Painting Churches from the First Half of the 16th Century
III. IDENTIFICATION OF THE ASSET
IV. JUSTIFICATION FOR INSCRIPTION ON THE WORLD HERITAGE LIST
PROVINCE OR REGION
OF THE ASSET
Exterior painting churches from the first half of the 16th
LOCATION ON THE MAP, AND INDICATION OF GEOGRAPHICAL COORDINATES
- longitude:26º east,
- latitude: 47º north.
The monastery belongs to the monastic communities. The village
churches belong to local parishes..
They are under the authority of the Metropolitan Seat of Moldavia
INSTITUTION WITH MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY
Minstry of Culture. Department of Historic Monuments, 1 Piata
Presei Libere, 71321 Bucharest.
NATIONAL INSTITUTION(S) WITH MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (IF THE CASE)
Department Commission of Historic Monuments of Moldavia, Iasi.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE ASSET
Saint George's Church of the former Voronet Monastery. The triconch edifice
was endowed at the beginning only with a bema, a naos topped with a high
tambour and a pronaos, as the exterior pronaos was added at a later time.
On the outside a continuous band of small blind niches surrounds the upper
part of the walls of the monument, while high blind niches surround the
exterior of the apses. The interior painting, dating from the 15th century,
reveals a remarkable cycle of the Passion and a votive picture of the
family of the founding prince. Three hundred sixty-five scenes from the
Menology span the walls and the vault of the exterior pronaos.
The exterior mural painting is the last of this group,
and it displays the traditional themes: the Church Hierarchy, the Tree
of Jesse, the Acathyste Hymn (excepting the final scene of the Siege of
Constantinople). The Last Judgement, spanning the east façade,
is the grandest depiction, and also the most famous of the site.
The Decollation of Saint John the Baptist Church of Arbore
village. It is built on a rectangular plane, suggesting in the interior
the idea of a triconch by high deep niches bored in the wall. A semicircular
arcade doubles on the outside the west wall of the pronaos.
The iconography of the painting is characteristic of the
Moldavian school from the 15th and 16th centuries. A peculiarity of the
interior painting is the presence of the founder's family in two images
(a votive picture on the west wall of the naos and the funerary portraits
in the pronaos). The exterior painting is as refined as the interior one.
The graceful incised contours, the elegance of the outlines, and the fine
harmonious colours create a pleasant effect. Some scholars remarked certain
western influences which led to the hypothesis that Dragos Coman, the
author of this site, must have travelled beyond the Carpathians.
Saint Nicholas' Church of Probota Monastery is characterised
by the same triconch plan of the monastic type. High Gothic windows stand
out on the west façade. The monumentality of the interior is impressive
above all in the pronaos covered by two splendid Moldavian vaults. Outstanding
depictions of sun signs span the exterior pronaos vault (like a transverse
cradle with hollows). The exterior painting - owed to a workshop managed
by an artist with a strong personality, endowed with an extraordinary
creative skill, a fine and elegant drawing ability and a remarkable sense
of colour - has been relatively poorly preserved. Because of the loss
of the exterior painting of Saint George's Church of Hârlau (raised
in 1530), nowadays Probota Church can be considered to be the masterpiece
of this unitary group of painted churches from the time of Peter Rares.
The painting is expected to be restored in a near future.
The Assumption of the Virgin Church of the old Humor Monastery.
The whole interior and exterior painting dates from 1535, and is the work
of a team probably managed by the master painter Thomas "of Suceava"
whose name is written in white on the scene of the "Siege of Constantinople"
as well as in a 1541 document that mentions his appointment as official
painter at Peter Rares' court. As compared with other monastery churches
from the time of Peter Rares this one has three architectural peculiarities:
the triconch plan naos is not crowned by a tambour, the tomb chamber is
surmounted by a hiding place and in the west part of the church there
is an open exterior pronaos surrounding three parts of the church. The
arcades of the exterior pronaos are supported by massif stone pillars.
The prince and his family are depicted in the votive image of the naos.
The style of the portraits is characteristic of Moldavian art. The main
founders are depicted only in the funerary portraits of the tomb chamber.
On the pronaos vault is depicted "The Platytera Virgin" in a
uniquely vast, elegant fresco suggesting a musical rhythm. The "Last
Judgement" is depicted in the exterior pronaos. On the outside, the
apses are decorated with the "Church Hierarchy" and "Saint
Nicholas' Life", and the south wall with "The Virgin's Acathyste".
On the north façade fragments of the "Tree of Jesse"
have been preserved, as well as other themes including "The Sky's
Customs". The site is personalised by the red colour, harmoniously
blended with ochre, pink, blue and orange.
The Assumption Church of Moldovita Monastery resembles in
many ways that of Humor. From an architectural point of view, the differences
consist in larger dimensions, slenderer proportions, the presence of the
tambour above the naos, a rather different realisation of the exterior
pronaos to the west. In the interior, the pronaos calotte has a particular
shape; high Gothic windows enlighten the pronaos.
The interior painting of the naos reveals the "Cycle
of the Passion" (with an exceptional depiction of the "Crucification"
on the north semi-calotte) and the votive portraits of the founder and
his family depicted on the west wall. "The Platytera Virgin"
and the "Menology" span the pronaos. The themes of the exterior
painting have a few innovations like the "Cycle of the Virgin"
and the "Martyrdom of the Apostles" on the north wall. On the
south wall there is a "Acathyste Hymn" famous for its depiction
of the "Siege of Constantinople", as well as an ample depiction
of the "Tree of Jesse". The Moldovita painting displays certain
common characteristics with the Humor one, which led to the hypothesis
that they were achieved by the same artists. The exterior colours are
mainly yellow ochre combined with brilliant hues of red, blue and green.
As the largest Romanian state of the Middle Ages unified in the 14th century
in the wake of the anti-Mongolian reconquest and the wars against the
kingdom of Poland and Hungary, Moldavia reached the height of its development
under the reigns of Stephen the Great (1457 - 1504) and Peter Rares (1527-1538;
1541-1546). At the same time that was the age of a unique artistic synthesis
when the exterior painting churches emerged as magnificent masterpieces,
emblematic for a unique artistic phenomenon in Europe. That consists in
an exterior painting spanning the façades. The specific iconography
illustrates a few compulsory themes (the Church Hierarchy, the Last Judgement,
the Tree of Jesse, the Acathyste Hymn). These historic monuments were
raised and decorated with exterior painting by princes and noblemen during
the '30s and 40's of the 16th century:
Saint George's Church of the former Voronet Monastery, founded
(1488) by Reigning Prince Stephen the Great. The bema and naos were painted
between 1488-1496 (the opinions of specialists vary), and the pronaos
exterior pronaos (founded by Metropolitan Bishop Grigore Rosca in 1547)
was decorated in the period with the façades.
The Decollation of Saint John the Baptist Church in the
village of Arbore, raised in 1503 as a chapel of his residence by the
governor of Suceava, Luca Arbore, functioned as burial place for the family
of the founder. It was there that he was buried in 1522. In 1541 his granddaughter
had the painter Dragos Coman de Iasi decorate the church. Later, after
the extinction of the family, the chapel was turned into a village church.
Saint Nicholas' Church is the catholikon of Probota Monastery,
one of the oldest Moldavian monasteries (founded before 1391).
The present church was raised by Reigning Prince Peter Rares
in 1531 as a burial place of his family.
The interior and exterior painting dates from 1534. Only
the bema was repainted in the 19th century.
Saint George's Church of the old Humor Monastery, founded
before 1415 and dedicated first of all to the Assumption, received in
1471 a valuable gospel from Stephen the Great.
The present edifice was built in 1530 by the great chancellor
(logofat) Theodore Bubuiog and his wife Anastasia, "by the will and
support" of Reigning Prince Peter Rares; the mural painting dates
from 1535. Prince Vasile Lupu built the bell tower. After 1786 the monastic
community of Humor expanded.
The restoration works conducted during the '60s and '70s
revealed the foundations of the old church. Also the tower, watch road
and roof were restored. The mural painting was restored between 1971 and
1973 with the support and participation of UNESCO and ICCROM.
The Church of the Annunciation of Moldovita Monastery.
The old monastery, dating from the 14th century, was rebuilt in the 15th
century by Alexander the Good (1400 - 1432). The Moldavian Prince Peter
Rares was the founder of the present edifice (1532), decorated with exterior
paintings (1537). The precinct and princely residence were rebuilt later.
The restoration works conducted in the '60s revealed the foundations of
the old convent.
JUSTIFICATION FOR INSCRIPTION ON THE WORLD HERITAGE
REASONS WHY THE ASSET IS CONSIDERED TO MEET ONE OR MORE CULTURAL HERITAGE
b. EVALUATION OF THE PRESENT STATE OF CONSERVATION
c. DATA REGARDING AUTENTICITY OF THE ASSET
REASONS WHY THE ASSET IS CONSIDERED TO MEET ONE OR MORE CULTURAL HERITAGE
REQUIREMENT, AND, IF THE CASE, A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF SIMILAR PROPERTIES
ARE PRESENTED BELOW
Criterion I. The exterior painting of the northern Moldavia churches represents
a unique artistic phenomenon in Byzantine art, a masterpiece of mural
painting. The painting of an exceptional aesthetic value spans the church
façades, while achieving a perfect symbiosis between colour and
architecture by the ingenious use of architectural spaces. At the same
time, the colours of the exterior painting perfectly matches the surrounding
Criterion II. The idea of painting the entire outer surfaces
of churches by paintings has been taken over by other Moldavian churches:
the church of Râsca Monastery, painted in 1552, that of Sucevita
Monastery, painted from 1595 or 1596, or Saint Eliaj's Church, close to
Suceava, whose exterior was painted between 1632 and 1653.
Criterion III. In the European art of the age, the exterior
mural painting of northern Moldavia churches represents a unique phenomenon.
Considering Romanian art, the exterior painting church complex constitutes
a specific phenomenon, both from the point of view of architecture and
painting, an original solution of Moldavian art from the first half of
the 16th century.
OF THE PRESENT STATE OF CONSERVATION OF THE ASSET AS COMPARED WITH SIMILAR
ASSETS SITUATED ELSEWHERE
Due to remarkable skills, these exterior paintings have not been altered
in time, as the colours stayed vivid and the original design has been
Fortunately, even wherever the painting layer has been
damaged, the iconographic traits are still visible, allowing comparative
The scientific restoration of the architecture has ensured
a good conservation for each of these monuments. The restoration of the
painting, begun with the support of UNESCO, is under way. At the same
time, the mural paintings conservation is ensured.
REGARDING THE AUTENTICITY OF THE ASSET
The painted churches of northern Moldavia still preserve their entire
authenticity, guaranteed by the scientific restoration works that emphasised
their initial aspect, by using, among other testimonies, the image of
the monuments preserved in the votive pictures. At the same time, the
restoration has revealed that the original painting layer has never been
The stone votive inscriptions, the painted ones, the original
iconostases, icons, embroidery, the conserved tomb stones, all that contributes
to establishing and guaranteeing the authenticity of these monuments.
The legislation regarding the protection of the monuments
of Romania ensures, through the specialised institutions, the preservation
and conservation of these monuments.