Orheiul Vechi Cave Monastery
The Cave Monastery, inside a cliff overlooking the modest Raut River, was dug by Orthodox monks in the 13th century. It remained inhabited until the 18th century, and in 1996 a handful of monks returned and began restoring it.
The cliff face is dotted with additional caves and places of worship, dug over the millennia by Geto-Dacian tribes from before Christ’s time. In all, the huge cliff contains six complexes of interlocking caves, most of which are accessible only by experienced rock climbers and therefore off-limits to most tourists.
After WWII archaeologists started uncovering several layers of history in this region, including a fortress built in the 14th century by Stefan cel Mare, later destroyed by Tartars, and the remnants of a defense wall surrounding the monastery complex from the 15th century. Some of their finds are on exhibit in Chisinau’s National History Museum.
In the 18th century the cave-church was taken over by villagers from neighboring Butuceni. In 1905 they built an additional church above ground dedicated to the Ascension of St Mary. This church was shut down by the Soviets in 1944 and remained abandoned throughout the Communist regime. Services resumed in 1996.