Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sucevita, RO

Sucevita, RO

Almost Like An All Stained Glass Look
Painted monasteries! The concept of religious devotion and the beauty of living in a monastery are evident in Romania. Since ancient times, people have lived lives that are secluded, committed to God. Their house of worship, the church, is the center of their belief and is a place to be decorated and adorned. Life in a monastery might be monotonous and focused toward the afterlife, yet beauty is still appreciated in the here and now. The monks or nuns, in their wish for a better life, painted their churches, inside and outside. Eight of these old, painted monasteries are on the UNESCO heritage list. Saints, biblical scenes, religious concepts, etc. are painted in fresco form all over the churches. The church looks like a precious jewel, all aglow from far away. Those churches, those ‘jewels’, are hidden within high walls inside fortified monasteries. The whole setup is medieval looking and the concept, while sound during their construction, now seems baffling.
Route 17A, a scenic route on the map, turned out to be a lovely, narrow road and was in better shape than we anticipated. Of course it was very bumpy in spots. We are far from large cities, far from ‘civilization’ and looking back a few hundred years, deep inside the forests. Even today you get the feeling of remoteness, of being alone.  We did not want to see all eight of the monasteries, just a few and get an impression of them. 
Entrance To Moldovita Monastery
Very Colorful Frescoes 
Lovely Roof Line, More Living Quarters
Monks Or Nuns Living Quarters 
Moldovita was the first of them and I was duly impressed. I could get into the feeling of how it must have appeared years ago. The layout is like a small, walled castle, even a very small town if you will, all surrounded by a very high wall. The church is in the center with the monks or nuns living in buildings surrounding the church. Fruit trees, gardens, wells, self-sufficiency were all within the walls.  It was a defensive set up, a protection from marauders or thieves. It offered a quiet, bucolic life, allowing the occupant communication with God and peace. I could see the attraction. I could also see the dangers. Far away from your neighbor, far away from everything, with roving eyes of the needy or wanting, the monasteries were a target.

Over The Top Decorations Inside
The Church Is Almost Like A Chapel 
Defensive positions for the monasteries were selected because they might have to withstand the onslaught of the Ottoman Invaders. Stefan the Great, who won 34 out of 36 (46 of 48?) battles against the Ottoman Empire, and his illegitimate son, Petru RareČ™supported the building of those monasteries. They were built as a ‘thank you’ to God for giving them the fortitude to win their battles. They were very religious men.

It was a different time in the 15 and 16th Century. Religion was at the forefront of their lives. We looked at the physical manifestations of those times, those walled, painted, jewel-like monasteries. It was a step back into history and quite pleasant because we come back and live our lives in today’s world. I am not so sure I would like to have lived then. 

The surrounding town of Moldovita established itself alongside the Monastery with supporting people like blacksmiths, coopers and other tradesmen who lived there. Albeit the town had no wall surrounding it, the Monastery did.  I imagined how they must have felt when the Ottomans attacked. A horrific experience I imagine it to be.  Gruesome times, especially when one thinks of the way prisoners were treated.

We spent about 2 hours at the Moldovita Monastery and then searched for our next one, the Monastery of Sucevita. Our planning was well done; we booked a hotel just a few miles away from the Sucevita Monastery but had a very difficult time finding the hotel. We rode past the place 3 times before we recognized it as our hotel. It was actually a riding academy that had a hotel on the premises. Who knew?  No wonder we seemed stunned.  Of course we asked for directions, and people even told us. But I could not understand their language. Only after I heard the world Equus, did I put it together. The Romanian Language is the closest thing to the way the old Romans talked. It is a ‘modern’ Latin. Romania is NOT Slavic; it is a roman based language. It might as well be THE Roman (Latin) that was spoken then and has now been transformed into what we call Romanian.

Entrance To Sucevita Monastery 
Sucevita Monastery Church 
Very Ornate, Very Colorful, Very Over The Top Decorations
6 Meter (18 feet) Walls Surround The Monastery
Many  Saints And Holy Men

After we checked in to the Equestrian Hotel we had some time on our hands and we had to find a place to eat as well. So why not visit the next Monastery, the Monastery of Sucevita, just down the street a bit. So, off we go in riding gear and yes, the place is open. After paying our admission to the nun at the front gate we enter the high walled place and find an even ‘gaudier’ painted church than what we just saw in Moldovita. Yet the layout, the basic set up, was very similar and I did not feel I had to explore this place for another 2 hours. Sure, we took a tour, even went to the museum they had established inside a building, saw the gilded garments, but that is not what interested me as much. I wanted to get the feeling of medieval atmosphere and this place, this Sucevita Monastery, while beautiful, did not have the same ambiance for me. Carol took a stack of pictures; she ambled around and watched the other tourists click away with their cameras. I got the idea of those monasteries at the first one and two in one day might have been too much for me.

We could not find a place to eat so asked the people at the hotel where to go. They offered to cook for us and we gladly accepted. We were the only people who ate at the hotel that night.  The place was not too busy. It might be because nobody could find the place. I told them about better signage, but did they listen?  We left the next morning for more monasteries.

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