Rasca Monastery

In 1542 Petru Rares erected over the foundations of this church a stone church, which has been preserved until today and to which a series of modifications were brought throughout the centuries. As it stands today, the church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is of trefoil plan, and it comprises the following divisions: a porch of large dimensions, the narthex, the nave, and the altar. On the outside, on the southern side, it has a porch of small dimensions which is open and which belongs to a more recent epoch. The church has two bell-towers; one is situated on the nave, with an octagonal base, while the upper base is surrounded by a row of niches. On this base stands the bell-tower, which has the same octagonal shape, with a window on four of the eight sides. The second bell-tower, which is placed above the porch built by the minister Costea Bacioc, has obvious similarities with the bell-tower from the time of Petru Rares.

Throughout the centuries the church underwent a series of alterations. Two stages can be distinguished: the first stage is that of the reign of Petru Rares and the second, that during the time of Costea Bacioc, who ordered the building of a large porch near the old church.

The church is covered by the paintings made by the Greek painter Stamatelos Kotronas in 1552 and the surviving fragments cover half of the southern façade. The most appreciated iconographic themes in the outer mural paintings of Risca are Judgment Day and The Ladder of Virtues, an iconographic transposition of the principles mentioned in the fundamental book of ascetic monachism written on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the 7th century by John the Hermit, who was the first to apply the ladder of virtues. The murals were restored in the early 19th century.

Inside the church, the frescoes have been overpainted but traces of the original work are still visible in places. The finest passages can be found in the sanctury, where they celebrate the life of St. Nicholas, and in the naos. The votive picture has a doubtless historical value among the inner mural paintings. In this picture, Petru Rares is depicted offering Jesus Christ a church with three bell-towers, although he built a church with only one tower on the nave, so this picture must have been painted later, after Costea Bacioc enlarged the old church, adding a wooden tower and a brick one.

The Monastery of Risca was a powerful cultural center and at present has a community of 35 monks. Here Macarie, Bishop of Roman, wrote his chronicle, and he is buried inside the church. Among the graves that can be found here there is also that of Anastasia, the mother of Alexandru Lapusneanu. The church is surrounded by a high trapezoidal wall made of stone, with two towers, one on the northwestern side, and the other at the entrance to the south, tall, and massive, with a chamber above, where the bell-tower is situated. In this tower was exiled Mihail Kogalniceanu in 1844, on the order of Mihail Sturza.