiri nenascuti, dar creati de alti vampiri) apar pe pamant si incep sa se lupte intre ei. Dar daca un strigoi nu gaseste alt strigoi cu care sa se lupte, ei devin maniosi si ataca oamenii pentru a le suge sangele.

Sarbatoarea Sfantului Gheorghe era o sarbatoare foarte importanta in onoarea Sfantului Gheorghe. Cunoscut ca “Marele Martir,” Gheorghe era un Sfant foarte indragit. Nu doar ca era cunoscut ca sfantul protector al Angliei, dar era sfant protector si pentru multe alte tari. Era de asemenea protector al cailor, vitelor, lupilor, si al tuturor dusmanilor vrajitoarelor si vampirilor. In seara de Sfantu Gheorghe vampirii si toate fortele raului erau cel mai intense. Oamenii trebuie sa ramana in casele lor cu lumina aprinsa continuu de-a lungul noptii. Ei trebuie sa puna spini de-a lungul pragurilor, sa picteze cruci pe usile lor cu catran, sa puna ciulini la fereastra, sa aprinda focul, si sa imprastie usturoi peste tot unde pot. Toata noaptea, vor fi citite rugaciuni in mod repetat iar lame ascutite vor fi puse sub perne. Daca noaptea trece bine, fara incidente, sarbatoarea sfantului va fi celebrata cu multa exuberanta in ziua urmatoare. Spinii si usturoiul vor fi atunci inlocuiti cu trandafiri si alte flori.

Bram Stoker, in studiile sale asupra invataturilor vampirilor pentru romanul Dracula scris in 1897, include in celebrul sau roman si spaimele satenilor din seara de Sfantul Gheorghe care il previn pe Jonathan Harker ca la miezul noptii “toate spiritele rele din lume vor pune stapanire pe intreaga lume.