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.