Dragomirna Monastery

Built between 1602 and 1609 in a rather austere style, the exterior of the Dragomirna Monastery Church favored a practical stone facade rather than frescoes. Due to the continuous attacks of the Ottoman Turks, the religious architecture at the time was focused more on protection than decoration. The structure of Dragomirna Monastery is impressive through its sheer size, featuring the tallest fortified walls in Bucovina. Placed among the beautiful hills of Bucovina, at 12 km West from the old residence of Steven the Great and the Bishops of Moldavia, the Dragomirna Monastery stands tall defying time, inside the fortress walls which make the appearance of a fortification. Built as to face the heights, in a search for light from among the forest, shadowed by a curtain of fir and oak trees and majestically reflected by the lake nearby, this place of prayer, by its ancientness and the originality of its style and its elegant and solid shape and by the picturesqueness awakens the admiration of each visitor, so that in its presence the pilgrim is as impressed as is the historian or the art critic. Besides the beauty of the landscape, and the unusual location, what leaves an unforgettable impression is the peculiar elegance of the Dragomirna monument, withholding geometrical rigors of great taste, an unique stature through its proportions and lengths, exceeding all of the other Moldavian medieval monuments. In 1609 the dedication of the larger church was made to the “Descent of the Holy Spirit”. Probably this uniqueness of the monument attracted since early times the attention of experts, whom, depending on the period of time they lived in, spoke of its value, always giving special reason to its great originality. Nicolae Iorga praised Dragomirna Monastery’s matchless beauty, its greatness and the over all impression it leaves upon the watchers.

The Architectural complex Dragomirna, built between the borders of two centuries, holds the two characteristics of the Moldavian architectural style. The Dragomirna Medieval Art Complex includes the small church, the big church, the defensive surrounding walls, the old building of the ecumenism, the five towers, the monks cells. The early 17th century frescoes in the nave and chancel of the Dragomirna Monastery church portray scenes from the life of Christ, saints, angels and a massive range of Christian iconography, all in wonderful color, and in a style of remarkable vigor and energy. The whole iconography assessment, based on two main composition, the first is the “pentocrator” (icon on the dome of the church representing Jesus Christ, with a kind look, slim figure and long beard), the second is the higher part of the apse in the altar, of great elegance, built in such a way, in both elevation and depth, thus creating an impression of movement. The red background of the sky gives grandeur and a special brilliance. The most interesting aspect of all is that behind these treasures, once again we find the work of the pundit and artist, the Great Bishop, who knew how to create a piece of art due to his coworkers and his great taste. From all the riches offered by Crimca and other rulers remain very few, because at only a few years after it was finished, in the spring of 1653, the Monastery was robbed by the Cossacks, ruled by Timiuş Hmelniţki. Miron Costin writes in his book about the sad event Dragomirna Monastery had to go through: “Timus, just after arriving in the town of Suceava, started to plunder. Dragomirna was the first Monastery they attacked. They stole the precious artifacts and burned the priests’ clothes. They acted like savages and heretics.” According to an inscription on the porch wall, on the 2nd of October 1758, the Monastery had been robbed by Tatars. Under Austrian command, after 1775, the Monastery lost its architectural adornment and the church furniture. Uncountable artifacts, manuscripts, embroideries, silver-work, icons give the visitor a hint of the cultural and artistic life led inside this Monastery. They are kept within a collection of great historical and artistic value inside the Gothic Chamber.

There are several artifacts dating back from before Dragomirna Monastery was built that distinguish through their great value: a cerement for the Holy Goblet, offered to the Voroneţ Monastery by the Great Bishop Grigorie Roşca in 1559, the Gospel from 1557 and the wooden cross, beautifully carved in 1542. The most valuable possessions are manuscripts of the Dragomirna Calligraphy and Miniature School. One of the important representatives of the Romanian art of painting in medieval times, Anastasie Crimca, exquisite miniaturist and calligrapher, is the copyist of many manuscripts of the 17th century. Genuine contributions to the rebirth of the cultural and historical past, the Slavonic manuscripts contain many authentic notes of the scholars of the epoch, real pages of history. The artistic treasury of Dragomirna Treasury reveals certain areas inside the artistic domain, such as embroidery and the art of transforming precious metals. Some of the objects were donated to the Dragomirna Monastery by the Bishop Anastasie Crimca, who was writer, calligrapher and illuminating. Those items include the epitaphs from 1612 and 1626, which stands out through their refined structure, sewed with gold and silver thread on the warm background of the bordeaux and green velvet. A beautiful artifact made out of silver and carved into wood, almost a miniature is the cross offered by Anastasie Crimca in 1624. Another historical artifact is the epitaph bearing the illustration of Jesus Burial, embroidery with golden and silver thread on a silk background and which was offered by the Great Bishop Varlaam of Rostov to the Great Bishop Anastasie Crimca. This epitaph had been hand-made in Russia in 1588, the embroidery being priceless through its age and delicate workmanship. The Exhibition in the Gothic Chamber of the Dragomirna Museum contains: a copy of the “Cazania”, by Varlaam, printed in 1643 in Iaşi, the first book written in Romanian, in Moldavia, using the Cyrillic alphabet, two epitaphs form the 17th century representing one of them angels and seraphs, and the other Saint Hierarchs, a candle made of painted wax, hand-made by the founder, lit during the religious service of dedicating a church, a Crystal candelabrum offered by the Empress Catherine II of Russia, crosses of smaller dimensions belonging to several abbots of the Monastery, artifacts from the 18th century, two lecterns remain only from the old furniture of Dragomirna Monastery. Visitors can choose to spend a night inside the walls the Dragomirna Monastery or in the nearby pleasant accommodation facilities.

 

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