Arbure Monastery, Romania
Situated at 30 km from Suceava, Arbore Monastery was built between the 2nd of April and the 29th of August 1503, by Luca Arbore, one of Stephen the Greatís generals, in the village of Soloca, that he owned. The monument has been consecrated to the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
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. There is no steeple, as it was built by a landowner, and not by a ruling prince.
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, and is now lost in the mist of time. However, scientists were able to identify thirty substances, including animal size, vinegar, egg, gall and honey. 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 Saintsí 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 Slaves upon Constantinople in 617.
The two heavy slabs of stone preserved near the church since the time it was painted have fifteen small holes which used to serve as containers for the mixing of colours, thus providing the large display of shades used by Moldavian painters.
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 is a UNESCO protected site.
To see some of the monastery frescoes, click here.