Jan '05 - Jan '07
This is small part from a thesis about the orthodox icons and the monasteries in Moldavia. The subject is very large, and goes a lot deeper then this.
One of the biggest cultural tourist attraction in Romania are the orthodox Moldavian monasteries, built between the 15th and 17th century. One of the things that makes them different among other monasteries (except for architectural details), is the exterior painting of the monasteries' church walls. Exterior paintings on churches are a common phenomenon also in countries like Bulgaria, Iran, Serbia or even western countries, but never on the whole surface like here.
The first of these monasteries were built under the emperor Stefan cel Mare (1457-1504). The process of painting them was iniated by his son, Petru Rares who ruled between 1527-1538 and 1541-1546. He also painted the churches built by his father.
The painting of the entire exterior surface of the church is an original element, explained as an propagandist manifesto, ment to mobilize the spirits for the anti ottoman campaign that was being prepared. They didn't reinvent biblical scenes, they only chose the ones they could use to express the fight with the trukish empire (the ottomans were the represantion of evil).
The paintings in the othodox churches (they are actually not religious paintings but icons, but that's another subject) are ment amongst other things to be very easy to understand even by the simple people, to represent the whole philosophy and the religion in images. But then again, why shouldn't they express other things in the same time?
An example in that sense is the painting of a hymn dedicated to Virgin Mary. The prayer usually has 24 scenes. At the ”˜Humor' and ”˜Moldovita' Monasteries, it has 25. The last ones shows Constantinople under siege. As a common mistake, people believ it was the representattion of the 1453 fall of Constantinople, though it didn't make any sense to show the fall of the capital city of the orthodox religion on an orthodox church. After further investigation it proved to be the persian siege of Constantinople from 626. The legend says they persian attackers have been miraculously put on the run by a religios procession guided by a religious painting (icon) of the Virgin Mary. Only the persian fighters were replaced in the paintings with turkish fighters, as they were the actual enemies of the moldavian people (that explaines the confusion with the 1453 siege). At Sucevita even Constantinople was painted as Suceava (big, important city in Moldavia). This representation is placed on the southern facade, near the entrance, at a height so that you couldn't miss seing it.
On the northern wall you can always find the painting of the Judgement Day. On the left are the saints and other religious figures, on the right the represantation of hell. They are separated by the ”˜river of fire'. In all representations of this scene, in hell you can find all enemies of the Moldavian Empire, from turks to armenian.
After Moldavia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire (so it didn't really work), the paintings didn't represent any turks anymore, and soon after the phenomenon of the exterior paintings stopped.
So one of the most interesting local cultural phenomenons started as an advertising campaign. This is what I call Learning from Moldavia.
entrance and the constantinople siege at the Moldovita monastery. unfortunately i couldn't find better pictures...
the Judgement Day at Voronet Monastery, one of the biggest and most important representations