The Sistine Chapel of the Romanians: the Draganescu Church
The Draganescu Church is said to be Romania’s Sistine Chapel. Just like Michelangelo, our Father Arsenie Boca painted each and every part of this church in a new and surprising way, old traditional figures painted in a surrealist style. The Draganescu church is a small village church, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its walls are like a thousand books. One can easily spend a whole day there and even more days, just meditating on the richness of teachings painted there. It took 15 years to finish the paintings until 1983. Nothing is out of place, no corner is wasted, and no picture there lacks in wisdom and manifold meanings. It is if you will, a semiotic journey: old Christian symbols, new universal symbols painted within the Christian content, a spring of teachings. After all, Father Arsenie Boca is the one who painted Jesus Christ in a prisoner’s clothes, in the middle of the communist rule, and nobody noticed that until after the revolution. It was only there to see for those who had eyes to see, as they say.
Draganescu is very close to Bucharest, a mere 30 km trip by bus, to Mihailesti Village and then walk or hitchhike to Draganescu. There are also local buses but they don’t come very often. The church is by the lake and you can see it on the other side when you walk into the village. The priest there is a follower of Father Arsenie Boca. He is the guide and he will tell you many stories and decypher for you the meaning of the paintings inside the church. I don’t know if he can speak English, but being that many Romanians go there as a pilgrimage, you will definitely find someone who will gladly translate to you what the priest says.
Father Arsenie Boca was killed by the communists just one month before the Revolution. He had already told people around him that he would not live to witness the fall of the communists and he was glad he wouldn’t live to see such times. Why? If you want to know more, see the writings of Ioan Petru Culianu. Father Arsenie was said to read thoughts, to see into the depths of the people and he disappeared one time form the communist prison ( work camps) to go and see his mother buried properly, when she died. After the funeral he appeared back into the prison. He used to say, together with other great spirits of our nation, that he would be even more alive and able to help them even after his physical body would die. Thousands of people go to the place where he is buried, at Prislop, in the Hateg land (pronounced “Hatzeg”), to seek guidance and help, and many people’s lives are changed after this.