A Visit to Sambata de Sus and the Brancoveanu Monastery

This destination guide details my visit to the Brancoveanu Monastery (Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu) just outside the village of Sambata de Sus.

Last day in Transylvania

After a great night at the Brukenthal Palace in Avrig, I left the hotel early the next morning for the final day of my road trip across Transylvania.

The focus of this day was more on the mountain scenery of the Carpathians rather than the Saxon fortified churches, of which I had visited quite a few in the previous days.

Before driving into the mountains, I would however first visit the famous Brancoveanu Monastery in the nearby village of Sambata de Sus.

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I spent the night at the Brukenthal Summer Palace in Avrig. ©Paliparan
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View over the Carpathian Mountains and the Olt river valley. ©Paliparan

Road to Sambata de Sus

It was a straightforward 45-minute drive from Avrig to Sambata de Sus.

The drive led me first on the main provincial road (DN1) towards Sambata de Jos, where I took a right-hand turn onto the 105B towards Sambata de Sus.

This road turned out to be an absolute stunner.

Although some morning fog meant that there were no views as such at the beginning of my drive and I had to be extremely careful on the busy main road, the smaller 105B road was an absolute pleasure to drive.

By this time the fog had cleared up and I was driving straight towards the Carpathians, the mountain backdrop was absolutely stunning.

morning fog
Morning fog over the fields of southern Transylvania. ©Paliparan
carpathian mountains car view
When the fog cleared up, the majestic Carpathian Mountains appeared in the distance. ©Paliparan
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Gorgeous views on the road to Sambata de Sus. ©Paliparan
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Proper Transylvania road trip vibes. ©Paliparan

Brancoveanu Monastery

After a beautiful drive, I arrived at the parking lot of the monastery.

In the Romanian language, the monastery is known by two names that are used interchangeably: Mănăstirea Sâmbăta de Sus, named after the village it is located in, and Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu, named after its founder.

The village of Sambata de Sus and its surrounding lands were acquired by the powerful Brancoveanu family in the mid-17th century.

Around 1696, Constantin Brancoveanu, the Prince of Wallachia, made the decision to construct a stone church on the site of an old wooden church in Sambata de Sus.

Over the years, a complete monastic complex developed around the church, encompassing a school, printing house, and fresco painting workshop.

Being a devout Orthodox Christian, Brancoveanu envisioned the monastery as a stronghold against the rise of Catholicism in Transylvania, a consequence of the growing Habsburg dominance over the region.

However, even the mighty Brancoveanu family was powerless to stop the Habsburgs when the Austrian Imperial Court decided that the monastery should be disbanded.

In 1785, the Habsburg Imperial Army devastated the monastery, causing the majority of the monks to escape across the Carpathians from Transylvania into Wallachia.

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Cenotaph of Constantin Brancoveanu, who founded the monastery in Sambata de Sus. ©Paliparan


Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, Transylvania was reunited with Romania in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Trianon.

The ownership of the monastery lands was transferred to the Romanian Orthodox Church, more specifically, to the archdiocese of Sibiu.

Nicolae Bălan, the Archbishop of Sibiu and Metropolitan Bishop of Transylvania, made the decision to restore the monastery to its former glory.

The restoration works commenced in 1926, and the monastery church was ultimately completed and consecrated in 1946 during the reign of King Mihai I, whose regal portrait remains visible in the church.

While the Brancoveanu Monastery therefore boasts a rich history, it is worth noting that all the structures you will encounter during your visit are less than a century old.

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The entrance gate to Brancoveanu Monastery. ©Paliparan
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The monastery is beautifully located in the foothills of the Carpathians. ©Paliparan

Outer buildings

As you stroll along the footpath towards the main monastery complex, you will first come across some outlying buildings.

Among these outlying buildings are a monastery shop where you can buy religious icons and other objects, as well as a chapel where you can light some candles.

As is customary in Orthodox churches, you use the place designated with “vii” if you want to light your candle for a living person, and use the section “morţi” if you want to do so for a deceased person.

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Monastery buildings. ©Paliparan
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I love the climbing plants on the side of the tower. ©Paliparan
carpathian foothills
Monastery surroundings. ©Paliparan
monastery chapel
Monastery chapel. ©Paliparan
burning candles chapel
Burning candles inside the chapel. ©Paliparan

Gate tower

You enter the monastery through a wide passage built into the bell tower.

The gate tower features colorful frescoes on the inside of the passage, which are well worth a closer look.

Additionally, there is a plaque on which a short history of the Sambata de Sus Monastery is written in Romanian.

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The gate tower of Brancoveanu Monastery. ©Paliparan
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The wonderful frescoes in the passage through the gate tower. ©Paliparan
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Monastery frescoes. ©Paliparan
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Frescoes on the walls of the gate tower. ©Paliparan
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Entering the monastery through the gate tower. ©Paliparan

Inside the monastery

The monastery complex is built around the main church, which stands in the centre of a well-kept grass garden.

It’s without doubt a serene setting, as the whitewashed church and monastery buildings harmoniously blend with the forested hills behind.

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Inside the Brancoveanu monastery complex in Sambata de Sus. ©Paliparan
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Brancoveanu Monastery. ©Paliparan

Monastery church

Unfortunately, the doors of the monastery church were firmly locked when I visited, and there was no monk in sight whom I could ask to open it.

However, I was able to admire the beautiful frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the front porch of the church

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The main monastery church. ©Paliparan
Monastery church. ©Paliparan
church complex
The church and surrounding buildings. ©Paliparan
church entrance
Church entrance. ©Paliparan
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Frescoes on the ceiling of the church vestibule. ©Paliparan

Brancovanesc architecture

The monastery in Sambata de Sus is a fine example of an architectural style that is known in Romania as Brancovanesc Architecture (Brancoveanu-style architure).

As one might expect, this artistic style is named after Constantin Brancoveanu, as it emerged during his reign and continued to be popular long after.

Brancovanesc architecture is essentially a fusion of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Renaissance styles which was developed at the time when Wallachia was still a vasal state of the Ottomans.

You can clearly see this quintessential Romanian architectural style if you look at the loggia right next to the gate tower.

With its finely-sculpted staircase and balustrade, as well as the large overhanging roof which is is clearly reminiscent of the orient, the loggia really is an excellent example of Brancovanesc Architecture.

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Brancoveanu style architecture at the Sambata de Sus monastery. ©Paliparan
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Architectural details of the staircase and balustrade. ©Paliparan
Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu Sâmbăta de Sus
Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu in Sâmbăta de Sus. ©Paliparan


The monastery complex features a striking white arcade running along its interior perimeter.

Most of the doors you will find here lead to the monastic cells where the monks live.

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The beautiful arcade of the monastery complex. ©Paliparan
Arcade. ©Paliparan
monastery arcade
Monastery arcade. ©Paliparan

Other monastery buildings

There are a couple of other noteworthy buildings situated around the monastery complex.

Inside the complex right next to the main church, you can find a smaller wooden church.

Just outside the main complex, you can find a large building adorned with a triangular fresco, serving as an Orthodox church academy.

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Wooden church inside the monastery complex. ©Paliparan
Sambata de Sus Academy brancoveanu monastery
Sambata de Sus Academy. ©Paliparan

Leaving the monastery

After taking some time to savour the beautiful surroundings of the monastery, I exited once more through the main passage in the gate tower.

On the main road just outside the monastery, you’ll find a couple of souvenir and food stalls.

I couldn’t resist stopping here to eat some lángos, a traditional Hungarian snack made out of a fried flatbread with sour cream, cheese and garlic.

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Exiting the monastery complex. ©Paliparan
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Food and souvenir stalls at the main road in front of the monastery complex. ©Paliparan
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Enjoying some delicious lángos outside the monastery. ©Paliparan


The Brancoveanu Monastery in Sambata de Sus is well-worth a detour for its fine architecture and beautiful setting in the Carpathian foothills.

The monastery in Sambata de Sus is an excellent example of Brancovanesc Architecture, a magnificent blend of Byzantine, Ottoman and Renaissance influences.

Make sure you take your time to admire the beautiful frescoes and the exquisite Brancovanesc-style details of the loggia when you visit the monastery.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Visiting the Saxon Fortified Churches of Transylvania‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. The Fortified Church of Harman (Honigberg), Brasov County
2. The Fortified Church of Prejmer (Tartlau), Brasov County
3. The Fortified Church of Feldioara (Marienburg), Brasov County
4. A Visit to Rupea Fortress
5. The Fortified Church of Homorod (Hamruden), Brasov County
6. Racoș: Exploring an Extinct Volcano and Abandoned Castle
7. In the Footsteps of King Charles: A Visit to Viscri, Romania
8. A Visit to the Fortified Church of Viscri, Brasov County
9. A Night Walk Around the Citadel and Old Town of Sighisoara
10. Review: Hotel Casa Wagner, Sighisoara, Romania
11. The Fortified Church of Saschiz (Keisd), Mureș County
12. The Fortified Church of Cloasterf (Klosdorf), Mureș County
13. The Fortified Church of Mesendorf (Meschendorf), Brasov County
14. The Fortified Church of Crit (Deutsch-Kreuz), Brasov County
15. The Fortified Church of Biertan (Birthälm), Sibiu County
16. The Fortified Church of Hosman (Holzmengen), Sibiu County
17. Review: Brukenthal Palace Hotel, Avrig
18. A Visit to Sambata de Sus and the Brancoveanu Monastery (current chapter)

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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