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The painted churches located in the North of Moldova are one of a kind in Europe, due to their extensive interior and exterior decorations - the paintings cover all the exterior walls and represent very well preserved frescoes of various religious themes.
They belong to orthodox monasteries from Suceava county (Northeastern Romania) and were build at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century.
8 churches have been included in the UNESCO world heritage list mainly due to them being „masterpieces of mural painting, and are of outstanding aesthetic value in view of their consummate chromatism and the remarkable elegance of the figures”.
Find more info on highlights of the Painted Churches of Moldova here here test and here.
Nearby citiy: Suceava, Iasi
Nearby airport: Suceava, Iasi. Daily flights from Bucharest to Suceava/Iasi are also available.
• Sucevița (“The Church of the Resurrection”)
This famous church is surrounded by legend - according to local belief, the stone required to build the imposing structure was carried by a single woman and her ox-drawn chariot for 30 years, in an attempt to redeem some of her sins.
However, in reality, the spectacular monastery was erected between 1584-1586 by the princely family Movilă and has the biggest number of wall paintings from all painted monasteries of Moldova.
Sucevita Monastery also has the best preserved frescoes to this day from all painted monasteries and some attractions are “Moses' life”, depicted on the ceiling of the room of the tombs on the inside and the famous “Ladder of the Virtues” on the exterior, considered a masterpiece of medieval art. It illustrates the spiritual enlightening that a human being can achieve, through his belief and good deeds, representing an ample biblical story from the Old and New Testament.
It was painted both inside and outside between 1596-1601 by Ioan and his brother Sofronie and it was the last monastery decorated with exterior frescoes.
Within the ensemble of the monastery, there is still a small lab for restoration of icons and a museum with a rich and valuable collection of religious artifacts and icons, which includes the oldest painted icon found by now in Moldavia, dated in 1514.
More info here.
Sucevița 727510, România
• Moldovița (“The Curch of the Announciation”)
The ruler Alexandru the Good has build the first monastery in Moldovita on the banks of the river with the same name, at the beginning of the 15th century. Due to a landslip, the monastery collapsed and its ruins are still visible at about 500 m from the new monastery, which was build in 1532 by the ruler Petru Rares. The new monastery was equipped with defense towers and walls, which transforms it into a fortified church.
Mural paintings on the inside and outside date since 1537, the predominant theme being “Siege of Constantinopoles” and the dominant colours used are brown-red. The southern wall illustrates one of the most beautiful iconographic work from the churches in Moldova, representing the Akathist Hymn.
While the west entrance of the church comprises 5 arcades decorated with pictures of prayer, they are accompanied by representatives of the classical culture like Pitagora, Platon, Aristotel and Sofocle - which are considered predecessors of Christianity.
Most remarkably and often compared to Italian style representation, Moldovita church scenes of “The descent from the cross” or “The Crucifixion” can be admired in the interior.
More info here.
Vatra Moldoviţei commune,
Suceava, Romania • Voroneț ("St. George” church)
This renowned church dating 1488 and build under ruler Stefan the Grate is famous first for the dominance of the color blue within its paintings. The pigment which was used has resisted over decades and is still unknown today - this particular pigment has the name of “Voronet blue”. Another particularity is the painting of the “Judgement Day” scene on the entire western wall, scene which is not interrupted by any window or door, and which sates back since 1547, during the rule of prince Petru Rares.
More info here
Strada Voroneț 166,
Voroneț 725301, România
• Probota ("St. Nicholas” Church)
The Probota monastery was build by the ruler Petru Rares in 1530 and served as royal necropolis, where the tombs of prince Petru Rares and Stefan Rares can be found, together with other members of the royal family. The interior and exterior fresco are of byzantine art and the distinctive touch of the church is the painted dome illustrating the “Judgement Day”.
For an unique experience, the monastery also provides overnight accommodation and a meal.
Find more info here.
Probota Monastery, Dolhasca village, county of Suceva • Arbore ("the Beheading of St. John the Baptist ")
This church is of noble founding, due to the fact it is missing steeples. While being built in a simple manner, the construction surprises through its detailing. Mural painting distinguishes itself by the longevity of the blue pigment.
The interior painting was made during 1503-1504 but was deteriorated during the campaign of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. The exterior painting comprises scenes with a multitude of characters on the move. One of the scenes represents “The siege on Constantinopoles”, “the Journey of the Wise Men” and “The Last Judgement”. The ensemble of paintings on the Northern façade is considered to be the best of all paintings made during the ruling of Stefan the Great.
DN2K 732, Arbore
• Humor (The “Dormition of the Virgin Mary”)
Humor monastery was build in 1530 by the ruler Petru Rares and painted in 1535. The specifics of its mural painting is a fresco with the Virgin Mary and the child on the entrance door, alongside the predominance of difference tones of red used.
Similar to Voronet, Moldovita, Arbore and Sucevita churches, Humor was decorated with both interior and exterior paintings. Remarkable and well preserved paintings include “Virgin Mary with the child” “Siege of Constantinopoles”, “Judgement Day” and “Tree of Jesse”.
• Pătrăuți (“The Church of the Holy Cross”)
The church maintains its original form dating back to 1487 and was the first one to be established by the ruler Stefan the Great. Its name and its repute come from the famous mural painting of a rare subject: “The Cavalcade of the Saints”
It is the oldest church built in Moldovian specific style and is considered to have the oldest interior and exterior paintings. Another monumental painting is a frightening scene of “The Judgement Day”, illustrating the fight between angels and demons - the demons are drawing to hell but are not succeeding, which gives hope to the ones judged.
It was also the first nunnery and very likely its purpose was to provide a safe harbor for injured soldiers so they could heal after their endless battles.
The little yard combines byzantine, gothic and renaissance art and comprises a small rock table which is thought to have inspired the great artist Brancusi for his “Table of Silence” masterpiece.
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Address: Biserica Monument, Parohia Pătrăuţi 2
Pătrăuţi commune, 727420, jud. Suceava • Suceava (“Church of St. George”)
The work for the church began in 1514 under Bogdan the 3rd of Moldova and was finished in 1522. Being designated as seat of Moldovan metropolitan church, it was painted both on the inside and the outside, process which took from 1532 to 1534.
The commemorative plate above the door of the church illustrates the following:
“With the Father’s will, the Son’s help and the Holy Spirit’s completion, the well-honouring and worshipper of Christ, Bogdan, by God’s mercy Prince of Moldavia, wanted to build this church of the Metropolitanate of Suceava that celebrates the great St. Martyr George, who helps win the wars. And he started building it in the year 7022 (1514) but never managed to complete it; but his son, Stephen, by God’s mercy Prince of Moldavia, with the help of God finished building up from the window level and completed it in the year 7030 (1522), on November, 6, during the 6th year of his reign; and it was consecrated by the hand of His Holiness the Metropolitan Bishop Teoctist“.
The iconostasis is of Moldovan baroque style, which is remarkable due to its dimensions, the high detailing of the ornaments and the color pallet.
Strada Ion Vodă Viteazul 2,
Suceava 720034, România
Start from: Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara or Bucharest