The painted monasteries of Bucovina, included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, are rightfully considered art masterpieces and architectural landmarks for the Romanian culture.
Bucovina occupies a leading place in the gallery of national art and religion, as here can be found the expression that formed the basis of the Romanian medieval artistic space and spirit. Centuries of Romanian ecclesiastical art find their culmination in the string of monasteries with murals, whose fame has long reached the farthest corners of the world. Founded in the 15th and 16th centuries, during the reigns of Stephen the Great (Ștefan cel Mare) and Petru Rareș, they are situated in the surroundings of Suceava, in Moldavia Region.
The painted churches are a homogenous phenomenon, as all present Byzantine authentic frescoes with traces of the local art and mythology. The excellent chromatic harmony is remarkable, being doubled by a distinguished elegance of the paintings. The mural paintings now belong to the world heritage, standing proof of the genius and creativity of the local art schools. Apart from the painted churches, the monasteries’ exceptional museums display medieval heritage items that are sometimes unique or rare, from embroideries, manuscripts and liturgical silverware, to icons, furniture, vestments and architectural items.
An important moment for these famous and popular monuments was the year 1993, when 7 of the churches with exterior frescoes in Bucovina were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List. After this moment, many projects aimed at the restoration and conservation of these monasteries have been designed and implemented. The restoration sites revealed the monasteries’ true artistic and architectural achievements. In the surrounding villages, there has been an unprecedented progress in the development of the traditional accommodation facilities and in the revival of the numerous customs and traditions. These Orthodox churches, famous for their outer walls with paintings of biblical scenes, now attract tourists from all corners of the world.
Below you can read more details about the characteristics of each painted monastery.
Arbore Monastery is painted mainly in shades of green. The main murals depict celestial beings arranged according to their hierarchical significance: angels and seraphim at the top, followed by archangels and saints below, then martyrs.
Humor, the monastery with the most tranquil atmosphere, shows a unique representation of the devil from the Last Judgement fresco as the Scarlet Woman. Moldovița Monastery presents a special architectural style, with Gothic windows and Renaissance interior doors. It is famous for the spectacular fresco of the Siege of Constantinople, in which the Persians were changed with Turks.
Pătrăuți, the first church founded by Stephen the Great in 1487, contains the oldest paintings in Moldavia. Only fragments of the Last Judgement are visible in the exterior. Probota was the first monastery in Moldavia to have frescoes painted on the outer walls. The exterior paintings are faded, but the interior ones are among the finest of their kind in the region.
Sucevița is the last built and biggest monastery in Bucovina, very well preserved. It presents a unique Ladder of Virtue, which shows the thirty stages the mortals must pass in order to receive the divine redemption, and also a marvellous Tree of Jesse.
Voroneț Monastery, founded by Stephen the Great in 1488, is considered to be the „Sistine Chapel of the East”. The „Voroneț blue” – an intense shade of blue against which the frescoes are painted, is unique in the world. The most important and well-preserved frescoes are the Tree of Jesse, which contains the portraits of philosophers such as Plato or Socrates, and the Last Judgement.
How to get there:
The painted monasteries of Bucovina are situated in the north-eastern part of the country (Moldavia region), in the surroundings of the town of Suceava.