Moldavian monasteries in Bukovina, Romania

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The Moldavian Monasteries in Southern Bukovina are captivating for their unique colorful frescoes that cover the interior and exterior walls as well as the protective walls over and over.

The Moldavian Monasteries are located in Southern Bukovina in Romania, the former crown land of the Austrian monarchy. Some of the colorful places of worship have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1993 and 2010, respectively.

When the Romanian Orthodox Moldavian monasteries were built in the 15th and 16th centuries, the territory was still called the Principality of Moldavia, hence their name. The first patron of the Moldavian monasteries was Ștefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great), who went down in history as the ruler and symbolic figure of Moldavia. Allegedly, he had a church or monastery built after each successful campaign, and thus there were no less than 40 sacred buildings, which are said to commemorate his victories over the Hungarians, Poles and Turks. His successors, first of all Petru Rares, continued the traditional construction of Moldavian monasteries.

Uniqueness of Moldavian monasteries

There are monasteries everywhere – why should you visit the Moldavian monasteries? The special feature of the Moldavian monasteries is their colorful painting, which is unique in Europe. The monks wanted to bring the contents of the Holy Scriptures closer to the common people, who could neither write nor read. And so they used the interior walls, facades and protective walls of the monastery to depict scenes and parables from the Bible in colorful drawings, paintings and frescoes.

The decoration of the outer walls also drew the attention of people who, for whatever reason, did not want or were not allowed to enter the churches. The most beautiful paintings can be found on the walls of the monasteries of Arbore, Moldovița, Sucevița and Voroneț. These are also all part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, the monasteries of Humor, Pătrăuți, Probota and Suceava are also included.

The frescoes were created by partly unknown artists and are considered absolute masterpieces of Byzantine art.

Some of the paintings were destroyed over time by the weather, but a large part of the representations have survived to this day. The colors used, which have survived to this day, continue to puzzle experts. It is now known that they were made from plant and mineral pigments and used on the wet wall, but it has not been possible to fully trace the recipe.

Where to find the Moldavian monasteries?

The first Moldavian monastery built by Ștefan cel Mare was the Putna Monastery in the town of the same name. It was built between 1466 and 1469 and is picturesquely situated in a valley of the Eastern Carpathians. The largest city in the region of Moldavian monasteries is Suceava, which can be reached by car, train or plane. All the Moldavian monasteries worth seeing are located within a radius of 60km. From Suceava you can go to Gura Humorului (near Humor and Voronet monasteries) and to Vatra Moldovitei (near Moldovita monastery). The monasteries located south of Suceava can be reached via Falticeni, Pascani and Bacau. Accommodation can be found in just about all places.


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Thomas Just

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