Arbore Monastery

The Decollation of Saint John the Baptist Church of Arbore village. It is built on a rectangular plane, suggesting in the interior the idea of a triconch by high deep niches bored in the wall. A semicircular arcade doubles on the outside the west wall of the pronaos.

The Decollation of Saint John the Baptist Church, raised in 1503, functioned as burial place for the family of the founder. It was there that he was buried in 1522. In 1541 his granddaughter had the painter Dragos Coman de Iasi decorate the church. Later, after the extinction of the family, the chapel was turned into a village church.

Having a rectangular plan, the church has walls made of raw stone and vaults made of brick. Smaller than other painted churches, Arbore has a gloomy narthex and a nave with large windows.

It has remarkable fresco exterior and interior paintings against a predominant green background, unlike Voronet, where blue predominates. The green is in five shadows and 47 hues combined with red, blue, yellow, pink and ochre. The secret of combining colours was kept by Moldavian master painters to their grave. However, scientists were able to identify thirty substances. Restorers cannot hope to duplicate the paint: they can only stabilize what has been left of the frescoes.

The paintings were made by a team led by Dragos Coman from Iasi. Most of them represent scenes taken from the Genesis and the Saints’ lives. They are delicate and vivid, whereas houses are drawn in perspective. The best preserved frescoes are found on the relatively sheltered south and west walls. Among the most valuable scenes one may see are The Hymn of the Prayers to the Virgin, The Siege of Constantinople, The Last Judgement, The Prodigal Son and many others.

The Siege of Constantinople is a syncretic representation of the attacks of Persians, Avars and Slavs upon Constantinople in 617. The two heavy slabs of stone preserved near the church since the time it was painted have fifteen small holes. In the narthex one may find the tombs of the church founders, i.e. Luca Arbore and his wife, Iuliana.

Inside the monastery, an ethnographic museum with a rich display of the region’s most valuable assets is worth visiting. The monastery was restored between 1909-1914 and 1936-1937, and appears on the UNESCO list of monuments.