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“Sf. Ioan Botezatorul”- Church (“St. John the Baptist”) – Old “Sf. Ioan” Monastery


Location: Union Square
“St. John Monastery was the richest monastery in the city and by the special support given by Princes Ghica, as its founders, reached an impressive power in Focșani. Based on this protection, it occupied hundreds of homes and shops in the city, as well as the fair estate often entering into conflict with local authorities until 1863. The townspeople, with their struggles and grievance submitted to the Sovereigns of the country, could hardly escape by 1850 of the tyranny and oppressions of the Greek abbots, thanks to Princes Gheorghe Bibescu and Știrbei Vodă, and thanks to the unbridled energy and perseverance, put by the townspeople in defending their stolen rights by some foreigners who gorged themselves from the estate of the Romanian people.” (D.F. Caian)\

Built at the base as a monastic settlement,”Sf. Ioan Botezătorul” Church was part of a monastic complex. The church itself was built in 1661 by Prince Grigore Ghica (the so-called “Albanian”).
In terms of architecture, the church has a cruciform shape, being built of brick and hydraulic lime on a stone foundation in the Byzantine style. The interior has a length of 22.40 m, width of 6.50 m, 9.50 m h and 1.50 m wall thickness, being paved with stone slabs. The porch attached has an uncertain date and it is about 4 meters long.
Being a true “pillar of the Orthodox faith” in both the Wallachian and in the Moldavian part, ”Sf. Ioan Botezătorul” Church was a veritable cultural and religious center, which encouraged the expansion of monastic establishments from the “Little Athos - under Magura Odobeştiului, of the church life in Focșani up to Ocolul Vrancei.” (page 27 – Focşanii – A history of data and testimonies, Cezar Cherciu).
An important dogmatic training center, the establishment concerned offered the folks of Vrancea a lot of monks, deacons and priests, with the clear mission to broaden and strengthen the local Christian spirit. Among its cultural arsenal, the monastery had in 1849, 22 books in Greek and 24 books in Romanian Cyrillic.
Built in Byzantine style, the place of worship was dedicated to St. Anastasia Monastery in Thessalonica, up to the secularization in 1863.
Basically, the monastery had a fortified aspect, like border fortresses surrounded by over 6 meters high walls, with two floors inside the building (36 residential units and 10 cellars). Also, in relation to its fortifications the monastery consisted of towers with openings in the wall beneficial for positioning firearms, making this monastic settlement a veritable bastion of defense for the surroundings.
One of the richest places of worship in the area of Focșani, the monastery was in possession of several rural settlements, estates, vines in Odobeşti vineyard, forests, fair booths and houses in Focșani; after countless donations offered and invasions (taking possession of some state land without a document attesting the property).
The church suffered a lot of damage caused both by natural events and out of the human action, among which we can mention: earthquakes, the devastating fire in 1854 and also the plundering expeditions undertaken by the Turks during the reign of Mavrocordat and those committed by the Hetaerists in 1821.
After burning the settlement of Focşani in 1854, the monastery lost its portliness, and in 1871 the ruined walls are sold by tender to the Jew Alpern, at a fair price. Following the transaction, from the old monastic structure, alongside the church, there only survived the tower and the belfry (which remains insulated before the church).
Located near the border outpost no. 47, this place of worship saw many major events from the period 1859, among which we have the event of the first Te-Deum dedicated to the national union in the square in front of the church, a round dance at which the Ruler himself took part and the Military Parade in 1877.
Despite the hard times through which it passed, including fires, earthquakes, invasions, modernity ideologies etc., “St. John the Baptist” Church managed to survive and endure the spiritual and cultural life of the Vrancea fair remaining the implacable evidence of the economic and religious dynamism that Focsani benefited from over time.