Humor Monastery

Humor Monastery is located about 5 km north of the town of Gura Humorului, Bukovina, Romania. It is a monastery for nuns dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary, or Theotokos. It was built in 1530 by Teodor Bubuiog, high chancellor of ruling prince Petru Rareş. The monastery was closed in 1786 and was not reopened until 1990. The monastery is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

The ruins of the first church of Humor Monastery, or Homor, as it was known at that time, are about 500 m down the road. A document issued by ruling prince Alexandru cel Bun in 1415 confirmed that Judge Ivan (Oană) had built a monastery in Homor. Judge Ivan was a wealthy boyar who also had houses and a stone church in Tulova. The ruins show a small monastic church with three apses, and possibly a dome above the naos, as indicated by the massive supporting pilasters in the corners of the room. A square pronaos was added to the structure some time later. The church was built of massive blocks of stone, decorated outside with enameled ceramic discs and painted inside, as fragments of paint recovered by archaeologists show.

The church is smaller than other churches of the painted monasteries and does not have any cupolas. Otherwise, it preserves the same traditional three-cusped plan proper to most other painted monasteries. Humor is protected by a wooden stockade rather than a stone rampart, and lacks the characteristic spire - indicating that it was founded by a boyar, not the ruler. The belfry with a belvedere was erected in 1641, under Vasile Lupu's rule.

The particular element is the open porch with arches, an innovation for that time. The open porch is separated from the nave by three columns connected through broken arches which have crossed vaults. The windows frames are Gothic. The open porch with arcades was the first of its kind to be built in Bukovina, an innovation influenced by both the local building tradition (veranda, terrace) and the foreign Renaissance (the lodge found later in the Brâncovenesc style). Another innovation is the tainiţa, a hidden place above the burial-vault, where precious objects were kept in harsh times.

Humor was one of the first of Bukovina's painted monasteries to be frescoed and, along with Voroneţ, is probably the best preserved. The dominant color of the frescoes is a reddish brown, completed nevertheless by rich blues and greens. The master painter responsible for Humor's frescoes, which were painted in 1535, is one Toma of Suceava.

The subjects of the frescoes at Humor include the Siege of Constantinople and the Last Judgment, common on the exterior of the painted monasteries of Bukovina, but also the Hymn to the Virgin inspired by the poem of Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople relating to the miraculous intervention of the Theotokos in saving the city from Persian conquest in 626. The Persians are, however, depicted as Turks which is a common device in these monasteries, their paintings being used in part for political propaganda in addition to their spiritual meaning.

The tombstone of Teodor Bubuiog is situated under his portrait and that of his wife’s. Petru Rares and his wife are both buried in the monastery church as well. Humor Monastery held for many years the valuable 'Humor Gospel', a book dating back to 1473, painted by monk Nicodim and displaying a famous portrait of Stephen the Great. The monastery houses a valuable collection of icons dating back to the 16th century. The monastery, underwent several restoration works, in 1868, 1888, 1960-1961, 1967-1970, and 1971-1972, when the paintings were washed.

Stephen the Great, miniature in Humor Gospel

Sources: Wikipedia, Romanian Monasteries, Orthodox Photos