Sucevita Monastery

The church itself is enclosed by a massive rectangular curtain wall with a pointed tower at each corner and an equally impressive gate tower; it prevented the mural paintings from serious damaging as it happened with frescoes of other painted monasteries. The church has a tall tower on a triple star base and separate conical roofs aver the east end; the two doors at the west end are modelled on a Wallachian design , the only striking difference with other Moldavian churches. Paintings at Sucevita were the best preserved both on the outside and on the inside. Frescoes are painted in purple red and blue against an emerald green background. There is plenty of gold, too. They belong to the Romanian masters of the Moldavian school of painting, Ioan the Painter and his brother Sofronie of Suceava.

The most outstanding painting is the “Ladder of Virtue”, which covers part of the north wall, presenting the angels who assist righteous enter the Paradise, while sinners are punished by a grinning demon. It represents the First Judgement of the soul after death and shows the struggles of individual monks to make the journey to Heaven. Each bar of the ladder shows alternately advice or a virtue, with Charity at the top. Here, Christ leans out of the window of Heaven to welcome people in.

Next to the Ladder is a Genesis cycle, showing further attempts by mortals to enter the Garden of Paradise. The “Last Judgement” on the west wall was left unfinished because its painter fell of the scaffoldings and died. The fresco has scenes with the Romanians’ traditional enemies, the Turks, getting ready for the “Last Judgement”. Outside the porch can be seen the terrible vision of the Apocalypse, displaying its two-headed Beasts, with angels pouring rivers of fire, a Christ Pantokrator, and a series of pictures that celebrate the arrival of St John the New’s relics at the Court of Alexandru cel Bun.

On the southern wall, there is a remarkable “Jesse Tree”, displaying both the human origin of Jesus, under the form of His family tree, and his divine ascendance, as the “Prayers to the Holy Virgin” scene is also painted nearby. Theologically, the “Tree of Jesse” is a symbol of the continuity between the Old and the New Testaments. The tree at Sucevita is an evolved version as compared to the same scene at Voronet. The “Crowning of the Virgin”, a theme, which is not common for Byzantine art, is a sample of the Polish influence upon Moldavia.Other important paintings at Sucevita are the “Siege of Constantinople”, proves the great impact this historical event had upon Eastern civilization and culture.

In the nave, on the right side wall, one can see a faded votive painting of Elisabeta Ieremia’s wife”, together with her children and a model of the church as it looked when new. Become a widow she had never seen her offsprings on the throne, as she died in a Sultan’s harem, far away from her country. Ieremia and his brother Gheorghe were burnt. In the “gropnita” (burial chamber) the paintings concentrate on the Life of Moses and feature more local touches: Jews with pointed hats and animals such as dogs and pigs. On the naos walls are paintings from the lives of St. Nicholas and George, while the other sections are devoted to the Synods and the Calendar. The museum of the monastery holds precious objects among which illuminated manuscripts and embroideries sewn with pearls and donated by the Movila family. Important restoration works were carried on between 1960 and 1970.