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September 25, 2021

BNR inaugurates the Tismana Treasure Museum: Showcasing history as reflected in central bank documents

The National Bank of Romania (BNR) inaugurated on Tuesday the Tismana Treasure Museum, the first and only exhibition facility in Europe where the public can view milestone moments from the period 1944 – 1947 as reflected in documents in the BNR archive collection.

The event, attended by BNR governor Mugur Isarescu and Metropolitan of Oltenia Irineu marks the completion of an investment of nearly two million lei begun more than three years ago.

Construction works effectively started in October 2013, but were delayed for two years because of issues caused by water infiltration from the brook flowing at the entry of the nearby Tismana Monastery. The stream was diverted in a quite complicated process.

The museum has objects specific to the period 1944 – 1947 on display. In that period the cave near the monastery served as cache for more than 200 tons of gold, a treasure hidden for fear that the items of inestimable value may have fallen in the hands of the Russians.

“In September 1944, in a Romania under the occupation of the so-called friendly Red Army, the BNR General Board took the salutary decision to move the treasure to the cave next to the monastery. With the consent of the Metropolitan of Oltenia and help from the soldiers of the ‘Neptune’ detachment deployed to Tismana to ensure the gold’s security, bank clerks hid the treasure inside the cave, where it was kept until February 1947, when three trains of the National Railway Company (CFR) carried it back to Bucharest,” as governor Mugur Isarescu relates in the book ‘The Odyssey of the BNR Gold – Tismana 1944 – 1947’ released and printed under the auspices of the National Bank.

Fifty years on, the Neptun operation became public, as BNR Secretary general Cristian Paunescu, along with director of the central bank’s Gorj branch Gheorghe Birau and historian Marian Stefan began reconstituting the events based on the documents kept in the BNR archives.

On 25 January 2007 the BNR Board decides to have a Museum of the Treasure set up in the cave of the Tismana Monastery. The National Bank’s initiative had the blessing of Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia Irineu Ion Popa and the support of the Tismana monastic settlement headed by prioress Antonia Popescu.

The project brings into the spotlight the action known as the ‘Neptun’ or ‘Tismana’ Operation carried out in 1944, when the National Bank, the Government, the Army, the CFR and the Metropolitan of Oltenia joined forces to organize the secret accommodation in the cave of the 242 tons of gold in the central bank’s vaults, plus three tons of gold of Poland’s treasure, which was transiting Romania. The entire amount of gold was kept in this hide until 1947.

The museum showcases the most relevant moments of 1944 – 1947, as reflected in the documents in the BNR archives. The visitors are offered key information about the role of money and of the central bank, not just via the objects on display, but also through symposia, seminars and colloquia that will be organized in this space.

According to the latest data of the National Bank, as of 1 July 2016 the the central bank’s gold reserves stood at 103.7 tons worth 3.944 billion euros.

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