This year, PCRO is trying out a new thing when it comes to language and cultural training. The staff in the Bucharest has opted to give us the option of creating our own language weekends and to structure them how we see fit which I think is a great idea. This weekend, about 8 PCVs from groups 28 and 27 descended on to Suceava for a language/culture weekend that Melissa put together. Our plan was to make our way around Suceava county visiting as many famous painted Monasteries as daylight would allow. A little history about the monasteries: During the late 15th to 16th centuries when the Ottoman Empire was trying its hardest to conquer as much land as possible, Ștefan Cel Mare (Stephan the Great), the ruler of Moldova at the time, was the one who withheld the Turks for the longest period of time. Winning 46 out of his 48 battles, he would erect a church after every battle since the war was so heavily guided by religion. There are 8 churches within Suceava county that are UNESCO world heritage sites. The locations we visited were Putna, Sucevița, Moldovița, and Voroneț.
Putna – Ștefan Cel Mare built this monastery in about 1466 and it was then later rebuilt several times due to fires and other events that destroyed it. This monastery is very important because it houses the tomb of not only Ștefan Cel Mare, but also many of his family members. The legend of Putna Monastery has it that after defeat that left him severely wounded, Ștefan Cel Mare wandered the land until he reached the home of Danil the Hermit who took him in patched up his wounds. One day, Danil took Ștefan outside and pointed to a spot amongst the mountains and asked Ștefan if he saw anything. The third time the hermit asked, Ștefan said that he saw lights. The hermit told him that those were not lights but angels and if he was going to defeat his enemies, he would need to build a monastery on that very spot. The next day, Ștefan headed to the top of a mountain and shot 3 arrows. Where the arrows landed, he built the alter, belfry, and gate.
Marginea –Along with its many artistic monasteries, the northern Moldova region is also known for his black ceramic pottery. On our way to Suceavița, we stopped at a ceramic workshop in the sleepy town of Marginea. We got to browse around around a bit take in the beauty of the dark clay.
Sucevița – Another UNESCO site, built in 1583, this monastery was one of my favorites. The ornate paintings on the wall were absolutely beautiful. This church is actually the only church in the area that was not founded by a ruling prince but was rather founded by 3 brothers. Although related to Petru Rareș ( the illegitimate son of Ștefan Cel Mare) on their mothers side, these three brothers ended up becoming well known rulers within the country after the building of the church. The church is dedicated to the resurrection and the main color used for the outside paintings is sea foam green. One of the large side walls shows St. John’s ladder into heaven that is very impressive and one of the attraction points of the church.
Moldovița – Moldovița was founded by Petru Rareș (the illegitimate son of Ștefan Cel Mare) in 1532. This church is dedicated to the annunciation and one of the side walls contains the entire Tree of Jesse. The predominant color used on these walls is a rich golden yellow.
Voroneț –This monastery was our final stop and we definitely saved the best for last. When walking onto the grounds, there is nothing all that special about the church or surrounding areas. the church itself has become prisoner to some torentious wind throughout the years and most of the pictures have faded with the north wall nearly all washed away. The saving grace to this church is not only that it is dedicated to St. George, only the best saint ever in my book, but the mural that is very visible on the west wall of the church. That mural was the most extravagent and interesting peice of artwork that I saw the entire weekend and I was stunned. With its main color a shade of blue that has become known as Voroneț blue, the whole wall depicts the last judgement with such great detail one can stare up at it for hours without a falter in amazement.
To see the rest of the pictures for this past weekend, click the link below: