Top 5 monasteries in Suceava County

In the sixteenth century, when the pressure of the Ottoman armies on the Moldovan state was at its highest and the Hungarians tried, at the request of the Pope, to impose Catholicism in this area, local artists found the simplest and most direct way to preserve their orthodox traditions. In only 20 years, they covered the walls of these five churches with a veritable ‘illustrated Bible’. In a period when Michelangelo himself appreciated that frescoes were the most difficult and daring paintings, Moldovan painters created true masterpieces. Moreover, their frescoes hid secrets that even today, after more than 500 years, have not been deciphered.  A short description of the top 5 monasteries in Suceava County will tell you more about the importance of these architectural and spiritual monuments.

1.     Moldovita Monastery

It is one of the oldest monasteries in Suceava County with a rich history. In 15th century, ruler Alexandru cel Bun had a monastery erected which enjoyed great privileges and fame. It resisted for almost a century and then it collapsed due to a landslide. Another monastery, with the same saint patron was built nearby and the new construction resisted till present day. You can still see the old ruins at a 500m distance from the monastery. In the 16th century, when it was reconstructed, the monastery was surrounded by walls and defense towers making it look like a fortress. The aim of the paintings that cover the external walls of the monastery was to present to the people a synthesis of the religious truths that are essential to be known by every faithful person. In the 15th century, the religious paintings were sober and symbolic but things are different at Moldovita. The painted scenes are more realistic and have a narrative feature which makes them appear more ‘alive’. The royal chair belonging to medieval ruler Alexandru cel Bun (16th century) is the most valuable possession of the monastery being displayed for tourist along with other testimonies of its medieval past.

2.     Humor Monastery

At a distance of 5-6 km from the town Gura Humorului, in the picturesque village Manastirea Humorului, on the crest of a hill surrounded by trees and meadows, you will find the Humor monastery, one of the most famous Romanian foundations of the Middle Ages. The church was built in 1530 by Toader Bubuiog, great chancellor and member of the royal court in Moldova and his wife, Anastasia. The architecture is very similar with the one at Moldovita monastery but the solutions found are simpler (this one is built by a member of the royal court, the other one by the ruler himself). The external paintings cover the same area described above in similar manner if not more impressive.

3.     Sucevita Monastery

It is considered one of the jewels of Bucovina (the area of present day Suceava County was known under this name) and some have even named it ‘the testament of the Moldovan classic art’. It has managed to preserve unaltered the original image of the glory of the architectural forms characteristic of that period of time. It also marks the end of this period. The monastery is located 16 km from Radauti and 55 km from Campulung Moldovenesc. Sucevita can be reached by train, up to Suceava and then by car (there are special cars in Suceava that take tourists to the monastery).

4.     Voronet Monastery

It was built in only three months, in 1488. It was called by experts ‘the Sistine Chapel of the East’, the splendid ‘Voronet blue’, as famous as ‘Titian’s red’ and ’Veronese’s green’, having remained an enigma. The composition of the color, which gives it a fresh and unusual brilliance, was lost with the death of its author. The most impressive of its external paintings is the doomsday, very realistically and vividly represented. Voronet is very close to Humor Monastery, just 5 minutes by car so if ever in the area, visiting them both is a must.

5.     Arbore Monastery

In 1503, Luca Arbore (high official of medieval Moldova) has a church erected in the village that today bears his name. The construction was started on the second day of April and was completed in the same year, on 29 August. The church gate is embellished with a commemorative plaque dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Though its form is quite simple, this monastery succeeds in impressing one even today due its great paintings that, unlike the other monasteries, were realized by a secular painter not by a clergyman. These paintings are more sincere, more spontaneous and more realistic than all other paintings on monasteries in Bucovina.

This is but a short account of top 5 monasteries in Suceava County, a brief list of some of the aces that these monasteries still have up their sleeves.

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