St Parascheva in Romania's Iasi: a Miracle Worker in Life and Death
Novinite is publishing another report by Anna Bashuk, a third-year Journalism student at the American University in Bulgaria, about the Metropolitan Cathedral located in Iasi, the largest city in Eastern Romania. The temple contains relics of the saint called Parascheva of the Balkans, known in Bulgaria as Petka of Bulgaria.
"My research has shown that in ancient times the relics were located in Bulgaria," Bashuk wrote when submitting hear article to Novinite.
IASI, ROMANIA – During a trip to Iasi, I could not help but notice the incredibly low number of medical buildings in the city, compared to the number of churches. Indeed, each of a hundred square kilometers of Iasi’s territory is covered with about one full church and only one fifth of a hospital. “We don’t need hospitals; we have God,” said my fellow traveler Tedi Cohai.
Iasi is one of the oldest cities in North-Eastern Romania and the cultural capital of historical and geographical region of Moldova. The town has five public universities and I have always thought of it as a student city because of numerous Romanian work and travel students in the United States who were from Iasi. This is why an image of a cultural capital never sparked in my mind. However, this heavily religious student place will be competing for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2021.
“Romania is a small country where it takes a while to get from one city to another,” Cohai said. Indeed, it took seven hours of a train ride from Bucharest to reach Iasi. There is a noticeable difference between the two cities. Bucharest is big and busy: tall buildings, traffic on the street, and mostly grumpy people rushing to work. Such a typical capital! In comparison, life in Iasi is slower and locals are much friendlier.
The Orthodox population is very religious. In Iasi, every restaurant has a section in the menu or an insert with fasting meals. People in public transportation cross themselves when the vehicle passes by a church or a monastery, which I have never seen in any other city.
A particular site attracts the attention of both local visitors and tourists - The Metropolitan Cathedral. It is the largest Orthodox Church in Romania, located on the site of two churches dated back to 15th and 17th centuries. Initial construction followed a neo-classical design, but in 1857, the central arch of the building collapsed leaving it in ruins. New architect Alexandru Orascu took the lead and redesigned the building, and during the reconstruction works after several decades, the central dome was completely removed.
The Cathedral’s visitors line up to access the Italian Renaissance-influenced interior. The people in the line read their prayers to saints, receive blessings from the priests and write letters to those who passed away. “I am going there to pray to the saint and thank for everything I have now,” said Romanian student Marian Adascalite. “I am also praying for my health, for the people I know and for the people around.”
Metropolitan Cathedral is protected by relics of St Parascheva of the Balkans, a female saint of a Serbian origin who lived in the eleventh century. St Parascheva is recognized by the Romanian, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian Orthodox Churches under different names, such as Petka of Bulgaria, Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, or Petka Paraskeva.
The saint is believed to be the protector of Moldova. Every Oct. 14, on St Parascheva’s feast day, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come from Romania and neighboring countries to kneel before the relics and ask for miracles. They wait in line that covers a couple of kilometers to touch the saint. The pilgrimage has become one of the major religious events in Romania.
Valerian Radu, the protosinghel at the Metropolitan Cathedral, throughout 15 years in his position, heard about wonders happening to people who prayed to St Parascheva. Inspired by the stories of the people around him, the protosinghel took part in creation of a book called “Binefacerile Sfintei Cuvioase Parascheva: Marturii ale Inchinatorilor,” which presents the compilation of the experiences of the people whose prayers were heard. “It is people who wrote the book,” he said.
“Time spent near the holy relics gave me the opportunity to see an impressive influx of people of different ages and professions in the country and abroad, who with humble tears asked the Holy to solve the problems they face,” said the protosinghel in the book. “Many of them came back, thanking Him for helping out, crying with happiness; others went with the hope that the Holy protection will not tarry.”
One man had been waiting for the protosinghel for several hours in the cathedral to share what happened to him. After the time had finally come when they could talk, a man told Valerian Radu his story. This man’s son was acknowledged dead after a car accident. The father even received a death certificate. He was in pain, and he prayed to St Parascheva. Only God knows how many prayers left this man’s lips, but soon after, his son came back to life.
When stories like this happen in real life, it makes me think that maybe the universe is after all beyond human control. “Miracles are happening every day; some are bigger, some are smaller,” Valerian Radu said. “You just have to notice them.”
The Romanian name of the Cathedral is Catedrala Mitropolitana Sfanta Parascheva. It is located on Bulevardul Stefan cel Mare si Sfant 16 in Iasi, Romania, and open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. There is no admission fee. Currently, the building is undergoing restoration works, which limits access to some parts of its grounds. However, the interior is open for those who believe in miracles.
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