Apr 24

Peles Castle (Castelul Peles)

Peles Castle is situated in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, at a 44 km distance from Brasov, in Sinaia locality. This is one of the most well renowned castles in all of Europe, and one of the most beautiful ones as well.


Carol I of Hohenzollern chose the site for the castle and the architect appointed to design it  was Wilhem Doderer, of Viennese origin. But from 1876, the project was supervised by Doderer’s assistant Johann Schultz of Lemberg. The construction work began in 1873 but reached a halt between 1877 and 1879 because of the Romanian Independence War. Peles was constructed in its entirety by 1883 and was inaugurated on the 7th of October.



In the years that followed, other edifices were added to Peles Castle. These were the Economat (a building used for supplies), the Guard Headquarter, the Hunting House, the Stables, the Electric Power Plant, the Sipot Villa and Pelisor Castle. Pelisor was designed by the architect Karel Liman and was erected between 1889 and 1903. This castle would later on become the royal residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania.


The materials used in the construction of the Peles Castle were bricks, stones, marble and wood. The edifice was made out of 160 rooms. During the communist era, Peles, whose rooms were furnished so as to reflect the architectural design and decorations specific for particular European countries, was transformed into a retreat for leaders from all over the globe.



The dominant architectural style encountered at Peles is specific for the German Renaissance, but there are also marks of the Gothic period, the German Baroque and French Rococo architectural designs and of the Italian Renaissance era.

The edifice is enclosed by 7 terraces decorated with pieces of art made by the sculptor Romanelli, of Italian descent. Other ornamental items encountered are the beautiful wells made out of stone and the decorative vases. Carrara marble and wood are the main materials used to decorate the castle, both inside and out, and the architects did a great job choosing them as they give a certain allure to the edifice.



Peles is impressive in its entirety, but there are certain rooms which stand out more than the rest. These are the Grand Armor Room, the Small Armor Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room, The French Room, the Turkish Room and the Imperial Suit, just to name a few. Inside the Reception Room, tourists can admire paintings and sculptures made out of wood  – all representing the 16 castles owned by the Hohenzollern family.

The Grand Armor Room holds 1.600 weapons and armors. It is here that one of the most impressive collections of hunting equipment and weaponry in Europe is found – these date from the 14th up to the 19th century. The weapons on display are pistols, muskets, swords, sabers, hunting spears and many more.

http:// www.webshots.com


According to the general belief, the Imperial Suite has been built in honor of Franz Joseph I. The Austrian emperor has come to Peles on one of his visits to the Romanian royal family and because of this the person in charge of the decoration (Auguste Bembe) has decided to get inspiration from the Austrian Baroque style – so as to please the Austrian ruler. One wall of the room has been transformed into a “tool holder” made out of Cordoba leather and it has maintained itself in a perfect condition for five hundred years.

The Small Armor Room mainly features silver and gold Oriental weapons (Ottoman, Arab, Indo-Persian) which are adorned with precious stones. Tourists can gaze upon the armors and weapons used in the past, such as helmets, axes, spears, daggers or matchlocks.



Inside the walls of the Peles Castle, lays one of the most valuable collections of paintings in all of Europe. Almost 2.000 pieces of art make up this impressive collection. Other items which are highly appreciated are the ceramic objects of decoration, the plates made out of silver and gold, the Meissen and Sevres porcelains, the stained-glass windows (of German inspiration), the weapon collection, the exquisite sculptures made out of ivory and ebony and the artistically crafted Murano crystal chandeliers.

Pelisor (the “Little Peles”) was constructed by the order of King Ferdinand. It is said that the king did not feel comfortable in the Peles Castle due to the immenseness of the edifice. Thus Pelisor Castle came into being. This edifice has 70 rooms, follows the art-nouveau architecture, and it is furnished in the Viennese style (from the turn of the century). At Pelisor, tourists can also find one of the most exquisite collections of glassware: the artistically crafted glasses and vases bearing the names Lalique and Tiffany.



Further information

Tourists should know that they cannot visit the entire castle. Only 35 rooms are opened for visitation – these include the basement and the chambers located at the 1st floor. There is an entrance fee that has to be covered, to which a photography fee is added (if this is the case).

Peles can be visited in the following interval:

Wednesday to Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00;

Tuesday: 11:00 – 17:00:

Monday – closed.

The castle can be visited throughout the year, except in November, when maintenance work is  scheduled.


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.  


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.



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.


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.



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.



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.


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.




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.


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.



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.



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.


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 18

Voronet Monastery (Manastirea Voronet)


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.



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.



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.).



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.