• Bucovina

    painted and fortified monasteries

    tour bucovina romania


The "painted" monasteries are the major Moldavian attraction, because of the vivid frescoes on their churches. These depict Biblical and other scenes, designed in sequences almost like strip cartoons to excite the imagination of the local people and so educate them in the Orthodox religion.

The landscape is so beautiful that one can hardly find words to render it, but more important is that there are no industrial enterprises, people having as main occupations cattle breeding and wood processing.

The monasteries of Voronet, Sucevita, Moldovita, Humor and Arbore, built in the 16th century, fortified or with outside painted walls, have been taken under UNESCO protection, because their features make them unique in the whole world.

Here, everyone venerates King Stephen the Great: a hero and a founder of the local history, he used to repeatedly defeat the Ottoman Army and, after each glorious battle, he used to have a new monastery built; there are forty seven in all, as many jewels for the tourists to discover when they come to visit this region.

In the 15th century, when they decided to have those churches painted, the stone walls had to undergo special lime coating preparations. The lime and the minerals was carefully prepared next to the working site, over pits filled with burning wood or the achievement of one single painting there had to be prepared 10 tons of lime.
For almost 5 centuries, the exterior frescoes of Bucovina have had to fight the wind and the rain. As if they were protected by Gods, nowadays those treasures still surprise and offer joy to their visitors, by their simplicity and efficiency.
Each painted character seems to be staring at you, as if in an attempt to hypnotize. There was an iconic art, with a prevailing didactic objective, in which facts had to be presented in a precise manner, accessible to everyone, thus stimulating human mind. One may wonder why such paintings should have been on the exterior walls.
The reason is a very simple one: these little churches, designed for local communities, could not accommodate all the Christians who would pray there; besides, most of them were illiterate.
The decision to have the exterior walls painted aimed at presenting the events of the Orthodox calendar. The whole Bible is displayed on the walls of Voronet, Sucevita, Moldavita, Humor, Arbore and other monasteries.
Should you go, by any chance, to Bucovina, take time to discover those treasures and try to admire them as if you were watching a performance. Those paintings have survived through centuries, waiting for you to see.

VORONET Monastery is considered the "Sistine Chapel of the East", due to the magnificent frescoes on the western wall representing the "Last Judgment". "Voronet Blue" has been added to the art lexicon alongside colours like "Titian Red" or "Veronese Green" by specialists who consider it unique.
MOLDOVITA Monastery was founded in 1532 by Petru Rares, son of Stefan cel Mare - who had founded the first of the Bucovina monasteries, Putna, in 1466. You can see the southern view of the monastery church, with its exquisite frescoes.
HUMOR Monastery's paintings include illustration of a poem on the "The Siege of Constantinople", which shows the feelings of the Romanians towards the Turks. It was built in 1530.
The aim was to maintain the Christian faith among Romanians.
On other walls are the "Return of the Prodigal Son" and the Devil amusingly pictured as a greedy woman. Centuries ago the monks here at Humor ran a school where calligraphers and miniature painters learnt their craft.
ARBORE Monastery is predominantly decorated in shades of green and has no any high cupola that distinguishes most monastery churches. The scene from "Genesis" along the western wall is particularly lively and graceful.

Bucovina useful information:

  • Bucovina - A Travel Guide to Romania's Region of Painted Monasteries.

humor monastery

putna monastery

arbore monastery

putna monastery

bucovina painted monastery