Sucevita Monastery (Manastirea Sucevita)

Sucevita Monastery, whose dedication day is the Resurrection of our Lord, has been erected in Suceava County (Romania) in the last decades of the 16th century by a family of boyars called the Movila.  The monastery is located in the village with the same name, on the bank of Sucevita River.  

Structure

Sucevita Monastery has a trefoil structure and a closed church porch. There are however two small open church porches on the southern and northern sides which are formed out of pillars connected by braced arches.

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The monastic construction has a quadrilateral shape with 6 m walls in height and 3 m in thickness. The walls have forts, guard posts, a sentinel path, 4 towers in each corner of the fortification and a chapel located above the entrance gallery which bears the Moldavian emblem. There are still preserved old chambers belonging to the Movila family and cellars where, according to the chronicles of Ion Neculce, a magnificent treasure was hidden.

History

The oldest construction erected on this place was a little church whose dedication day was the Transfiguration of Jesus. On the eastern side of the enclosure, an abbacy was constructed later on. This had a large hall room with a dome which has been transformed into the museum we can see nowadays.

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The next step was to construct the walls encompassing the edifices. These consisted of 3 octagonal towers located to the north-east, south-east, and south-west, and the grand belfry situated to the north-west. It is in this last tower, that two bells which bear the emblem of Moldova and the coat of arms of the Movila family are still preserved. There is another steeple located within the fortification: the Gate Tower.

Between 1595 and 1606, the monastery is completed with two church porches at the entrance – one on the southern side and one on the northern. Within this timeframe the towers are added and the interior and exterior paintings are done. These additions and renovation work are performed under the ruler Ieremie Movila.

Two Moldavian painters undertook the task of illustrating various religious scenes on the walls of the church: Ioan the Painter and his brother Sofronie, and the original painting is still preserved – this bears an important artistic, cultural, historical and clerical value. The towers and the fortified walls convey an appearance of medieval fortress to the monastery.

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The monastery has a burial room, where the rulers Ieremie and Simion Movila rest in peace. The tombstones are made out of Ruschita marble and are considered valuable representations of the medieval Romanian art.

As the Movila family members are considered the founders of the church, there is a votive painting in the left side of the nave where the family of Ieremie Movila is represented. In the opposite part, tourists can admire a second votive painting in which Gheorghe Movila, the one who initiated the building of the monastery, and Ioan Movila, Ieremie and Simion’s father, are illustrated.

Architecture

Sucevita Monastery is a clear representation of the Moldavian architecture. The design consists of a mixture of Byzantine and Gothic elements, to which features characteristic to the old wooden churches of Moldavia are added. And the structure of the monastery stands as example for this: it has a trefoil plan and follows the pattern used during the reign of Stephan the Great – with the closed church porch.

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The other two smaller church porches which are opened are inspired from the Wallachian architectural style. Not to mention the style of the apses, the gothic cornice made out of rock and niches found in the belfry, together with the stellar foundation of this tower –  all are of Wallachian inspiration.

Sucevita Monastery is a true statement of the ancient Moldavian art. Traditional and innovative elements blend in a unique manner, the result being a multicolored church where green is predominant – emphasizing the perennial aspect of the construction, but most importantly, of what the monastery stands for: spirituality, faith.

Paintings 

The iconographic representation is in accordance to tradition, as it has been established during the reign of Petru Rares (at the beginning of the 16th century). But we can also notice new themes of theological- dogmatic character, such as the scenes painted in the nave – which are representations of the Holy Trinity.

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One characteristic of the iconographic representations is that they are narrative. The painters have illustrated entire scenes with specific saints, thus marking their holy life. These types of paintings were preferred due to the painters’ belief that the scenes could educate the beholders.

It is noteworthy that the pictures, even though religious in nature (as it is normal taking into account that this is a monastery), are also depicting particular landscapes and architectures which are specific for the post-Byzantine era.

The museum

Inside the museum located within the Sucevita Monastery, tourists can gain knowledge of the medieval art of the 15th and 16th centuries: they can gain insight into the architecture, sculpture, paintings, manuscripts and silverware of that time.

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It is here that one of the most valuable collection of medieval pieces of art in Moldavia is found: laic portraits, tombstones, needlework. Among these items, tourists can admire the silver casket which holds Lady Elisabeth’s hair (Ieremia’s wife) and exquisite embroidery works which date back since the reign of Stephan the Great and which have been stitched with gold and silver threads, pearls and silk.

Access

If you are coming from Radauti town, you can drive along National Route 17 A and then turn to the south-west and drive for 11 km until you reach Marginea locality. Another 5 km in the same direction will get you to Sucevita Monastery.