The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina were named as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1993.
Probably the most famous of the painted monasteries is Voronet, founded in 1487 by Stephen the Great to celebrate a victory over the Turks. Widely known throughout Europe as "the Sistine Chapel of the East" due to its interior and exterior wall paintings, this monastery offers an abundance of frescoes featuring an intense shade of blue commonly known as "Voronet blue". The composition of the paint remains a mystery more than 500 years after the church was built, and still remains vibrant.
Frescoes of this church illustrate biblical scenes, such as The Last Judgment and Jacob's Ladder.
The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993.
Humor Monastery was the first of four painted monasteries we visited in Bucovina, and I think it was my favorite. It was smaller than the other four (Voronet, Sucavita, and Moldovita being the other three). The monastery was founded in 1530, and has many beautifully preserved frescoes, including one of the Return of the Prodigal Son, and one large one of "the Last Judgement", which was a common theme in the churches we visited. We were told that Humor Monastery was one of the first of Bucovina’s painted monasteries to be fresco-ed and, is probably one of the best preserved religious sites in the region.
The church is topped by a cross-shaped shingled roof, without a steeple, which indicates it was built by a court official rather than a prince. The dominant colors of the frescoes are reddish-brown with rich blues and green infusions.
The day of our visit, we could hear chanting and bells/tones and saw several solumn looking nuns walking around - we found out later that it was the day John the Baptist was martyred, and therefore a holy day.
Any place dubbed the Sistine Chapel of the East should be special and Voroneţ truely is. It's the most beautiful of the painted monasteries of Bucovina, especially its Last Judgement on the western wall is marvelous. It's a miracle that the colours withstood the elements so well. As a matter of fact its blue is so special that it got a name of its own: Voroneţ blue.
The monastery was built by Stephen the Great of Moldavia in just three months in 1488, after an important victory over the Turks. The paintings are a bit younger, from 1550.
Despite its name, Humor Monastery is serious business. Like the other painted monasteries, it was built at a time when this area was fighting an ever growing Turkish influence. As it was constructed by Teodor Bubuiog, chancellor of the Moldovan prince Petru Rareş, Humor never was a princely monastery and therefore doesn't have a spire, like the other monasteries. Under Turkish and Austrian rule the monastery fell in decay and it was only in 1991 that a religious community returned to Humor, after an absence of more than 200 years.
Although the frescoes here are more faded then in Voroneţ or Moldoviţa, what remains still merits the trip and gave Humor a place on the World Heritage List. On the outside walls, in beautiful red and blue, the Last Judgment and the Hymn to the Virgin are depicted. The interior, where photography is permitted by way of exception, shows scenes from the Gospel and martyrdoms. Notice how the painter seems to take pleasure in picturing the cruellest tortures.
This is a good example of the clarity of the frescoes. These paintings served a greater importance than simply adding an aesthetic quality to a house of worship: They told Biblical and historical stories to villagers unable to read the old world Slavonic language employed by the Eastern Orthodox church.
The preservation of the Voronet frescoes makes the monastery stand out from other in the region. Some have faded, though restoration work is on the upswing as tourist visits and money flow into the monastery have increased in recent years.
Although not as colorful as Voronet, Humor still warrants a visit. It was built in 1530 and is one of the first Romanian Monasteries to be painted in the Byzantine style. Many of the frescoes have faded quite a bit, but the interior of the monastery is still covered in beautiful paintings. Where Voronet is famed for its shade of blue, Humor is known the pink hue suffusing most of its frescoes.
Voronet Monastery (pronounced "Voronets"), is a pleasant 5 km walk from Gura Humorului on rural roads, through scenic farmland. It was built in 1488. The exterior frescoes were painted by Petru Rares, and are in superb condition. The masterpiece is the Last Judgment - I stared at this for a good 30 minutes. It is in brilliant blue hues, and shows what happens to various people on the judgment day. You see certain groups of people being selected for Heaven, and others for Hell, as well as depictions of those people's lives in Heaven and Hell. This will scare anyone into being good the rest of their days.
This tower is on the grounds of the Humor Monastery and despite its short stature, it requires a dangerous climb to the top, via high, narrow, and extremely steep steps. The tower, built in 1641, provides a nice view of the surrounding area.
The Voronet Monastery is desribed as the Sistine Chapel of the East and it is really quite impressive. Stefan Cel Mare, the great Moldavian hero who staved off Turkish invaders for many years, built Voronet in 1488 to celebrate a victory over the Turks. Cel Mare's son, Petru Rares, added the fantastically preserved and highly detailed frescoes in 1524. Voronet is known for its rich blue, the dominant color in the paintings.
This is the west wall of Voronets and it is known for its detailed depiction of the Last Judgement. The diminishing red dash on the wall is the River of Fire from Hell.