Split between Romania and Ukraine there is a region, historically known as Bukovina (geographically belonging to Moldova), where 8 extraordinary Byzantine churches rise known, perhaps not as much as they should, for their frescos enriching both the inner and outer walls. The monasteries, erected in the years of decline of the Byzantine Empire and some even after its defeat, are all characterised by a dominant colour as well as the biblical stories represented. The frescos, speaking fo saints and prophets, episodes from Jesus’ life, the creation of man and of his destiny after death, were a means to teach to the ignorant illiterate farmers from Bucovina what the words of the Bible were.

Voronet

Above: picture via Flickr/Costel Slincu, licence Creative Commons 2.0

Amongst them all, the monastery of Voronet is the most popular one. It seems that it was built in just 3 months and 3 weeks in 1488 to commemorate the victory of the battles of  Vaslui against the Turks.

Above: picture via Flickr/Burlan Marius, licence Creative Commons 2.0

It is called the “Sistine Chapel of the East”for its extraordinary paintings, where a gloomy light blue prevails as a tone called “Voronet blue”. The colour is one of its kind as  no one has managed to replicate its chemical conposition.

Above: picture via Wikipedia, licence Creative Commons 2.0

Suceviţa

Above: picture via Wikipedia, licence Creative Commons 2.0

In the monastery of Suceviţa, buikt in 1585, the main tones are green and blue. It was one of the latest Romanian monastery to be decorated with frescos; all the outer walls, besides the one on facing West, are covered with paintings. The legend says that, when one of the painters fell from the scaffolding and died, they stopped, hence the wall was never finished.

Church Sucevţa is not part of the UNESCO Heritage

Above: picture via Flickr/Serge Bystro, licence Creative Commons 2.0

Moldovita

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The monastery of Moldovita was built in 1532 by Petru Rareş, illegitimate child of Stephen III of Moldavia with the hope to hinder the conquest of the Ottomans approaching from East. The paintings on the outer walls are mainly in gold and deep blue where terminated in 1537.

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Besides the many recurring themes of the Orthodox Christian art, a nun defined them “the coloured holy scripture”. One of the walls represents frescos showing the siege of Constantinople.

Humor

The monastery of Humor, built in 1530, structurally rather small, is the one which holds the best state of preservation compared to the others, apart from the  one of Voronet. The paintings which decorate it represent common subjects to the other churches such as the Last Judgement or the siege to Constantinople. What stands out in this little place is the representation of the devil as a female.

Arbore

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The monastery of Arbore was built in 1503 by the nobleman Luca Arbore, and the area was eventually named after him. The church, dedicated to John the Baptist, is the first one amongst all the churches in Moldavia to become UNESCO Heritage. The outer frescos were made 50 years differing the building construction, by one of the most popular Romanian  painters from the 16th century: Dragos Coman.

Pătrăuți

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The monastery of Pătrăuți built in 1487, is the oldest religious building ever to be constructed by Stephan the Great (III of Moldavia). The paintings, dating back to 1550, are still partially visible in the West facade.

Probota

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The monastery of Probota, built in 1530, was the first on in Moldavia to have frescos on the outside, today sadly fading. The ones on the inside though, are well preserved. The church was partially restored in the past in different periods.

Suceava

Above: picture via Wikimedia Commons, licence Creative Commons 2.0

The monastery of Suceava, built between the 1514 and 1522, was originally the metropolitan church of Moldavia. Today it is seat of the archbishop of Suceava and Radauti. The monastery is dedicated to St John the New of  Suceava, a monk who preached his creed during the Turkish occupation and subsequently god martyred.

From 1993, all those churches painted in Moldavia became  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

tutte le Chiese dipinte della Moldavia sono Patrimonio dell’umanità dell’UNESCO

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