Growing up as a Catholic girl attending Catholic schools, the legends and parables of saints surrounded me throughout my childhood. I sang to Saint Anthony whenever I lost something, I thought of Saint Jude when I was feeling hopeless, I wished the blessings of Saint Francis on every animal I saw. The one saint who followed me more unfailingly than any other is Saint Andrew the Apostle- his name adorned my school for eleven years of my education and I attended a church named for him from my baptism all the way until my wedding day.
Tucked away in the countryside of Romania is a beautiful little place honoring this holy saint that I grew up with. We journeyed out of Mamaia to this area, the cave and monastery of Saint Andrew, on a truly beautiful sunny Sunday morning. As we wandered the beautifully landscaped pathways, we were able to hear the service going on inside the church and the lovely voices singing hymns. Not wanting to disturb the mass, we did not enter the church, but the outside was stunning. And just a short walk away from it we found the cave.
Legend dictates that this serene little cave is where Saint Andrew himself lived and taught. The space was dim and cozy, with a few beautiful paintings and a small ornate altar. The bed carved into the stone wall, now enhanced with pillows and blankets, signifies where he may have slept during his time here. It was a truly tranquil space, helped by the fact that there was no one else visiting the same time we were. We were able to take our time and enjoy the peace and quiet.
The small holes dotting the walls of the cave are filled with scraps of paper and money. The custom is to write a prayer on a small piece of paper, wrap it up with a small donation, and leave it in the cave so that Saint Andrew can make your wishes come true. They even provide the paper and pencils! There is also a donation box if you’d like to make a more practical contribution to the monastery, and a guest book so that you can record where you are visiting from. Just outside the cave you can buy candles to light for prayer, and there are different places to put your candle based on why you are lighting it- on the left in memory of someone deceased, and on the right in honor of someone alive.
We took a short walk around the outside of the monastery (which is closed to visitors) and down a foresty, picturesque path to the spring, which according to legend, came to be when Saint Andrew struck a rock with his staff. There is a small structure built around a portion of it now, and lots of stray dogs and cats wandering the area.
While a bit out of the way from most other destinations in Romania, I was so glad that we had made the trip here. Considering the presence of Saint Andrew in my life literally since I was born, it was really special to see a place that holds so much meaning.