Voroneţ Monastery

Voroneţ Monastery is located near the town of Gura Humorului, Suceava County, Moldavia, Romania. It is one of the famous painted monasteries from southern Bukovina, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The monastery was built by ruling prince of Moldavia Ştefan cel Mare (St. Stephen III The Great) between May and September 1488. The monastery was built to fulfill a promise to Stephen's spiritual father and adviser, St. Daniel the Hermit, who had lived in a cell in the area, and to commemorate the victory over Turks at Battle of Vaslui (1475). Upon his death, St. Daniel was buried in the monastery church (with the exception of his right index finger, which was encased in silver and sent to Putna Monastery).

The monastery is located on a riverbank, at the end of the long and narrow village of the same name. The present church was built on the site of an older wooden church, the scanty remains of which have not been dated. The exterior, with its buttresses and door and window frames were related to Western European High Gothic. The influences spread from Transylvania and Poland with craftsmen who were invited especially to build churches. The church of Voroneţ that Stephen the Great built included the chancel, the naos with its tower, and the pronaos.

The Last Judgment on the west façade of the Church of St. George

In 1547, the Metropolitan Bishop of Moldavia Grigore Roşca, a salient scholar of his time, added the exonarthex to the west end of the church. The small windows, their rectangular frames of crossed rods and the receding pointed or shouldered arches of the interior door-frames are Gothic. The south and north doors of the exonarthex of 1547 have rectangular frames, which indicate a transition period from Gothic to Renaissance. But, above them, on each wall is a tall window with a flamboyant Gothic arch. On the north façade is still visible the original decoration of the church, the rows of ceramic enamelled discs in yellow, brown and green, decorated in relief. These include heraldic motifs, such as the rampant lion and the aurochs' head of the Moldavian coat of arms, and creatures inspired by Western European medieval literature, such as two-tailed mermaids. The tower is decorated with sixteen tall niches, in four of which are windows. A row of small niches encircles the tower above them. The fragmented roof probably follows the shape of the original roof, which doubtless was made with shingles. The whole west façade is without any openings, which indicates that the intention of Metropolitan Roşca was since the beginning to reserve it for frescoes.

South façade with scenes from the lives of Saints Nicholas and John the New

The frescoes were painted between 1534 and 1535, during the reign of one of Stephen's successors, Petru Rareş. They were commissioned at the request of Grigore Roşca. The names of the artists are unknown except for one master painter, Marcu. Because of the frescoes' vivid color, "Voroneţ Blue", a pigment created using lapis lazuli, has entered the artistic lexicon. During the half century that separates the paintings of the exonarthex from those of the naos, Moldavian art had evolved from sober and rigorous to more complex, decorative and lively. Floral decorations fill all available empty space, divide scenes and registers, and accentuate architectural elements such as niches and arches. The clothes of the figures turn from simple into sumptuous, and the bleak landscapes are now filled with vegetation. Details win ground where earlier spiritual intensity was most important.

Voroneţ Monastery is known as Sistine Chapel of the East due to its splendid exterior and interior frescoes.

Sources: Wikipedia, Orthodox Wiki, Romanian Monasteries.
More images at Orthodox Photos.