Arsenie Boca was a Romanian Christian-Orthodox monk, priest and painter. He was born as Zian Boca on September 29, 1910. The child Zian was living his first years on Bujoara Hill in Vața de Sus, somewhere in the region of the Apuseni Mountains. His father, Iosif, was a shoemaker who left to work in America during his wife’s pregnancy. Later, the Arsenie Boca said he did this to let him remain pure. His mother, named Creștina (“Christian woman”) was living alone with her son in the small house on the hill, in the middle of nature. She was praying each day to an icon of Saint Mary. After the father came back, a sister was born in 1913, but she died a few months later.
The first classes Zian (Arsenie Boca) went to the local school, then to the National Christian-Orthodox Gymnasium of Brad. In 1922 his parents get a divorce. Sometime later his father, Iosif Boca, dies (the year is uncertain) and was also buried in Brad. The mother gets married again later on, living in Hălmagiu village.
Initially, Zian Boca wanted to become an airplane pilot. In 1929, however, he decides to follow the courses of the Theological Academy of Sibiu. He is one of the most prominent and serious students. Many were calling him already then the “Saint”. He was also preoccupied with medicine, since he became the infirmary of the Academy in his final study years. He ends his theology studies in 1933. One of his professors, Nicolae Popovici (the future bishop of Oradea), admiring the painting talent of Zian, manages to obtain a scholarship and sends him to Bucharest to study at the Academy of Belle Arte (1933-1938).
In 1936 he becomes deacon in the Orthodox Church. After finishing his studies in 1938, he goes on a practice year and paints a church, together with his professor, in Bixadul Oltului village.
In 1939 he spends almost three months in Mount Athos, were a profound transformation occurs in his being. He travels to Chișinău, at that time part of Romania, where he learns metaloplastic icon painting. In 1940 he is named a solely monk at Brâncoveanu Monastery in Sâmbăta de Sus. Thus he receives the name of Arsenie, on the day of the Orthodox celebration of The Healing Fountain. Two years later, on the same occasion, he is also named priest (hieromonk) and therefore abbot of the Monastery.
In this period he becomes well-known among religious people, due to his clairvoyant gift and moral guiding of the faithful. Many people come to him for confession, and he reminds them of their sins, with much frankness, but at the same time tries to be gentle to them. Many people start following him.
In 1944, Romania is occupied by the Soviet Red Army, and so in June 1945 the new regime arrests him for the first time, but is soon released without being charged. In 1948 he is again prosecuted for a period of time. Then he is moved at Prislop Monastery. In 1951 he is taken out of the Monastery and sent for over a year in the forced labour camp at the Danube Channel, where many people lost their lives. Arsenie Boca tries to help the others detainees, sometimes working in their place when they are exhausted. In this time his mother dies, and witnesses say he was present at the funeral 600 km from the place where he was detained.
After being released, he is again arrested just a few years later (1955) and freed after a jail time of four months. In 1959 he is interdicted to be a monk or priest. Therefore he works as a painter for the Patriarchy in Bucharest. In 1968, he starts his greatest work as a painter, the little church of Drăgănescu, which he finishes 15 years later. Many people still sought his guidance, although he was now a simple civilian. On November 28, 1989, less than a month before the end of the communist regime, he dies in Sinaia, in his small painting atelier. A few days later he is buried in Prislop Monastery. Nowadays thousands of people come to pray at his grave.