The cave ensemble from Murfatlar

The archaeological site of Basarabi-Murfatlar is at a distance of 15 km from the Black Sea coast, on the right bank of what used to be the Carasu Valley, now known as the Danube-Black Sea Canal. It is made up of rooms and galleries, being dug in a chalk hill near the quarry extraction of chalk from Basarabi. The complex was discovered on June 11, 1957, as a result of extension works of the  exploitation areas. This complex, in the opinion of the researchers, housed the first church and the first cells of a monastery on the territory of Romania.

The churches and galleries dug in the chalk hill from Basarabi-Murfatlar are located on the NW side of the Tibisirul hill, which are found at a small distance from the Danube – Black Sea Canal and in the immediate vicinity of the big stone wave. It is assumed that the initial use of the Basarabi-Murfatlar complex was closely linked to the existence of this stone wave, because many of the preserved fragments of the wave crown are from chalk, whose origin can be found in the old quarry. The dating of the site was based on the indication of an inscription from the nave of the B4 church “leat 6500”, which means the year 992.

Because of the overlapping of Christian symbols with those of other civilizations, the site is thus even more interesting for the experts and archeologists. The cross, the pigeon – the symbol of the Holy Spirit, are not the only ones found on the chalk walls; but there are also inscriptions such as ships, brooms and  animals. The experts take into account other civilizations and automatically an earlier attestation of these churches, from the 4th – 5th centuries.

The B1 church has the entrance dug into the abrupt wall, at a considerable distance from the limestone level of the basin in front of it. The only possibility to reach it are via the boards of wood specially designed for this purpose. The church is oriented with the altar to the east, and the entrance is on the north side of the narthex. The building has no windows. However, there are still: simple Maltese crosses which are inscribed in a circle, mostly concentrated in the narthex. On both sides of the entrance to the nave there is a drawing consisting of two squares, one included in the other, containing three runes inside. At the time of the discovery, on the south wall of the narthex, various animal drawings (horses and rabbits) could be seen together with Cyrillic inscriptions mixed with runic graphite. Sadly, they all disappeared after the exfoliation of the wall.

The B2 church is located on the upper level of the massif. It also has a three-compartmentalized structure: altar, nave and narthex, with the altar facing south-southeast. The bulding is 4 meters long and 2.20 meters wide. Drawings are only kept on the walls of the altar and the nave,while the walls of the narthex no longer have any insignia or symbols. These drawings represent horses  CAI 2 Ori and riders and are drawn from straight lines and without any volume. There are no inscriptions. At the time of discovery, some crosses and Slavic inscriptions were still preserved on the chalk blocks ,while on inside the narthex there were found a few Slavic crosses.

The B3 church has a semicircular altar, with an apse-shaped vault. In its pavement there are three rectangular holes and in the shaft there is a base, probably for the the Holy Mass. In the church nave there are kept various kinds of crosses (simple, pointed and lobed; as well as a Maltese cross framed in a square), the so-called stylization of a bull’s head, a horseman armed with a spear or a bow and arrows, horses and other animals, various geometric motifs (including swastikas, pentagrams), a boot or a foot, a stylized and sculpted aquatic bird in other reliefs, and numerous inscriptions in runic graphite, all with variable length.

The three churches are connected through galleries: church B4, located at the lowest altitude of the whole complex, is connected with the chapel of church B3 through a rectangular hole in the ceiling.

The current state of the complex is one of grave deterioration. From the galleries only the covert walls are left, while in churches B1, B3 and B4, as well as in room C1, the walls are exfoliated. The protective construction has not been completed, and it only covers a part of the complex and does not allow ventilation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *