Oct 22

Hancu Monastery (Manastirea Hancu)

Hancu Monastery is a nunnery situated in the Republic of Moldova. Founded in the second half of the 17th century (1678) by a Moldovan boyar, the house of worship initially bore the name of the guardian of Moldova, Holy St. Parascheva. But in time, the monastery started to go by the name of Hancu Monastery, after its founder, Mihalcea Hancu.

However, the monastic ensemble, meaning both the monastery and the adjacent buildings, was completely destroyed during the Tartar invasion, when the construction was set on fire. In these circumstances the nuns saw themselves obligated to leave behind their home in order to seek refuge. It was not until 1784 that new hermitages were constructed and the nuns were able to return to this place, where a wooden church was erected so as to allow the continuation of the religious service in the region.

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The monastery had carried on its peaceful monastic life for two centuries, but the 20th century had brought about troublesome times. Some of the monks were evicted, being sent to other monasteries while others were taken into custody and sent to prison in Braila. In this timeframe, the treasures of the monastery were taken over Prut River. The denouement was obvious: the monastery was closed – the unfortunate event occurred in September, 1949.

 

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The 20th century marks a grim period in the life of the monastic ensemble. The place was used for anything else except for the purpose for which it was intended. A hospice for pulmonary disease was constructed here and the summer church was transformed into an entertainment club for students. But the most damaging effects were distinguished in the graveyard. The tombs were dug up and all the valuable possessions encountered within the graves were stolen. Even more so, the crosses themselves were taken, thus the tombs remaining anonymous.

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The doors of the monastery stood closed for 43 years, but these reopened in 1992 when the monastery began its activity for the second time around. It was in this same year that the monastic life of the monastery was organized and the Hancu Monastery was properly established.

One of the most important hieromonks that have lived here was Dorotei, the one who had initiated an elaborate project in order to beautify and enhance the monastic ensemble. Besides the monastery, the hieromonk gave order for a building to be constructed where the members of the friary were to dwell. This edifice was equipped with 3 porches and included 12 rooms. The complex contained 6 separated homes – each containing 4 rooms.

 

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The additional buildings were hangars, carpentry workshops, a blacksmith’s shop as well as a distillery.  The monastery was encircled by means of 5 fountains. It was in this period that the monastery expanded greatly and became the most famous monastery located in Moldova.

Oct 17

St. Jacob’s Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Iacob)

St. Jacob’s Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral which combines elements pertaining to the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles. This edifice, which is located in Riga, is among the oldest of its kind but among the most wonderfully crafted. The detailing of both the exterior and the interior reflect the architectural evolution of the cathedral as several stylistic designs are incorporated within its structure.

The Gothic tower comprises 3 stained glass windows which depict an amalgam of leaf and berry motifs beautifully painted in the Art Nouveau style, a representation meant to symbolize the Eucharist.

http://dougtischler.blogspot.ro

The church, which is dedicated to St. James the Great, dates from the 13th century, having been mentioned for the first time in official documents in 1225. Throughout time, the original edifice was improved. In the 15th century, the Gothic church was remodeled in the sense that a fragment of the edifice was turned into a basilica. More so, in the same period of time, the Holy Cross Chapel was constructed in close vicinity of the church.

Even the scope of the church shifted according to the religious wave that swept over Latvia at particular times. For instance, in the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformation was under way, the cathedral was transformed into a German language Lutheran church. In 1523, it was turned into a Latvian language Lutheran church.

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In the later part of the 16th century, the church underwent a change of hands as it was offered to the Jesuits when the Counter Reformation took shape. However, it was returned to the Lutherans after Gustav II Adolf gained control over Riga. There was a time when the edifice served completely different purposes than the ones it was designed for. In the early 19th century (1812), Napoleon’s army used the building for storage.

In the 20th century, the cathedral returned to the Catholics and has remained under their administration till the present day.

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It is believed that St. Jacob’s Cathedral has been around since the early development of Riga. Bishop Albert, the founder of the city, is thought to have ordered for the cathedral to be erected together with two other churches: the Virgin Mary’s Assumption Church and St. Peter’s Church.

Even if the church is recorded in the annals of Riga from the early 13th century, the construction work extended over a lengthy period, the edifice having been completed in the 1300s. But work on the church was carried on until the later decades of the 15th century.

http://latvianhistory.wordpress.com

St. Jacob’s Cathedral consists of red bricks placed on a limestone fundament. While throughout the passage of time the church underwent several modifications, the original structure has been kept.

The last adjustments conveyed to the edifice were done at the end of the 18th century when a supplementary roof was built in the shape of a pyramid and the tower was plated in cooper.

At present, the cathedral comprises a central hall with a specially arranged space for the choir, the basement and a prayer room which is made up of 2 presbyteries and the altar room. St. Jacobs’s church is an architectural monument, having been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Oct 01

Esztergom Basilica (Basilica Esztergom)

Esztergom Basilica is the tallest construction in Hungary and one of the tallest in the world for that matter. In fact, the edifice positions itself on the 18th place among the tallest constructions in the world. The actual name of the basilica is the Primatial Basilica of the Blassed Virgin Mary Assumed into Heaven and St. Adalbert. With such a lengthy name it is really no surprise that the building is known as the Esztergom Basilica, after the city in which it is found.

http://funkystock.photoshelter.com

The dimensions of the basilica are definitely impressive: it expands over a surface of 5.600 square meters, with a length of 118 m and a width of 49 m. The dome dominates the central part of the edifice. It comprises 12 windows in its structure and measures 33.5 m in diameter.

One of the main attractions of the basilica is the altarpiece which represents the largest painting in the entire world to have been painted on a single piece of canvas. The master behind this specific work of art was Michelangelo Grigoletti.

http://www.flickr.com

But the entire basilica can be regarded as a work of art due to the beautiful paintings that adorn it. The edifice had been constructed out of red marble by Italian craftsmen and has been decorated by means of canvases which depict Tuscan Renaissance motifs. The value of these representations is enhanced by the fact that so few other examples of Renaissance art of equal importance can be found on Hungarian soil.

Tourists who visit the basilica might be drawn aback by the crypt located within the edifice. This is a colossal tomb built in the 1831 in the Old Egyptian style. The crypt holds the earthly remains of the late archbishops of the basilica.

http://marvaoguide.com

The location where the basilica was erected was previously chosen for the construction of several other houses of worship. The initial church was erected in 2nd century by the order of king Stephan I of Hungary and it was actually the first cathedral to have been constructed in Hungary. However, the fate of this edifice was troublesome in the sense that it was prone to several damaging effects in a tumultuous historical timeframe. Initially, the cathedral was burnt down at the turn of the 12th century, only to be rebuilt in the years to come. But the following historical events that occur, such as the Mongol invasion or the bombing of the church due to political reasons, had further devastating impacts on the construction. These “attacks” led to a new series of repairs. With the refurbishing of the edifice came a more elaborated decorative work. But the cathedral was left in ruin once more when the Turks came to power in mid-16th century.

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Only in the 19th century, was the cathedral brought back to life. The chapel which existed previously was disassembled in more than a thousand pieces which were carefully relocated a couple of meters away were they were incorporated into the new basilica that was slowly beginning to take form as the architect Pál Kühnel intended it (the architect hired to design the basilica).

One of the focal points in the basilica is the largest organ which can be found in Hungary. It is true that the organ is not completed, mainly because the administration of the basilica lacks the funds to carry on the work. Within the structure of the organ, one will discover the largest organ pipe in the entire country – it measures 10 meters. The project is quite the undertaking but the results are bound to leave everyone overwhelmed by its grandeur. It is said that when finished, the musical instrument will be the third largest organ to be found on the European continent.

Aug 31

Durau Monastery (Manastirea Durau)

Durau Monastery is located in the eastern part of the Ceahlau Mountains, in the balneal climatic resort which bears the same name, Durau, and it has been erected on the site of an old nunnery which dated from the beginning of the 17th century. However, the dwellers of the hermitage changed at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Hierarch of Moldova of that time suggested that the hermitage be transformed into a friary.

The monastery which presents itself before us dates from the 1800s. The construction work was initiated in 1830 and lasted for 5 years. In the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, several hermitages were constructed around the monastery. However, at present, not many of these are still standing, the majority having been demolished with the construction of the balneal climatic resort, Durau – which occurred after the 1970s.

http://www.turismland.ro

 

The position of the religious edifice was cherished for quite a number of years due to the fact that it was located right under the Ceahlau Mountains, having been isolated from the rest of the world and thus conveying the perfect atmosphere for meditation and spiritual uplifting. Not to mention that the natural scenery is breathtaking.

Initially a hermitage, the construction was lifted to the rank of monastery with the help of Gheorghe Panu, a well-known political figure, journalist and columnist, who had contributed extensively to the improvement of the edifice. With a considerable financial help received from the state, Durau Monastery came into being. The main church was restored and the bell tower, the small church within the cemetery, as well as the guest houses, were constructed.

http://www.panoramio.com

The history of the monastery is quite tumultuous. After having been transformed into an actual monastery, this rank was taken away in 1959, when it became an anointing church. After 1989, it was transformed into a friary, and after two years it shifted to a nunnery, 20 nuns having been brought from the Varatec Monastery.

The materials used in the construction of the church were stones and bricks and the plan which it followed was shaped as a cross, the only additional elements incorporated in the structure were two slightly emphasized lateral apses and an additional apse which was located at the altar. The body of the monastery follows the standard design, being divided into the nave, the narthex and the altar. From an archeological point of view, the church is representative for the traditional design used in Moldova for the construction of monasteries. Some elements of ornamentation were borrowed from laic monuments.

http://www.crestinortodox.ro

 

The iconostasis is masterfully carved in gilded lime wood and illustrates Constantinople – as it was structured the moment the iconostasis was created, in 1835 .

The nave differentiates itself from the narthex by means of two side piers which are actually part of the lateral walls. These have been incorporated in the structure of the monastery with a designated purpose: that of sustaining the archway, which in its turn supports the cupola. Both the nave and the narthex receive natural light through the two windows each contains in their design: one oriented towards the north and one towards the south.

The façades of the church with three blind steeples appear to have been formed by several sections coming together, similar to puzzle pieces. However, this is a mere optical illusion due to the pillars used to sustain the entablature.

http://www.viziteazaneamt.ro

The western façade is neo-classical in design, being covered with frescoes. One of the most relevant architectural jewels of the edifice is found on this side of the monastery – the central part of the portico is characterized by a beautifully engraved door, made out of massive oak tree.

The bell tower, which is located within 40 m of the altar, is shaped as a square and contains three levels. The first floor of the tower holds a permanent exposition which is dedicated to sacred art. One of the pieces from this exhibition is a gorgeous iconostasis from the 18th century which incorporates traditional elements, combined with Byzantine features.

Tourists who come to Durau Monastery will not regret their decision to visit this monastic construction. Besides the beautiful paintings which adorn the edifice and the wonderful architectural design used, this tourist attraction will also impress through the beautiful natural scenery it offers.

 

Aug 02

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Petru si Pavel)

St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is located in Sankt Petersburg and it is the oldest and tallest cathedral in the city. In fact it is the second highest edifice in St. Petersburg, if you are to take into account the television tower.

But what makes the cathedral an important tourist attraction are the historical events it had been a witness to, some of which are tightly connected to the House of Romanov, the second and last dynasty to rule over Imperial Russia. Furthermore, the cathedral is the resting place of almost all the Russian rulers since Peter the Great.

http://www.cruiseeurope.com

 

The construction work

The cathedral goes back since the period in which Sankt Petersburg was founded. Initially, the house of worship was a wooden construction, erected one month after the city was established. In 1712, the Italian-born architect Domenico Trezzi designed a plan for the cathedral in which stone was used as the primarily material. The construction work was initiated soon afterwards, but the final result was not to be seen for 20 years. The cathedral was sanctified on the 29th of June, 1733.

The architectural design definitely contrasts the traditional style used in constructing Orthodox churches as it is a reflection of the Early Baroque. The architect drew inspiration from the protestant churches located in the western part of the continent and thus came up with the quadrilateral structure, the specific shape of the belfry and the needle-like tower which seems to pierce the sky.

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

Architectural design

The walls of the cathedral consist of ornamental columns, while the windows are artistically adorned with angel heads. In constructing the bell tower, the architect used the multi-layers technique and added the gilded needle atop the construction. This one-of-a-kind development, the needle, was created by Dutchman German von Bolis, who added a further detail on top: a flying angel that holds a cross in its hand. There is no difficulty in understanding the meaning of the representation. The needle is reflexive of the transcending experience one undergoes while embracing religion. The needle pointing upward is a symbol of this uplifting experience.

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A new detail was added to the bell tower in 1720, but this had no religious meaning attached to it. The clock we can see today was purchased from Holland for the price of 45.000 rubles, which was quite a large amount of money for that particular time.

The interior of the cathedral is a true work of art. The iconostasis is really impressive, and how else could it be taking into account that more than 40 architects from Moscow used their artistic creativity to create this unique piece. The first part of the 18th century brought about further improvements. The interior walls were covered with paintings which illustrated different biblical scenes.

http://www.travel-pictures-gallery.net

 

But the past of the cathedral is sprinkled with tragic events. The bell-tower is considered impressive, especially due to the needle which finishes it, but because of this tall structural design, the tower was subjected to the devastating effects of bad weather conditions, more precisely, of lighting. The tower burned to the ground in 1756. But while everything else was turned to ashes, the iconostasis managed to survive the terrible fire, having been removed from the cathedral in due time. The reconstruction work was not initiated until 1766, when Catherine the Great gave order for the edifice to be recreated in the exact same manner. But it took another ten years until the finished tower was revealed to the public.

The bell tower is definitely the main attraction of the cathedral and it is no wonder since it is an architectural emblem. The tower is part of the imperial catacombs – these are located on the ground floor, and it also consists of a platform upon which visitors can ascend and admire the view. These are organized on an hourly basis, beginning at 12:00 and ending at 18:00.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

There is a story concerning the edifice that might catch your attention. In 1997, when the angel atop the needle was being cleaned, the renovators encountered a message in a bottle which had been written back in 1953. The persons in charge of the renovation work from the ‘50s were apologetic for having performed a hasty and a bit of a sloppy work. The explanation is that the Soviet prime minister at that time, Nikita Khrushchev gave order for the angel to the restored quickly so that it would be ready for the city’s 250th anniversary. Allegedly, the renovators from ’97 had continued the tradition, leaving a note for the generations to come. However, the text was not made public.

Jul 10

Saharna Monastery (Manastirea Saharna)

Saharna Monastery is located in the eastern part of the Republic of Moldova, on the right bank of the river Nistru. The actual name of the monastery is the “Holy Trinity” from Saharna, but it is widely referred to solely as Saharna Monastery.

The religious complex is without a doubt one of the most important places of pilgrimage on the Moldovan territory. The reason for this is that the monastery preserves the earthly remains of St. Macarie, the only relics encountered in Moldova.

http://www.crestinortodox.ro

 

There is also a legend which revolves around this place: that the Mother of Christ had been in this territory, but more so, that there is evidence of her passing by as she left her print on one of the rocks.  Whether or not there is some truth behind this is unknown, but there is one thing certain: the legend has conveyed even more significance to the monastery.

The natural reservation of Saharna is situated in a well- known area which has evolved into a highly appreciated tourist attraction. The scenery is breathtaking: the rocky strait of Saharna twists and turns over several cascades, thresholds and rocky cliffs, not to mention that the entire area is woodland.

http://www.turism.gov.md

 

In the vicinity of the Saharna Monastery lies an important archeological site which contains valuable objects from the Iron Age (10th– 8th century BPE) and a Geto-Dacic keep (4th-3rd century BPE), which is one of the most well preserved fortresses located on the Moldovan territory.

The history of the monastery is tightly connected to the history of the Republic of Moldova, naturally. The monastic ensemble experienced a flourishing period in the 50s but this came to an end in the 60s when the Soviet authorities closed the monastery. In turn, the edifice was used as a psychiatric hospital and the consequence of this was that all the riches of the monastery were steadily but surely spent.

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It took 30 years to reopen the monastery. By this time, the edifices were severely damaged so restoration works were underway.

The Saharna Monastery is situated at  8 km from Rezina and at 120 km from the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, Chisinau. The monastic ensemble together with the natural reservation surrounding it extend over 670 hectars and are considered monuments, protected by the state.

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The history of the monastery begins with a small church carved in rock which was located in the area. In the 18th century (1776), Vartolomeu Ciungul had arrived in this region from Russia with a couple of brothers and monks and had found the hermitage empty. Thus they decided to settle there and repair both the church and the hermitages.
In 1863, a new church was added to the monastic complex, the winter church, and a new building of chambers for the monks.

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Since its founding, in 1776, and until 1919, 24 different abbots have been in charge of the monastery.
The rupestral church had been restored between 1991 and 1994. It consisted of 4 hermitages dug in rock, right near the church, which had been restored three years after the church (in 1997). In close proximity of the church tourists can find a narrow cave where, according to legend, hieromonk Vartolomeu, the founder of the church, had retreated in order to lead an ascetic life.

As it has been mentioned, Saharna Monastery has become an emblem of the Republic of Moldova. And this can be easy noticed since the monastic complex is represented on the back of the 50 MDL coin.

Jul 02

Horezu Monastery

Horezu Monastery, situated in Horezu Town (Valcea County), is a nunnery whose dedication day is the 21st of May – St. Constantine and Helen.

Founded in 1690 by the voivode Constantin Brancoveanu, the monastery copied the architectural style of the Episcopal Church located in Curtea de Arges in the sense that it consisted of three apses. The only differentiation between the two edifices mentioned is the porch of the Horezu Monastery which is representative of the style which left its mark during that period – the Brancovenesc Style.

http://www.privatetoursromania.com

 

The decorative style found on the exterior of the church consists of rectangular panels and niches which are adorned with geometrical forms masterfully executed. There is one specific shape which is repetitive – the circle. The entrance door of the monastery has carved marble edges. Above the entrance one can notice two coats of arms – one belonging to the Wallachia domain and the other to the Brancoveanu family.

http://www1.american.edu

 

The interior of the monastery is in itself a work of art. The paintings are valuable pieces, artistically done by true masters of that time (Ioan, Stan, Neagoe, and Ioachim, just to name a few). Besides the religious scenes which are represented in the majority of the paintings found on the walls of the Horezu Monastery, one can also admire the portraits of the families of voivodes that ruled over those lands (the Brancoveanu, Basarab and Cantacuzino families).

The monastery has a beautifully carved iconostasis made out of lime tree and adorned with gilded elements. The edifice has maintained its original structure even though it had underwent several restoration works such as the ones occurring in 1827, 1872, 1907-1912 and 1954-1964.

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The monastery holds within its walls the tombstone of Constantin Brancoveanu, even if the founder of the church was not laid to rest in this specific place. Probably the explanation lies in the fact that the church wanted to bring thus tribute to the one who initiated the construction work of the edifice. There are other tombs found here and the most relevant one contains the earthly remains of Archimandrite John, the first abbot of the monastery. The monastic ensemble also consisted of a hospital which was founded by Brancoveanu’s wife, Lady Mary and a chapel, which was erected by the order of Brancoveanu himself during 1696-1697.

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Tourists will be pleased to learn that inside the monastery is found one of the most impressive collections of liturgical items – objects which can be traced as far into the past as the moment when the monastery was erected.

But the artistic sculptures and paintings are bound to stir interest and admiration in the eyes of the beholders as well. These bear the mark of the Brancovenesc Style – known for the architectural balance that exists in the pieces of art, as well as the abundant detailing that create these one-of-a-kind works.

True connoisseurs of art will undoubtedly agree that the monastery is one of the most exquisite examples of Brancovenesc Art that exist on the entire Romanian territory.

Apr 23

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.

http://manastiribucovina.romaniaexplorer.com

 

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.

http://worldalldetails.com

 

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.

http://www.crestinortodox.ro

 

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.

http://felixromania.com

http://www.felixromania.com

 

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.

http://www.romanianmonasteries.org

 

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.

http://www.raoulpop.com

 

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.

Apr 19

The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Biserica Invierii din Sankt Petersburg)

Construction

This church, also known to locals as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, was erected in Sankt Petersburg in the memory of Tsar Alexander II who was assassinated on the 1st of March, 1881. This decision was taken by his son, soon after the news of his father’s death reached him.

Visitors can immediately notice the imposing edifice which stands out from the surrounding buildings (which bear the marks of Baroque, Classical and Modernist periods) due to its architectural design. Alexander III wanted to construct the church while respecting the traditional Russian structural design, and not giving in to the western styles which seemed to have “polluted” the Russian town.

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Alexander III analyzed various designs but none was to his liking. Eventually, Archimandrite Ignaty appointed Parland as the architect for the construction under discussion, but he decided to make the plan of the building himself. The project was inspired from St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev.

But the church did not serve the conventional purpose one would expect. Instead, Alexander III decided to organize special sermons and requiems every week in order to eulogize his father. Oddly enough, these religious services attracted big crowds.

Decay

The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was officially turned into a cathedral in 1923, but the edifice did not preserve itself as it was devastated after the Revolution. The damages were immense in as much as it was closed 9 years later and step by step it became a junkyard. The entire Sankt Petersburg buzzed over the idea that the church would be demolished. Even today, the edifice bears the marks of the second worldwide conflagration and the Siege of Leningrad.

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This church of immense architectural value was destroyed almost in its entirety after the 2nd World War, when the Small Opera Theater started using it as a storage space. What remained from the original construction were 4 columns on which the mosaic representations were still noticeable and a segment of the balustrade.

Restoration

Massive repair works were conducted after 1970, when the church became a subdivision of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral museum, and this institution funded the restoration. The “tormented” history of the church which saw periods of decay and rejuvenation came to an end in 1997 when the cathedral was reopened. The event was of massive proportions as thousands of visitors flooded the area in an attempt to cast their eyes on the new edifice for the first time.

http://goingslowly.smugmug.com

 

The total costs of the restoration works was assessed at 3.6 million rubles, but in reality, the project exceeded this sum by 1 million rubles. The reason for this was the exquisite assortment of mosaics. There is a mosaic work that expands over 7500 sq. meters in which the assassination of Tsar Alexander II is connected to the crucifixion of Christ, as if both had suffered the same faith and under the same conditions.

The fact that the church was dedicated to the Tsar is obvious from the monument erected on the exact place where Alexander II fell to his death. This was created according to the structural plan developed by Parland and was finished in 1907.

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The icons found within the church are varied in terms of the style used to create them. Some are representative for the academic style, some for the Modernist Age, while others bear the mark of the Byzantine painting style.

The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the emblem of nationalism. It refused to subdue itself to the Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles which dominated the area and decided to reflect the medieval Russian style instead.

Apr 18

Voronet Monastery (Manastirea Voronet)

Location

Voronet Monastery is located in Voronet Town, at a 36 km distance from Suceava County and at a 4 km distance from the center of Gura Humorului Town. This is one of the most valuable monasteries in Romania. The construction work began in 1488 and it took only four and a half months to complete the edifice – which is quite the record, especially for that time.

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Stephan the Great, the founder of the monastery, decided to erect the church on the place of an ancient wooden hermitage and choose Saint George as the patron of the church.

Structure

Voronet Monastery does not have a vast surface. It only measures 25,5 meters in length (without taking into account the church porch). The length of the nave and the narthex is of 7,7 meters and the lateral apses measure 10,5 meters.

The nave and the altar still maintain the iconographic ensemble painted during the reign of Stephan the Great. The representations on the walls of the monastery refer to specific episodes in the life of Jesus (the Passion of Christ – scenes which are uncommon in the nave of a church). The scenes are artistically painted and the characters are magnificently represented.

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These stand out due to the seriousness of the protagonists, the vigor of their gestures and of the shapes – in this respect, the scenes representing the Entrance in Jerusalem and the Prayer on the Olive Mountain stand out. The images are so vivid, so realistically done, that it feels as if you are taking part at the actual scenes.

Paintings

The images found in the narthex have been painted ulterior and they consist of decorations and figures which seem to create a link with the exterior paintings. In the church porch, there are different types of paintings (the Church Calendar and the Saint Elijah) which have a humourous touch to them – in a sense announcing the future Transylvanian iconographic representations painted on glass (in the 18th and 19th centuries).

Both the interior and the exterior painting is the merit of Gregory Rosca, the erudite theologian, who has personally supervised the anonymous monk-painters who have represented the specific scenes on the walls of Voronet Monastery. Just to make an idea of the impressive paintings illustrated on the church, you should know that the Last Judgment scene occupies the entire western wall and it is made up of an immense composition in five acts – being the only one of its kind in the entire Christian world.

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Due to its amplitude, specialists regard it as representative for the decorative polychromic art and label it as superior to the compositions encountered at Athos and Camposanto (Pisa). The last Judgment Scene is considered worthy of being placed next to the Sixteen Chapel (in Rome), to the mosaics found at Kahrie Mosque in Istambul, or next to the scenes painted at San Marco (in Venice).  This goes to show the exquisiteness of its paintings.

What makes the paintings original? The artist had the courage to blend into the religious representations, traditional motifs (specific for the Moldavian region). These consist of musical instruments such as alphorns and kobsas, of local landscapes, or popular attire.

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Near the entrance, you can admire the portraits of the founders of the church: Saint Daniil the Anchorite and the hieromonk Gregory Rosca. The initial shape of the monastery can be seen in the votive painting. The church was set on a rock pedestal and the belfry was set on a square base so as to emphasize its slenderness, its impetus towards the sky. The exonarthex was added back in 1547 at the request of Gregory Rosca who was thus considered the second founder of the monastery.

Voronet Monastery, as it is today, is one of the first Moldavian monuments created in a unique and personal style. The monastery is very original in its design which blends Byzantine elements (the trefoil form of the nave with the belfry), Gothic elements (the “lauching” aspect of the edifice, the arches of the doors and windows, the presence of the abutments) and specific autochthonous motifs (the belfry with four arches and a stellar base, the space underneath the cornice, blind arches at the apses, etc.).

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The arm chairs and some of the lecterns belong to the 16th century, whereas two bells artistically crafted have been a gift from Stephan the Great.

Voronet Monastery stands out due to its architecture and design which are a symbol of refinement. It is no wonder that people all over the world come to this house of worship.