Dragomirna Monastery

Dragomirna Monastery is in a beautiful area, close to the forest, next to a lake, beyond the village Mitocul Dragomirnei, 12 kilometers from Suceava. It was founded in 1609 by the scholar, artist and bishop Anastasie Crimca. Another little church had been built in 1602, previous to the building of the great monastery. This little church can be seen today in the graveyard of the Dragomirna monastery. In 1620 the monastery was surrounded, for defensive purposes, by powerful walls with 11m high towers which made the monastery appear like a fortress. A tower with a belfry which is the actual entrance of the monastery was also added.

42 m high and only 9.60 m wide, this church is the tallest one in Moldavia and extremely narrow, which renders it uncommonly elegant. The edifice has an elongated rectangular plan, only one polygonal apse towards west, the cable string course which girdles the building at half height and decorates it on the inside is of Wallachian inspiration, but it originates in Georgia or Armenia. The windows are in Gothic style, the stone church tower has vegetable and geometric ornaments – amazing, exotic carving, embroidery of Caucasian inspiration that can be found only at the – Trei Ierarhi- Church (Three Hierarchs Church) in Iasi. The traditional polychromy is replaced by the magnificently carved stone. The interior, too, is very impressive (cable stone ribs, rosettes, heraldic shields, pavements progressively raised in seven steps from the porch to the sanctuary). After 1620, the increasing danger of Turks’, Tartars’, Poles’, Cossacks attacks made the ruling prince Miron Barnovski surround the monastery with stone walls (11 m high), square corner towers, battlements, strong buttresses and a belfry tower with entrance passageway (chapel) marked with the medieval Moldavia’s coat of arms above the arcade adorned with rosettes and floral motifs. There is also the refectory, a large room with ogival vaults supported in the center by an octagonal pillar. In the vicinity, there still is the small church, well proportioned, sober, with building elements of Wallachian influences, and which announces the renunciation of some traditional elements (open porch, three windows in the sanctuary) Dragomirna is one of a kind, with its graceful lightness and outstanding artistry of stone base-relieves. While the belt bears influences from Tara Romaneasca, the windows stand for the Gothic style. The spire of the church is sculptured in stone replacing the traditional paintings. The interior is pretty much the same as the exterior with heraldic sculptures.

Popa Craciun, Maties, Popa Ignat and Gligorie, local masters painted the nave , making a unitary ensemble strewn with elements of the environment, chromatically harmonious. On looking at the cupola and at the arcade of an uncommon splendor given by the blend of architecture, painting, and sunlight, one gets an impression similar to the one the writer Procopie had on contemplating the huge cupola of the Saint Sophia Church, Justinian’s foundation, that it is not so much supported by the masonry, but rather seems to be suspended from the sky with a golden chain (P. Comarnescu). The gilded wooden iconostasis (1613) was brought from the Solca Monastery. One of the gravestones (in the porch) bears a Greek inscription in the memory of the architect Epicrates (2nd-1st centuries B.C.). It is said that it covers the tomb of the master Dima who is supposed to have built the church. The white inscriptionless tombstone (in the narthex) covers the founder’s resting-place (1629). The painters were formed in the Moldavian School of Fine Arts. They used Moldavian manuscripts miniatures , but they firmly respected the Orthodox Church canonical dogmas. Let’s mention only a few exceptionally beautiful,representative works: “Gethsemane garden”,”Jesus Arrested”,”The Crucifixion”,”The Burial of Jesus”. The realism of painters did not seek out biblical ancient subjects, but applied their brushes to the most every day themes , so we can find many folk elements , like clothing and decorating, thus their work has a great documentary value.

The museum (in the refectory) holds valuable medieval works of art and culture: a cross carved in ebony (1542), a bound evangelistary (1557), embroidered towels with which liturgical vessels are covered (1559), embroideries in golden and silver threads (1598), the candle which was lit at the consecration of the big church, gilded silver book bindings (Grigorie Moisiu), of great value are the works of the School of calligraphers and miniaturists, founded at Dragomirna by Metropolitan Anastasie Crimca who was also an artist – there still are five manuscripts written by Anastasie Crimca himself (1609-1616), evincing innovation and talent in this field, too.

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