Moșnenii Bărăganului. Istoria crucilor din piatră de la Poiana, județul Ialomița [The Moșneni of Bărăgan. The History of the Stone Crosses from Poiana, Ialomița County]

coperta-Mosnenii-Baraganului(written together with Andreea Panait)
Corint Books, National Museum of Agriculture from Slobozia, Bucharest, 2020

The book, prefaced by the Christian-Orthodox Bishop of Slobozia and Călăraşi and by the manager of the National Museum of Agriculture, is made up of two parts and is dedicated to one of the oldest localities in Ialomița county (south-east Romania), to a community of moşneni and to a historical monument that has remained unknown and unstudied until now.

In the first part of the book, the historian Filip-Lucian Iorga makes a quick review of the history of Bărăgan plane and Ialomița river valley, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Ialomiţa county, an important military defense outpost against Ottoman attacks, a granary of the country and crossed by important commercial routes, appears in the Wallachian chronicles ever since the reign of Mircea the Elder. In this region, there were numerous villages and estates owned by the moşneni, also called knyaz in medieval documents, free men, joint owners of their domains and pertaining to the country’s old military aristocracy. Preserving proportions and nuances, we may compare them with the gentry in England. One of the oldest lineages of moşneni in Ialomiţa is the one that owned Poiana village, on the banks of the Ialomița river. “Poiana” means “meadow”, “clearing”. The first documented mention of Poiana village dates from 1584, but there are testimonies according to which the moşneni of Poiana had land ownership documents dating from around 1450. Poiana appears on Romanian and foreign maps from 1718, 1789 and 1829. In 1748, the moşneni built a wooden church in Poiana, which was moved to Slobozia in 2000 and is now one of the most important architectural monuments in Ialomița county. The “Saint Nicholas” wooden church holds the oldest funerary inscription in the county. The church also organized one of the oldest rural schools in Wallachia, attested in 1792. Several important families rose from the Poenaru moşneni lineage: the Poenaru-Bordea boyars (who gave us Gheorghe Poenaru-Bordea, the first Romanian officer fallen in World War I), the Poenaru-Iatan branch (related to painter Ştefan Luchian and marshal Constantin Prezan), the Bărbulescu-Stănescu family, moşneni of Poiana and Pisculeasca, the Vasilescu, Georgescu, Rădulescu families, etc. The lineage of the Poiana moşneni gave numerous political, military and cultural personalities and became related to many Romanian reigning and boyar families, as well as families from the Russian aristocracy and the Austrian-Hungarian one.

In the second part, museography specialist Andreea Panait describes in detail a historical and religious monument that has not yet been included on the official list of historical monuments from Romania, is unresearched and abandoned: the old cemetery of the moşneni from Poiana. Situated in Lower Poiana, around the wooden church from the 18th century, and containing dozens of massive stone crosses, the cemetery was partially abandoned in 1979, in the context of a systematization plan for the Ialomița river, due to frequent floods, the new course being planned to pass through the old cemetery. At that time, the graves were transferred on the hill in Upper Poiana, and many of the old stone crosses were scattered in various places of Poiana. Subsequently, the systematization of the river didn’t take place, but the old cemetery remained abandoned. Many of the crosses left in the old location are now tilted or collapsed, nicked or covered in moss and lichen. Andreea Panait inventoried approximately 70 stone crosses in Poiana, drew plans of their placements in various locations in the village (the old cemetery in Lower Poiana, the hill in Upper Poiana, the garden of the 19th century church made of bricks, etc.), transcribed and translated all the inscriptions on them. The oldest stone cross discovered until now in Poiana dates from 1828, and the most recent from 1911. The book includes detailed analyses of the different existing types of crosses, one of the most interesting being the litany-cross, of the decorative elements and motifs discovered on the crosses. It also contains detailed descriptions and photographs for a number of 24 crosses and a sculptural element, as well as a list of synthetic descriptions for the other stone crosses that were identified, up to the total number of 64 analyzed crosses.

The authors’ desire is that, starting from this book which highlights archive documents, novel texts, family trees, photographs, interviews with locals, little used bibliography, but also the original research of Andreea Panait, the local and national authorities would turn their attention to this monument that has been ignored until now, but which is valuable from a historical and artistical point of view. Its restoration and valorization may contribute to a thorough knowledge of the local and national history, by bringing to light the fascinating past of this lower Romanian nobility represented by the moşneni.
The full text of the book

Letter from Father Vincențiu Grifoni, Bishop of Slobozia and Călărași
Photos from the book launch, National Museum of Agriculture, Slobozia, Ialomița county, September 23rd, 2020

The exhibition “Stone Crosses, Poiana, Ialomița”, National Museum of Agriculture, Slobozia, Ialomița county