An easy, and very lovely, 7km walk from Văratec, Mănăstirea Agapia (Agapia monastery) actually consists of two convents a few kilometres apart; most visitors are content to visit only the main complex of Agapia din Vale (“Agapia in the valley”), at the end of a village with houses with covered steps. The walls and gate tower aim to conceal rather than to protect; inside is a whitewashed enclosure around a cheerful garden. At prayer times a nun beats an insistent rhythm on a wooden toaca while another plays the panpipes; this is followed by a medley of bells, some deep and slow, others high and fast. The convent church – much smaller than the one at Văratec – was built in 1644–47 by Prince Basil the Wolf’s brother, Gavril Coci. Its helmet-shaped cupola, covered in green shingles, mimics that of the gate tower. After restoration, the interior was repainted between 1858 and 1861 by Nicolae Grigorescu, the country’s foremost painter at the time; he returned to stay at Agapia from 1901 to 1902.
Grigorescu’s close attachment to the convent can also be seen in the museum, which stars an entire room of the painter’s Renaissance-style work – the most celebrated of which is a large canvas entitled The Laying of Christ’s Body in the Tomb – as well as portraits of the Vlahuţă family. Icons, vestments and embroidery from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries complete a sizeable collection. An enticing variety of breads, jams and syrups, all harvested by the nuns, is available from the kiosk outside the convent entrance.