The Legend of Manole and Ana: Building a Church in One’s Bones

In the legend of Manole and Ana, everything that the builders did during the day collapsed over night. The ruler of the land had asked Manole and his team to build the most beautiful church on earth, but he could not do it. He is despaired because the punishment for them was death. Manole is not ready to die; is he ready to build a church?

A voice from above tells him that only a human sacrifice could break the curse. The voice from above shows Manole a mirror: you are not ready to give up yourself. How can you build a church? Manole does not see it, and so he decides with his team to sacrifice the first woman who comes with food in the morning.

He prays to God to stop Ana, his wife, but Ana comes, overcoming all the storms sent her way. Ana is ready to die; the church can contain her body. Her body is already a church.

What does it take to build a church? Perhaps a denial of the ego and an embodiment of others. Manole cannot do it. He cannot build the church because he has not yet given up himself. How can he build a boat for salvation if he cannot yet open himself to the others?

Build up churches, said Fr. George Calciu once, in communist Romania. He was imprisoned for it. The only thing he was asking was to make from our own bodies boats for the salvation of others. Of all others. 

Ana becomes a church. She is already one before her husband covers her body with bricks. Ana’s bones are the bricks of the church, and her world lives in it.

A website about the legend with pictures from the Monastery of Curtea de Arges: 

Photo Credit:


About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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