Suceviţa Monastery

Suceviţa Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox convent situated in the Northeastern part of Romania. It is situated near the Suceviţa River, in the village Suceviţa, 18 km away from the city of Rădăuţi, Suceava County. It is located in the southern part of the historical region of Bukovina. It was built between 1581 and 1584 by Gheorghe Movilă, Bishop of Rădăuţi, and finished by ruling prince Ieremia Movilă, his brother, and ruling prince Simion Movilă. Both the Movilă brothers are buried at the monastery.

Suceviţa is the largest and also the last built of the painted monasteries of Bukovina. The first foundation of the Movilă family, that preceded the present monastery complex was a more modest church, dating from around 1581. During the reign of Petru Şchiopul (Peter the Lame), the Movilă brothers became counselors of the ruling prince enjoying a prosperous economic position, and such began erecting an ample monastery.

Suceviţa was a princely residence as well as a fortified monastery. It is surrounded by thick, fortified walls. The enclosure walls and towers give the monastery the aspect of a medieval citadel. Ieremia Movilă added to the church two open porches (to the North and to the South); he also built massive houses, the surrounding walls (6 m high, 3 m thich) and defense towers on each corner. The legend has it that an old woman had been working there for thirty years, carrying in her ox wagon stone for the construction of the monastery. This is the reason why a female head is carved on a black stone in the monastery's yard. The church architecture has harmonious combination of the Byzantine and Gothic art elements.

Like all the painted monasteries, the church, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, is frescoed inside and out. Yet, the Western Wall is blank. Legends say that the artist fell off the wall scaffolding and was killed, so it remained undecorated. Frescoes are painted in purple red and blue against an emerald green background and are the work of two master painters, Ioan and his brother Sofronie from Suceava. The inside painting is represented on the all available surfaces, according to the traditional iconographic program, but enriched by theological themes less customary in Moldavia. The two most outstanding frescoes are the Ladder of Virtue, showing the saints ascending to heaven whilst sinners (depicted as Turks) fall down to be taken by demons, and the Last Judgement, which was left unfinished when its painter fell from the scaffold and died. Another painting of note is that of the Siege of Constantinople, showing the degree to which this event affected the Orthodox Christians of Moldavia.

Suceviţa Monastery was first inhabited by monks in 1582. During the communist era, only nuns over 50 were allowed to stay at Suceviţa. Today it is a nun convent, the sisters living a simple life in daily prayers, and growing their land. The monastery museum keeps one of the richest and most valuable medieval art collections of Moldavia. Suceviţa Monastery is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sources: Wikipedia, MarvaoGuide, Braşov Travel Guide.