Romania, 1993. Icon. St. Stephen. (prince Stephen the Great). Sc. 3852

From the Voronet


Romania, 1996. UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Voronet Monastery. Sc. 4100.

     A nun monastery consecrated to St.George, Voronet lies at walking distance from the Gura Humorului town. An old Romanian chronicle written by Ion Neculce records that Stephen the Great founded Voronet Monastery in 1488 to fulfil a pledge to the hermit Daniil who had encouraged the ruling prince of Moldavia to chase the Turks from Wallachia. After having won the battle against the Turks, Stephen erected Voronet in three months and 21 days, on the very spot Daniil had his small wooden hermitage.
     Its interior and exterior paintings were made later on, between 1534-1535, during prince Petru Rares' rule and at the behest of Metropolitan Grigore Rosca, a salient scholar of his time, who also added to it a porch in 1547.

Romania, 1969. Frescoes. Stephen the Great and Family. Sc. 2142 Romania, 1969. Frescoes. Plowman. Sc. 2147 Romania, 1969. Frescoes. The last jugment. Sc. 2144

    Voronet Monastery is probably the most accomplished sample of artistic achievement in Moldavian architecture and painting. The monastery was built at a time of peace with the Turks, when Stephen had centralized the state, giving a new impetus to its economy and culture.
    The Church has a trefoil form proper to the medieval Moldavian architectural style, predominantly Byzantine. Voronet is quite impressive by its size, i.e. 25.50 m long (apart from the porch), and 7.70 m wide. The doors of the porch have a Renaissance framing, whereas the stone carvings of the broken arches at doors and windows belong to the Gothic style. The existence of exterior buttresses signal a Roman and Gothic architectural influence in the strengthening of constructions, and hence the affiliation to western styles of art.
    The paintings on the church walls which have been made by masters whose names remained unknown, except that of Marcu, master painter, whose name is inscribed on the left side of the entrance door, have a distinctive chromatic harmony, a special manner of composition, nerve and clarity. They are imbued with the softness and warmth of the Moldavian spirit, whereas their colors were drawn from the surrounding nature abounding in blue and green.

Voronet Monastery. Outer Wall Fresco Romania, 1971. Voronet Monastery. Fresco. Sc. 2307

    Voronet Monastery has been dubbed the "Oriental Sistine Chapel", whereas Voronet blue, a color obtained from lapis lazuli entered the lexicon of art alongside Titian red and Veronese green.
The artistic approach of painters has a warm humanism, as religious scenes depict Moldavian living people of those times. Thus the angels of the frescoes have the sweet faces of Moldavian women, the archangels blow the bucium - a Romanian shepherd's musical instrument similar to an alpenhorn-, the souls carried to heaven are wrapped in Moldavian towels, whereas the souls doomed to the fire of hell wear turbans just like the Turks - Moldavia's fierce enemies at the time.

Romania, 1970. Frescoes. Mitropolit Antonie Rosca, the initiator of frescoes. Sc. 2080 Romania, 1970. Frescoes. Scene from the New jugment. Sc. 2183 Romania, 1970. Frescoes. Scene from the New Jugment. Sc. 2182.

    The "Last Judgement", painted on the western wall of the church, is probably the finest composition among the paintings of the monasteries in Moldavia. In the fire of hell (a grand funnel of live coals opening at the feet of Jesus), sinners among whom, illustrious characters, kings, popes are struggling their way out. Near the seat of judgement, Adam and Eve are represented, along with bands of prophets, hierarchs, martyrs and Moses. In another illustration, a hand is holding the scales of justice where the sins of mankind judgement are being weighed. To the right and to the left, the devils are quarreling for possession of the accused. Among the sinners, there are many Turks and Tartars, with harsh faces and fierce looks. 

Romania, 1969. Frescoes. FDC, Dec. 15 Romania, 1970. Frescoes. FDC, June 29.

    The "Resurrection of the Dead", a very dramatic scene, is performed to the sound of the bucium. The animals, too, take part in the judgement, handing back fragments of human torsos to complete the bodies that were torn to pieces by wild beasts. The deer alone has nothing to hand back, for in Romanian folklore it stands for innocence. At the Gate of Heaven people rush to get in; the painter wishes to express humorously how people hurry to enter the Garden of Eden.
   The southern wall displays "Jesse's Tree", the fabulous genealogy of Jesus. A fresco including eight panels and almost one hundred characters develops in luxurious interweaving of vine branches and tendrils. Also on the southern side are painted the portraits of Grigore Rosca and Daniil the Hermit
    On the northern wall, more exposed to the elements of weather, there are still a few elements representing the "Creation of the World" and a popular legend, "Temptation of Adam", which is also painted at Sucevita and Moldovita monasteries.

Romania, 1971. Frescoes. Citizen from Trapezunt and St. John. Sc. 2304 Romania, 1970. Frescoes. Life of St. Anton. Sc. 2184 Romania, 1971. Frescoes. Martyriun and Death of St. John. Sc. 2305

    Among the paintings on the interior walls of the church mentioned should be made of "The Last Supper", wheareas the nave holds a painting representing Stephen the Great, his wife, Lady Maria Voichita, and their son, Bogdan. The chair of the ruler in the church is a masterpiece of wood carving.
    The history of the Romanian culture has included Voronet Monastery as a place of reference where historic and religious works were issued. Among them, it is worth mentioning "The Old Manuscript from Voronet" and "The Psalm Book from Voronet". Daniil the Hermit has been canonized as a saint and celebrated by the Orthodox Church on the 18th of December; his tomb is to be found on the right hand side of the narthex.
(Source: after a Romanian travel site).

     Background: Voronet Monastery, outer wall painting.

     Links to other Monastery Frescoes pages: Introduction, Moldovita, Sucevita

Published: 07/01/01. Revised: 01/02/06.  
Copyright © 1999 - 2006 by Victor Manta, Switzerland. 
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