Dragomira monastery

The architectural art of the monastery is unique, combining the Byzantine tradition and the Occidental influences in a manner that will become later on specific to Moldavian architecture. The monastery of Dragomirna was built in a marvellous area, close to the forest, beyond the village Mitocul Dragomirnei, 12 kilometres from the town of Suceava.

Dragomirna monastery was built by Mitropolitan Crimca and the Stroici family between 1602 and 1609, shortly after Mihai Viteazul had unified the three Romanian-speaking countries. The workings were finished in 1609, and the monastery received the festival “The Holy Spirit’s Descending”. Crimca was a highly educated man and a practising artist, and he established a famous miniature and icon-painting school here. Legend has it that Price Stefan Tomsa, the patron of Solca monastery, was so jealous of Crimca’s craftsmen that he chased the unlucky bishop and attacked him with a mace. Crimca managed to reach Dragomirna but died soon afterwards; the monastery was eventually completed by Prince Miron Barnovschi. The monastery’s name means “love of peace”. Closed down by the communists, it reopened in the early 1990s as a covent and now has a community of ten nuns.

Before Dragomirna was built, prices were the only people who had the right to erect towers on Moldavian churches. But here the voivide waived the rule, and as a mark of gratitude Crimca and his co-founders constructed a particulary fine cupola on a triple star base, ornamented with tapestry-like stone carvings. At the west end of the church are the handsome gate tower and cells, built in 1627 by Barnovschi.The plaque fixed over the entrance door reveals that it was dedicated to the saints Enoh, Saint Ilie and Saint John the Evangelist. The Moldavian architecture of that time will register a leap in its evolution through this building with innovative proportions and elements. Standing 42m high and 9.6m wide, it length is equal to its height. This makes it look impossibly tall and thin, an effect enhanced by the restrained pattern of blind arcading and sheer walls that have hardly any buttressing.

Half way up the walls is the cable motif (brau), which girdles the entire body of the church and subtly counterbalance the verticality of the walls, helping to ground the building in the mind’s eye. In Bucovina the rope motif represents the infinite nature of God’s kingdom. Here the brau consists of three ‘strands’ symbolising the Trinity and the union of Romania’s three ancient principalities: Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia. It is continued inside the church, around arches and window frames. Once you stepped into the monastery, one cannot help to notice the gradual heightening of the rooms, starting from the porch and moving to the altar and the rich network of nerves aligned almost everywhere, coloured in red, blue, gold yellow, and loaded with drawings inspired by the old church manuscripts.

There are wall paintings in the naos which are inscribed in Romanian using Slavonic characters, and a fine baroque iconostasis which comes from medieval church of Solca. And to make it perfect, various sculptures appear here and there. The museum of the monastery holds precious objects among which valuable works of culture and medieval art: a cross sculptured in ebony (1542), manuscripts wrote by Anastasie Crimca, embroideries made by golden and silver thread (1598), ecclesiastical objects and the candle lighted at the time the church was hollowed.