The existence of a “holy mountain” (Ceahlău) and of a monastic area in Neamt County (Romania), entails two different approaches in terms of pilgrimage.
- The Ceahlau Mountain (Romania) is considered to be the second „holy mountain” of the Orthodoxy following Mount Athos (Greece). The first documentary mention which is related to a Christian pilgrimage in this area dates from 1612. The tradition of the pilgrimage has been maintained for more than 300 years. The establishment of the Ceahlau Monastery in 1992, associated with the celebration of the religious day of the mountain on the 6th of August, has revived the pilgrimage activity in the area. Since the mountain is located within the Ceahlau National Park, the Park Administration developed a number of 7 tourist trails which ensure the influx of pilgrims to the peak of the mountain, from any direction.
- The monastic area from Vânători Neamț Nature Park represents a unique combination of historical, cultural, religious and natural values, related to Orthodox Christianity. The area has an uninterrupted monastic tradition of around 700 years in 16 monasteries and hermitages which are scattered across the Park. The living monastic communities counts about 1,100 monks and nuns. In order to connect all monasteries and hermitages, a network of 10 touristic trails, based on the old pilgrimage routes, were marked. The touristic trails management is ensured by the Ceahlau National Park and the Vânători Neamț Nature Park, the safety of pilgrims being provided by the Park rangers, the Mountain Rescue Service and the Alpine Gendarmerie.
For each NP, about 2,000 Euros/year are needed to keep the trails in good condition and another 2,000 Euros for maps, leaflets etc. Pilgrim supervision supposes the involvement of all staff in the first part of August (Ceahlau NP) or periodic patrols during the summer season (Vanatori Neamt NP).
Evidence of success
In the communist era the pilgrimage in Ceahlau Mountain has diminished to near extinction. The number of pilgrims increased afterwards year by year, thousands of pilgrims ascend the Ceahlau Mountain, some of them coming on foot from distances of tens of kilometers.
Nowadays the Vanatori Neamt National Park is a wellknown destination for pilgrims. The number of people choosing to visit the monasteries, alone or in small groups, using the pedestrian routes has grown in the last period.
- Numerous pilgrims prefer short walking trails, using cars for long distances in order to reach the monasteries.
- Since the same routes are being used, the “normalclassic” tourists disturb sometimes some of the attributes of a pilgrimage route (serenity, mutual respect, etc).
Potential for learning or transfer
The presence of a monastic area/holy place in a protected area represents a win-win situation, integrating the conservation of natural, cultural and spiritual features of the area. Monasteries and hermitages have great potential for the implementation of the Christian approach to ecology and to raise visitors' awareness of cultural and spiritual significance.
In order to promote the pilgrimage destination, a collective effort involving the protected area’s administration, the Church and the mountain rescuers is requested.
To find suitable solutions, the particularities of each pilgrimage area have to be taken into consideration: a focal point visited by a great number of pilgrims in a short period (Ceahlau), or a network of points, scattered on a large area, interesting for pilgrims for a longer period of a year (Vanatori Neamt). Without prejudice to religious motivation, the pilgrimage, seen as a tourist product, can provide economic success to the local and regional tourism.
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