Putna is a village that belongs to the Prigor commune (in the Caraș-Severin county), located on the Putna Valley at the bottom of the Almăjului Mountains. We were over there when searching for the ancient watermills, similar to those from Rudăria. But, how it often happens during our research trips, in Putna we have discovered stories from the Banat region of old times.
The first documented mentioning of the village dates back to 1577, when Ecaterina Gaman, Nicholas and Francisc Berta agree over the usage of several possessions among which was also Putna. Two years later, Francisc Berta was going to guarantee with his parts these possessions to George Gaman, against the payment of 500 florini. In 1585, Sigismund Báthory arranges the introduction of Ecaterina Berta to her deserved part of the Putna possession to which the daughter of Nicolae Berta, Ana, opposed.
In the conscription of Marsigli from 1690-1700, Putna appears in the Almaj district. In 1717, in Putni there were 13 houses and it belonged to the Orşova district. On Mercy’s map of 1723, Patna was again in the Almaj district. In 1774, the settlement was part of the military confines, being spread at the Prigor camp. On the military maps of the years between 1806-1869, the village appears under the name of Puttna.
Until the year of 1892, in Putna there was no church and the village was attached to Prigor. The Conscription of the Greek-Ununited from Buda of 1843 indicated that Putna was attached to Prigor, having 269 people of Orthodox religion, 54 married couples, 23 students and Ilie Valuşescu was the teacher. The son or a nephew of the teacher, Dumitru Valuşescu, is mentioned with the same career even 82 years later1)Putna – Anuarul Socec al României Mari 1924-1925.
In 1910, 410 souls lived in Putna. In 1930, it had 333 locals (out of which 291 were Romanians, 33 Gypsies and 9 of other ethnics). At the moment, according to the last reassessment realized in 2002, Putna has a population of 199 people. The autumn of 1918 was calm in Putna. The Serbians, during the occupation were not entering the village, but only sent periodical patrols from Prigor, without meddling into people’s business2)Nicolae Ilieşu – Monografia istorică a Banatului: Judeţul Caraş, Editura Mica Valahie, 2011.
The Almăj-Putna Monastery
Another story of the Putna village conception is tightly connected to the construction of the Almăj-Putna Monastery, which is located right at the entrance of the village. It is said that, in the 17th century, a faithful man of the church from the Almăj area entered the monastic rank of the Putna Monastery (Moldova), the Holy Prince Ştefan cel Mare fondation. After a while spent in this sanctuary, he left for Greece, on the Saint Athos Mountain, where he forced himself for 18 years, ending up in the great Scheme.
Towards the end of his life, this venerable priest, by the name of Pahomie, received command from the Holy Mother, who appeared to him in a sight, to come to the aid of the Church and the believers which were located on his natal lands (The Orthodox Church was persecuted by foreign domination). In the archive of the Frăsinei Monastery, Valcea County, in a Missal written in Cyrillic letters, there is mentioned that the Pahomie priest, along with seven apprentices served the Holy Missal and lived inside the caves inside the Putna village border, that place being marked even today through a chapel.
As a thank you, he built a house where he would meet with the believers in order to help them confess their sins and offer them spiritual assistance. The construction of this house built the nucleus which gave birth later to the church and the Putna village. This is how the initiative to built a monastic settlement at the edge of the village Putna, on the Almăj Valley was built3)Mănăstirea Putna-Almăj – Episcopia Caransebeșului.
Therefore,in 1996, the construction of the monastery and the religious life starts in 1997. The holy sanctuary bears the patron “Transfiguration of Jesus Christ”. A photo album with the Almăj-Putna Monastery can be seen on the site of the Caransebeş Bishopery.
The watermills of Putna
We have arrived to the Putna village due to your recommendations and following the advice of the people from Valea Almăjului, who have mentioned to us that watermills are not only found in Rudăria but in most villages of the surrounding area. The ensemble of mills on the Putna river are even older than the ones from Rudăria, being dated back to the 18th and 19th centuries4)Lista monumentelor istorice din judeţul Caraş-Severin 2010 – Wikipedia.org.
There aren’t many, just four. Surprisingly or not, asking for help from the locals in order to locate them turned out that most of them didn’t knew too many details. Eventually, we managed to take photos of one of the mills, which was located at the end of the village. It wasn’t as well kept of and spectacular as the ones we have seen on the Rudărica Valley but it seemed to be functional.
For 60 years I was a photographer!
On the Putna houses facades you can clearly see the tendency towards the modern. Just a few of them still keep their original aspect even today. In most cases, unfortunately, these untouched houses have either been abandoned or have owners which can’t support the costs of their maintenance.
Our attention was especially caught by the house in Putna marked with nr. 20 and located right in the village center. While we were taking a photo of from the street, the door opened and on the doorstep an older man appeared. It was the owner of the house, mister Andrei, who told us that the building was over 240 years old.
In 80 years, since I have know myself, since before my ancestors, the elders kept saying: don’t you let the house fall down, pass it down to those who come after you! At the beginning, when the house was built, the family reunited and fell to an agreement that the house should never be sold but maintained and passed on from one generation to the next. The custom was also respected by mister Andrei, who will probably pass it on to his son who lives with him. Unfortunately, the house is in a state of degradation.
Mister Andrei told us that he came out to greet us because he saw us through the window and because we had a photographer among us. He too was a photographer until not long ago: I was a photographer in the old times, that’s what I did. For 60 years I was a photographer. Now, I can’t see that well anymore, I can’t go on doing it. At 80 years old you can’t work anymore. Nope! It’s done! I can hardly stand on my feet, hardly walk, I can’t wait to talk to someone, to remember the past. Well!
We ask him how was the like of a photographer before our times and we receive a predictable answer: Very good, very beautiful! Well, if you take the houses one after another and enter one of them, you will find a photograph of mine. We ask him if he would allow us to take a few pictures of him and he responds happily: Why not?! How can I say no? We were delighted by his enthusiasm and we promised that we will be sending the photos through mail.
Then, we said goodbye, not before thanking him for our discussion and all the things he shared with us: Yes, well, this is the way to do it, giving proof to these people that we were also cultured and clever people. I wasn’t just anybody because, if our grandfathers knew how to raise us and educate us, we remained educated people after them. This is how history was and this is how we have to go, this is also how it has to remain! I, until I got to my 80s, I had my bad times and my bad happenings, but God took care of me! I wish you plenty of health!
Lots of health, lots and lots of it!
During all that time in which we stood with mister Andrei talking, people from the village were passing by, saying hello to him in a clear and loud manner, but with plenty of respect.
You can get to Putna, coming from Bozovici (see map) or from Mehadia (see map). Around this area you can also visit the village museum, recently inaugurated, from Bozovici, the mills ensemble from the Prigor commune (20th century), the Mulinological Reservation from Rudăria and the famous Bigăr Waterfall. The last two were damaged by the floods of this latest week, but we hope that the damages produced by the whirling water will possibly be reparable.
Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc
Translated by Doiniţa Spuză