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CURTEA DE ARGESH (Rumanian, Curtea de...

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 651 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CURTEA DE ARGESH (Rumanian, Curtea de Arges; also written Curtea d'Argesh, Curtea d'Ardges, Argish and Ardjish), the capital of the department of Argesh, Rumania; situated on the right bank of the river Argesh, where it flows through a valley of the lower Carpathians; and on the railway from Pitesci to the Rothenthurm Pass. Pop. (1900) 4210. The city is one of the oldest in Rumania. According to tradition it was founded early in the 14th century by Prince Radu Negru, succeeding Campulung as capital of Walachia. Hence its name Curtea, " the court." It contains a few antique churches, and was created a bishopric at the close of the 18th century. The cathedral of Curtea de Argesh, by far the most famous building in Rumania, stands in the grounds of a monastery, 12 m. N. of the city. It resembles a very large and elaborate mausoleum, built in Byzantine style, with Moorish arabesques. In shape it is oblong, with a many-sided annexe at the back. In the centre rises a dome, fronted by two smaller cupolas; while a secondary dome, broader and loftier than the central one, springs from the annexe. Each summit is crowned by an inverted pear-shaped stone, bearing a triple cross, emblematic of the Trinity. The windows are mere slits; those of the tambours, or cylinders, on which the cupolas rest, are curved, and slant at an angle of 70°, as though the tambours were leaning to one side. Between the pediment and the cornice a thick corded moulding is carried round the main building. Above this comes a row of circular shields, adorned with intricate arabesques, while bands and wreaths of lilies are everywhere scupltured on the windows, balconies, tambours and cornices, adding lightness to the fabric. The whole is raised on a platform 7 ft. high, and encircled by a stone balustrade. Facing the main entrance is a small open shrine, consisting of a cornice and dome upheld by four pillars. The cathedral is faced with pale grey limestone, easily chiselled, but hardening on exposure. The interior is of brick, plastered and decorated with frescoes. Close by stands a large royal palace, Moorish in style. The archives of the cathedral were plundered by Magyars and Moslems, but several inscriptions, Greek, Slav and Ruman, are left. One tablet records that the founder was Prince Neagoe Bassarab (1512-1521); another that Prince John Radu completed the work in 1526. A third describes the repairs executed in 1681 by Prince Sherban Cantacuzino; a fourth, the restoration, in 1804, by Joseph, the first bishop. Between 1875 and 1885 the cathedral was reconstructed; and in 1886 it was re-consecrated. Its legends have inspired many Rumanian poets, among them the celebrated V. Alexandri (1821-1890). One tradition describes how Neagoe Bassarab, while a hostage in Constantinople, designed a splendid mosque for the sultan, returning to build the cathedral out of the surplus materials. Another version makes him employ one Manole or Manoli as architect. Manolet being unable to finish the walls, the prince threatened him and his assistant with death. At last Manole suggested that they should follow the ancient custom of building a living woman into the foundations; and that she who first appeared on the following morning should be the victim. The other masons warned their families, and Manole was forced to sacrifice his own wife. Thus the cathedral was built except the roof. So arrogant, however, did the masons become, that the prince bade remove the scaffolding, and all, save Manole, perished of hunger. He fell to the ground, and a spring of clear water, which issued from the spot, is still called after him.
End of Article: CURTEA DE ARGESH (Rumanian, Curtea de Arges; also written Curtea d'Argesh, Curtea d'Ardges, Argish and Ardjish)
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