The Caraiman Cross, A Monument Dedicated to National Heroes
From: Prahova County, Monuments, Muntenia
The Caraiman Cross (also known as the National Heroes’ Cross) is a monument built to honor the soldiers fallen during World War I, constructed at the request of King Ferdinand I and his wife Queen Marie. Today, the monument is on the Historical Monuments list in Prahova County, alongside a series of memorial houses, churches, monasteries and necropolises in Prahova.
ABOUT CARAIMAN CROSS
The Caraiman Cross is located on the Caraiman Peak, towards Valea Seaca. It was built between 1926 and 1928, at an altitude of 2291 m; the altitude where it is located makes it unique in Europe. The cross sits on the small summit of the Caraiman Peak, because, had it been placed on the main summit (at an altitude of 2325 m), the Cross would only have been visible from the plateau. Another element unique in Europe is its impressive size: the cross is 28 m high and each arm is 7 m long. At the time it was built, The Caraiman Cross was the tallest construction in the world at such an altitude; the construction was done on steel profile and mounted on a pedestal of reinforced concrete plated in stone (this pedestal is 7.5 m high and was built one year after the sanctification of the Cross). Inside the pedestal there is a room which used to house the generator that powered the bulbs illuminating the cross: 120 500-Watt bulbs.
The National Heroes ‘Cross was built to honor the railroad heroes who died in the line of duty, defending the country during World War I; initially built at the initiative of the Royal Household, its purpose was to be seen from very far away. It is said that the construction of this monument was based on a dream Queen Marie had.
The people who coordinated the construction works were the architects George Cristinel and Constantin Propcopiu; Queen Marie closely supervised the project. The works were carried out by the Directorate of Bridges within the CFR (Romanian Railway), Sections L1 and L5 in Sinaia, while the reinforcement works were carried out by the engineers Alfred Pilder and Teofil Revici, and the construction director was V. Bulbulescu. The necessary financial investment was obtained from private companies, state institutions and via donations. A series of elements necessary for the construction were carried all the way up using oxcarts, from Busteni to the Caraiman Peak, after having been previously brought here by train; other necessary elements were brought all the way to the Jepi Valley using the cable car belonging to the Busteni Paper Company, and from there were carried on horses and donkeys to the base of the Cross. The number of carts available in the area, that could help transport the construction materials, was small; however, a bank at the time granted a low interest loan to supplement the number of carts. The road to the top was a hard one; a cart could only do two to three trips to the top. The carters who helped with the transportation using their own carts and animals were rewarded with money, food and hay for the animals. Among the helpers were the Clinici family, remembered by the locals in Sinaia to this day. The Caraiman Cross was inaugurated and sanctified on September 14th 1928, a day when each year, worshippers celebrate the Day of the Cross.
The illumination of the Caraiman Cross was achieved with the help of a generator and 120 500-Watt bulbs; the generator was located in the reinforced concrete pedestal at the base of the Cross; in 1939, the Cross was connected to the national electrical power system and received power using an underground cable from the Costila power station (located at an altitude of 2487 m). Until 1948, when the communist regime was established, the Cross was lit on the night of August 15th, when the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated, and on Heroes’ Day. Once communism was established, the monument was threatened with vandalism: one of the mayors during the regime wanted to cut down the arms of the Cross and leave only a column, on top of which he wanted to place a red star.
Another electric cable was connected to the Cross in 1989; two years later, in 1991, the installation of the electrical system was finished with the help of Busteni City Hall, of the locals and of a company. In 1991 the Cross was once again illuminated; however, the passing years brought more vandalism from the tourists who climbed on it repeatedly and broke the bulbs. In 2003, the electrical system broke down, and was repaired with the help of mountain rescue workers, who carried hundreds of kilos of material all the way up and replaced the broken bulbs; in 2004, the electrical system was put into operation and connected to the Busteni network. Nowadays, the Caraiman Cross is managed by the Busteni Local Council; it is lit every day and watches over the city. At present, there are 300 bulbs on it, which makes it visible from far away, all throughout the Prahova Valley. There is a project to cover the Caraiman Cross with fluorescent paint and place a laser on top.
GOOD TO KNOW WHEN GOING TO CARAIMAN CROSS
If you want to visit the National Heroes’ Cross, you have to get to Busteni. From here you take the chairlift to the Babele rock formation (about 12 minutes). From the Babele Cabin, you walk for about an hour and a half on the Caraiman Ridge. You can also choose a route on foot from Jepii Mici (4 hours and a half long, available in summer and FORBIDDEN in winter) or from Piatra Arsa (an hour and a half) or use other routes going from the Omu cabin. Another route accessible to tourists is the one from Caraiman Cabin, via Brana Caraimanului, only 45 minutes long.
Once in Busteni, you shouldn’t limit your trip to only visiting the Caraiman Cross. There are very many accommodation possibilities available in Busteni, and you will surely want to visit other attractions in the area, such as:
- Busteni Resort is very beautiful both in summer and in winter, and is worth discovering at a slow pace
- Cantacuzino Castle
- 7 Stairs Canyon, one of the wonders of the Piatra Mare mountains
- Prahova Valley, the most renown tourist resort in Romania, both in winter and in summer
- The Royal Church
- The natural monuments: Babele (the Old Women), the Sphynx, Omu Peak (the eleventh highest peak in Romania), Urlatoarea Waterfall.
- Kalinderu Slope, in winter is a true attraction for ski lovers
There is not enough documentary evidence to attest to the inauguration of the Cross on September 14th 1928. There are a series of photographs which contradict the hypothesis that the cross was initially built right on the rock and later placed on the stone pedestal which it stands on today.
*”This monument was erected to honor and remember the heroes of Prahova, fallen in World War I 1916-1918, while defending their country – built between 1926 and 1928” – this is the inscription at the base of the monument, which nowadays supports the hypothesis that it was built during the reign of Queen Marie, and attributes the building of the Caraiman Cross to the “Heroes Cult Company”.
*The contradictions regarding the time of construction of the Caraiman Cross occur stem from the presence of a second Heroes’ Monument in the city of Busteni, inaugurated in the same year and month, only a few days apart from the day in which the Caraiman Cross was inaugurated. Thus, in front of the Busteni Train Station, sits the “Last Grenade Monument”, by C. Dumitru Barlad, inaugurated on September 9th 1928.
*Additionally, the Caraiman Cross is also known as the Railroad Heroes’ Cross.