Neamt Monastery

Neamt Monastery is one of the oldest Orthodox monasteries of Moldova, active throughout its entire history, since the 14th century, when the original wooden church which belongs to a monastic ensemble was built by Stephen the Great (Ștefan cel Mare). Although there was another place of worship built there, it was in an advanced state of disuse due to Tatar attacks and to a great earthquake. Stephen the Great (Prince of Moldavia) decided to build a new church by cancelling the restoration of the old church. The new church, called „The Holy Ascension of the Lord” (or “Church of the Ascension – Înălțarea Domnului“) was sanctified on 14th of November, 1497.

The Church of the Ascension is a beautiful religious edifice highly representative for the Moldavian architectural style: grand proportions, harmonious silhouette, richly embellished facade. It is the biggest and most imposing church built by Stephen the Great. The Neamt Monastery church underwent many changes in time. The initially small-sized windows were later enlarged and put in Gothic stone frames. The roof also underwent changes from its initial shape. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Neamt church had a short roof with a neoclassic gable. The steeple had a bulb-shaped roof with baroque influences.

The interior painting of the Neamt Monastery marks two distinct phases: the reign of Stephen the Great, seen through the altar, nave, chamber of the tombs, and the reign of Petru Rareș (1527-1546), represented by the frescoes of narthex and porch. Visitors can differentiate the two fresco decoration styles, both by the decorative features and its narrative style. There are differences regarding the size of the frames in which the scenes are painted.

The Neamt Monastery Museum houses a rich treasure of clerical art items, many of which were crafted by the monks: icons, Bibles, crosses, goblets, embroidery, weaves, and wooden or stone sculptures. In the same museum visitors can see a replica of the sword and crown of Stephen the Great. As at Neamt Monastery there used to be a center for calligraphers and miniature painters from the 14th century, many of the manuscripts from here were delivered to Putna and other monasteries in Moldavia. Monks at the Neamț monastery genuinely mastered the craft of embroidery; their use of various needle points enabled them to create such spectacular effects as to render embroidery as suggestive as painting. Father Makarios the Serb – Abbott of the Neamt Monastery wrote here the First Moldavian Chronicle as per the order of the duke Peter Rares. These rich scholarly traditions were continued and developed in the 19th century by the advent of the typography. The Neamt Monastery features the richest monastic library in Romania, with over 18000 tomes, among which 600 are manuscripts. The apogee of Neamt Monastery was probably in the late 18th century, when almost 1000 monks used to live in the precinct of the monastery.

The Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God from Neamț Monastery is the oldest documented icon in Romania, and considered the most valuable, from a historical and spiritual point of view. The icon was donated to the Moldovan Ruler Prince Alexander the Good in the year 1401 by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos. For over 600 years this icon strengthened the Christian Orthodox faith of rulers, monastics and the faithful throughout Romania /Orthodoxchristian.com/.

Also, in the same area, there is a famous Neamt Fortress recently renovated and re-opened for visiting. The oldest part of the Neamt Fortress was built at the end of the 1300’s, and expanded all the way until the late 1600’s. Neamt Fortress played a major part in the battles against the advancing Ottoman armies, all throughout the Medieval Ages.

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