Voronet Monastery, the most famous painted Medieval monastery in Romania

In the Northern part of Romania, between Moldova and Transylvania, lies Bucovina, a beautiful countryside sprinkled with forested hills and small mountains. It is the home of some of the most beautiful monasteries in Eastern Europe, the painted monasteries of Bucovina. These Byzantyne style religious monuments were built during the 15th and 16th centuries and their most impressive features are the intricate and vividly colored frescoes painted on the exterior, as well as the interior walls, the murals, and the overall architecture. The frescoes are a way to visually tell various stories from the Bible.

The most famous of all is Voronet monastery built in 1488 by the Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great. According to the legend, Stephen was on the brink of losing a big war against the Ottoman Empire. He was in a bad mood and sought advice from a hermit who lived near Voronet village. Daniel advised the prince to continue the fight. This was one of the most impressive and hard won battles in Romanian history, known as the Battle of Vaslui. Stephen built and dedicated the Voronet monastery to Saint George to celebrate his victory. Daniel became the first abbot of Voronet monastery and was buried inside it.

The monastery can be accessed through the city of Gura Humorului. A sign indicates to turn onto a pretty narrow and sometimes bumpy road. After passing by Moldova river and leaving behind a crossroad, the picturesque Voronet village emerges. The village is older than the monastery. Many residents of this area are skilled in hundreds of years old traditional arts and crafts, visible not only in the architectural style of the houses, but also in the art that villagers put out on display.

Voronet monastery is surrounded by forested mountains and a high-walled fence. The entrance fee is 10 Roni (approx. $2.50) per person. The first thing your eyes will experience is the beautiful balance between the dominant blue color of the exterior frescoes and the blue sky (… on a clear day). Voronet church is famous for this special hue of blue named “the Voronet blue” and for its Gothic style architecture.

In addition to scenes from the Bible, the frescoes also include a painting of Prince Stephen the Great and several symbols, such as the Moldavian coat of arms. The inside of the church was painted during Stephen’s reign, while the outside was painted at the request of Stephen’s son, Prince Petru Rares.

Petru took his father’s concept even further and is credited with turning all monasteries of Bucovina into works of art, by adding exterior frescoes. He built the monasteries of Humor (1530) and Probota (1530), while his father built Putna (1466), Patrauti (1487), and Voronet. This became a tradition during the Middle Ages. Every time a prince came out of a battle victorious, he would build a monastery dedicated to a Christian Orthodox saint. The painted monasteries of Bucovina are so unique that have been included on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list since 1993. The other three are: Sucevita (1584), Moldovita (1532), and Arbore (1503-1541).