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Post-Byzantine Art
(c. 1435 - c. 1500)

Romania
The Painted Monasteries of Southern Bucovina

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This page 
(Stephen the Great)
Page 2 
(Voronet)
Page 3 
(Sucevita)
Page 4 
(Moldovita)
Page 5 
(Humor)

Bucovina is a Romanian region situated north of Moldova, the former Bessarabia, now the sovereign Republic of Moldova.  The name Bucovina dates back to its annexation by the Habsburgs in 1774, meaning a land covered by beech forests.  After the First World War the region was given back to Romania in 1918, only to be annexed by Stalin after World War II and incorporated in the Ukraine.  It has now been given back to Romania.  This is the land where the painted monasteries are located.  They have all been declared World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Romania 1928. Post-Byzantine Art. Fortified castle of Sfatia. Romania 1928. Post-Byzantine Art. Fortified castle of Cetatea Hotinului. Romania 1928. Post-Byzantine Art. Fortified castle of Cetatea Alba.

The painted monasteries of Southern Bucovina unite more than anything else in Romania the culture, history, religion and architecture in a rare harmony with the surroundings.  These monasteries with their original paintings, sculptures and other ornaments give a picture of the Romanian people's religious and historical outlook on the world, as it appeared through five centuries of battles for national and religious freedom against the Turkish power.  These monasteries were orthodox bastions, hidden away behind walls in remote valleys and deep forests - and they still exist today like a bead of pearls. 

Romania. Map of Moldova. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Putna Monastery. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Dragomirna Monastery. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Milisauti Monastery. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. St. Nicholas, Suceava Monastery.
Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Boroca Monastery. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Hotin Monastery. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Cetatea Alba. Romania 1941. Post-Byzantine Art. Tighina.

In the Putna monastery, shown above (top left) is found the tomb of king Stephen the Great and several of his family members. The stamps were issued for the benefit of the restoration of the monasteries. 

King Stephen the Great is one of the central figures of Romanian history in medieval times.  He lived 1435-1504, and assumed the throne in 1457.  He was the founder of the Voronet Monastery, and is buried in Putna Monastery.

Putna lacks completely the outdoor frescoes common to the Bucovina-churches.  The inside of the church is compact, simple and solid, and is without decorations at all, which is unusual for an Orthodox church.  

Romania. Post-Byzantine Art. Postcard showing the painted monastery of Putna.

Romania 1993. Post-Byzantine Art. King Stephen the Great. Romania 1957. Post-Byzantine Art. King Stephen the Great. Romania 1996. Post-Byzantine Art. Voronet Monastery. Romania 1991. Post-Byzantine Art. Putna Monastery.

An old Romanian chronicle written by the chronicler Ion Neculce tells about King Stephen the Great founding Voronet Monastery in 1488 to fulfill a pledge to Daniil the Hermit who had encouraged the ruling prince of Moldavia to chase the Turks out of Wallachia.  Having won the battle against the Turks, King Stephen built Voronet in three months and 21 days, on the very spot where Daniil had his small wooden hermitage.  Daniil the Hermit later became the first abbot of Voronet Monastery, and is buried in the church.

Romania. Post-Byzantine Art. Engraving of the hut of Daniil the Hermit. Romania. Post-Byzantine Art. Engraving of King Stephen the Great at the battle of Scheia in the White Valley in 1476.

Moldavian fortified monasteries were usually sited at the head of a valley to form a defensive bottleneck against the Turks or Tatars.  The exact spot was decided by shooting arrows from a nearby hilltop;  where the first one landed, a water source was dug and henceforth deemed holy;  the second arrow determined the location of the altar;  the third the belfry, and so on.  After the monastery was finished, crosses were raised on the hill from where the arrows had been fired. 

This page 
(Stephen the Great)
Page 2 
(Voronet)
Page 3 
(Sucevita)
Page 4 
(Moldovita)
Page 5 
(Humor)

Sources and links: 

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Revised 24-jul-2006. Ann Mette Heindorff
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