In “the land of beech woods” some of the most extraordinary natural landscapes are beautified by faith and its material manifestations: the Monasteries of Bucovina.
These are all situated in Suceava county, and if you plan a trip to the north of Romania it would be certainly a pity to miss visiting them. Since 1993 these architectural monuments are part of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage patrimony.
1. Arbore Monastery
Built in 1503 by boyar hetman Luca Arbore, the Arbore church is dedicated to the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The church was decorated with religious paintings by Dragos, son of priest Coman of Iasi, at the request of Luca Arbore’s niece Ana. The date of the paintings is unsure, despite an inscription found inside the church that attests the work of painter Dragos in 1541.
2. Balinesti Church
Built in 1499 by Ioan Tautu, this is one of the churches with the simplest architecture in Bucovina. The style is quite common for its time, however the church has some special characteristics: the open porch with gothic stone arcades and the exterior wall paintings (dated 1535-1538) add a plus of beauty and uniqueness to this monument. The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas.
3. Dolhestii Mari Church
Built (probably) in 1481 by the Sendrea Family, the church was the private chapel of the Sendrea family. Today only the tombstone of Maria Sendres, the sister of Stephen the Great is still legible. This is the oldest church in Moldova that was founded by a boyar. Although the style is simple, the church has an elegant construction. A particular characteristic is the choice of themes for the south wall of the church, which is not found in any other church in Bucovina.
4. Dragomirna Monastery
Built in 1609 by the metropolitan bishop Anastasia Crimca, the church is unique in Romania in even in the whole orthodox world, due to its unusual proportions. The Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is the tallest and narrowest church ever built. The width is not spectacular – a nine meters width is basically a standard, but with a height of more than 40 meters up to the top of the tower the church is certainly unique.
In 1627 Prince Miron Barnovschi built around the church the strongest monastic fortress in Moldavia. This is what you see today surrounding the amazing 40m tall construction.
5. Humor Monastery
Built in 1530 by the great chancellor Toader Bubuiog, the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin is the first church in Romania to have an open exonarthex. The church is decorated with impressive frescoes, one of them, the Last Judgment is still the most extraordinary creation of its type.
6. Moldovita Monastery
Built in 1532 by Prince Petru Rares, the Church of the Annunciation is one of the most beautiful churches in Bucovina, mostly because its exterior paintings are the best preserved from all the churches in the region. Like the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin from the Humor Monastery, it has an open exonarthex.
7. Putna Monastery
Built in 1466-1469 by Stephen the Great
, the monastery is one of the most imposing in the region and also one of the most popular destinations for both believers and the curious travelers. It’s the burial place of Stephen the Great, one of the most amazing figures in the Romanian history. Stephan the Great actually founded a religious edifice after each important military victory against the Turks.
8. Slatina Monastery
Built in 1554-1561 by Prince Alexandru Lapusneanu after the model of the church of the Probota Monastery, only with increased dimensions. This was the biggest church in Bucovina till the end of te 18th century.
9. Sucevita Monastery
A classic Moldavian church, built in 1583 by Ieremia, Simion and Gheorge Movila, with remarkable frescoes that are almost as well preserved as the frescoes of Moldovita. This is the only painted church that was not founded by a prince.
10. Voronet Monastery
Another monastery built by Stephen the Great, this is the most famous church in Romania. Its frescoes made the church famous all over the world for the azurite background used to decorate the exterior walls. The church is dedicated to St. George – and an inscription in the exonarthex attests also the date of its foundation:
“I, Prince Stephen, by God’s mercy leading the Country of Moldavia, son of Prince Bogdan, started to build this foundation at the Monastery of Voroneţ, dedicated to the Saint and Worshipped and Great Martyr and Victorious George, in the year 6996 (1488) the month of May, 26, the Monday after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and completed it in the same year, in the month of September, 14″
For more information about all the monasteries in Bucovina, please visit RomanianMonasteries.org