Quite close to the border with Bulgaria, around Ostrov, there is a place where miracles happen. A place untouched by Danube’s waters, a hill where the Dervent Monastery rises, with its walls as white as the immaculacy of hope and its roofs red as the joy of healing. The monastery, built at the core of these harsh, wind-blown lands, has an unsettling story, and those that happened along time and still happen today, 37 kilometers from the St. Andrew Apostle rock Monastery, are astonishing proof about belief, trust, hope and redemption.
The apprentices’ martyrdom
Near the Monastery one can still see the ruins of an ancient Roman citadel, named Dervent, destroyed by the Pechenegs around 1036. The history of the place claims that four apprentices (one priest and three virgins) of St. Andrew the Apostle – Christianizer of Romania – came here to spread the word of Christ. Here, in the Dervent citadel, they were captured and sentenced to death, because they did not renounce Christ. The legends says that during the martyrdom, the priest was sat in the left apse of the church, the place where the Holy Cross sits today, and the three virgins sat in from of the Altar. Their death talks about an unusual Roman cruelty, but more particularly about the true belief of the four apprentices. The priest was skinned alive and hanged upside-down on the cross, and the three virgins had their eyes gouged out, their hand and feet nails pulled out and their bodies were cut into pieces. The remains of the martyrs were burned at stake and what was left was thrown in Danube’s waters, so that no believer would worship them. In the place where they were tortured, four cross-shaped stones miraculously rose.
The story of the Christianized Turkish man
Time and civilizations have passed over the place where the crosses grew from the ground. The monarchial life developed again but, after centuries, the lands of Dobrogea fell in the hands of the pagans. The Ottoman Empire expanded a contagion and devastated everything in its way. The legends says that the lands where the Dervent Monastery rises today belonged to a Turkish man, called Ahmet Bei, who was in charge of guarding the border. Perhaps it wasn’t by chance that the Turkish man believed in Christ. Having heard that the cross-stones on his lands have miraculous powers, he protected them as he knew best. And this went on from one generation to another, when the son of the one who then owned the lands, angry that the Christian slaves worshiped the crosses, demanded that they take them down. But right when the Cross of the Priest was left without arms, the pagan dropped dead. Five years later, an earthquake destroyed the land, a lightning burned the barns, and the landlord’s family died from an epidemic.