Văratec Monastery, Romania

This Orthodox monastery, located in the north-eastern part of rural Romania, has a total of around 450 nuns. Many of these nuns live in small groups in private houses, scattered amongst the ordinary villagers, rather than inside the walls of the communal abbey. Throughout the year, they integrate their duties at home with their religious responsibilities to their community and in the church.

Alyssa had spent several weeks there in 1999 and 2000, staying on two occasions with the same intergenerational household of nuns. Several years later, she returned to Văratec to make an ethnographic film as part of her MA thesis at the University of Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, and invited Selena to accompany her on this project.

We stayed there for one month in the summer of 2005, exploring how the nuns integrated their mundane, ‘secular’ identities and practices into their more explicitly religious roles and rituals. Hosted by a household of three nuns living in a small house in the village, we were able to observe and participate in a range of religious services and community events, but also take part in ordinary domestic chores, daily meals, walks in the woods and informal conversations.