Neamt Monastery

Founded in the 14th century as a skete by Petru I Musat, Neamt monastery witnessed many historical events of the nation. Jewel of 15th century architecture, the church was built by Stephen the Great and finished in the year when the Moldavian army won the battle against King Ioan Albert (1497). In that year the architects extended the nave to the east by expanding the bay in front of the apse and adding a tomb chamber between naos and pronaos.

Sumptuous, with delicate colour effects, the monastery shows the maturity of the Moldavian architectonic style, which matured during Stephen the Great’s period. The façade of the church is covered with the decoration characteristic of Stephen the Great ‘s time: Gothic windows and friezes with enamelled disks, coloured in greeen, yellow and brown. In the burial chamber “gropnita”, which appear for the first time at this church, is the tomb of Stefan al II-lea, son of Alexandru cel Bun and uncle of Stefan cel Mare.

The church is huge, with an overall length of over 40m, making it only a fraction smaller tham St. George in Suceava. Here the basilica and trefoil merge, so that the exterior looks Western and the interior Byzantine, with a vast central space enclosed by clusters of apses and crowned by pendantives and domes.

In the pathway leading from the entrance to the church a stone marks the spot where, in the early 1990s, a monk noticed that some of the slabs had inexplicably been raised. Acheologists who dug underneath found the bones of a man thought to have been Paisie Velicikovschi an abbot of Neamt, as he is also known becoming a monk while studying on Mount Athos. Inspired by the ancient wisdom of the Holly Mountain, he came to Moldavia in 1763. A few years latter he settled at Neamt monastery, where he translated many important religious text into Romanian. He is regarded as one of the greatest abbots Romania has ever known.

The art treasures kept at Neamt Monastery are proof of the intense artistic and cultural activity, which took place here through the centuries. Here Gavril Uric showed his talent, the most important representative of the Moldavian miniature from the 15th century. His first known manuscript, dated 1429, is kept in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (UK). The calligraphers and miniaturists of Stephen the Great who worked at this important center made many of the books given to Putna Monastery. In the cells of the monastery, the chronicler Macarie wrote the chronicle of Petru Rare’s rule, and Eftimie the chronicle of Alexandru Lapusneanu’s rule.

The Monastery of Neamt shelters a collection of valuable historical and art objects that is kept and guarded with utmost care. A piece whose importance derives from its age and art value is the altar screen that belonged to the church in the Neamt Citadel. After 1717 when Citadel of Neamt ceased to exist, the propriety of monastery from the citadel was divided between the Monastery of Neamt and Secu. The altar screen was given to the parochial church Saint John the Baptizer in the Vinatori – Neamt community.

The learned tradition of the Neamt Monastery disappeared in the 17th and 18th centuries, to be reborn at the begining of next century, when Metropolitan Veniamin Costachi established a printing house here. In the monastery museum is the old printing press, which was used to print books since 1807. In the monastery is a famous library more than 600 years old. Among the almost 11,000 volumes are many rare books, some being the first ones printed in this country. The altar screen of the former church from Neamt Fortress, is the most important treasure of all those in the monastery, along with the icon painted by Nicolae Grigorescu “The Flight from Egypt”. The Monastery of Neamt was a real school for the education of the personalities who played an important part in the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Many monks of Neamt were nominated bishops in Radauti, Husi, Roman, Buzau or metropolitans of Suceava, Iasi, Craiova and Bucharest. The majority of those who honored the church hierarchy have also been abbots of the monastery