Easter from long ago or the funniest traditions one have ever heard of

miercuri, 20 aprilie 2011

Easter celebration brings together a lot of traditions, partially religious, partially pagan, which are respected especially in the rural areas from Bucovina . I will present in the following lines some of these customs – personally, I consider them both funny and incredibly important in order to understand the Romanian popular mentality.
• If a woman hasn’t finished weaving and embroidering the cotton shirts until the Holy Thursday, Joimărița (literally, this means the Holy Thursday Woman) will punish the poor guilty woman by beating, burning or eating her! No wonder why everyone finishes her work in time…
• Dead people come to visit their loved ones who are still alive over the Easter holiday – this involves that they should have water, food and a big fire to keep them warm when the night falls down.
• If you don’t eat anything during the Holy Friday, you will be healthy all year long and, in addition, you will know 3 days in advance when your life will come to an end.
• Once you get off the bed on the Holy Friday morning, you have to step on a small piece of iron, while on the Easter morning you have to step on a bed linen – all these should save you from wounds and itching in the coming summer.
• Easter eggs, cakes and bread can be prepared only on Thursday and Saturday. But hang on to this! – trays should be introduced in the oven only with the right hand, in a moment of complete silence. Moreover, the trays number has to be even, if you want to avoid the death of your beloved husband.
• People who crack red eggs on Easter will meet again in the after life.
• A nap is completely forbidden on the Easter day, if you don’t want to be sleepy all year long. Also be careful and keep away from salt, otherwise you will have sweaty hands in the following summer.                                                   
• On Sunday morning, unmarried girls used to hold a red egg in their breast or to stick egg shells to the house doors, in order to attract men.
• In the second day of Easter, that is Monday, boys used to wet girls by throwing them in a river or in a lake. Don’t get angry, girls, if that happens to you – that means someone will soon pop the question .

Easter goodies
As I was saying, this celebration represents a great opportunity for women to prove their great cooking skills. Unfortunately, this usually means that the full-of-calories Easter meals will be followed by digestion medicines and, even worse, by visits to the doctor. Although exaggerated appetite and food excess aren’t at all encouraged by the orthodox fasting tradition, the Romanian Easter goodies make food abstinence seem science fiction. Lamb roast has an important place on the table, together with the beautifully-colored eggs and the sweet-perfumed cakes. However, no meal should ever start without cracking the eggs, an opportunity to compete for “the toughest one”. Don’t be surprised if you hear everyone saying “Hristos a înviat!”-“Adevărat a înviat!” (“Jesus is resurrected!” – “He’s truly resurrected!”), these exclamations are used both when cracking eggs and when greeting someone during Easter holidays.

Hymn to the Virgin@ Humor Monastery

marți, 19 aprilie 2011

Humor Monastery is one of the most popular edifices of the Moldavian Middle Ages. In the endless forests from Bucovina, a stone church was built on a small hill near Gura Humorului, during the reign of Alexander the Good.
The monastery was closed in 1786 and was not re-established until 1991. It is now a small convent, served by nuns - the villagers use another church, on a nearby hillock. The church, devoted to the Holy Virgin, is smaller than other churches of the painted monasteries and does not have any cupolas. Otherwise, it preserves the same traditional three-cusped plan proper to most other painted monasteries. Humor is protected by a wooden stockade rather than a stone rampart, and lacks the characteristic spire - indicating that it was founded by a boyar, not the ruler. The belfry with a belvedere was erected in 1641, under Vasile Lupu's rule.
The small church, with a wide open porch arched on three sides, has a vault which is similar to the one at Moldovita except that the one at Humor seems to be floating, a sample of Byzantine art highly appreciated by architect experts. The open porch is separated from the nave by three columns connected through broken arches which have crossed vaults. The windows frames are Gothic. The open porch with arcades was the first of its kind to be built in Bucovina, an innovation influenced by both the local building tradition (veranda, terrace) and the foreign Renaissance (the lodge found later in the - Brancovan style- ). Another innovation is the - tainitza- (a hidden place) above the burial-vault, precious objects were kept there, especially in difficult times.

Humor was one of the first of Bucovina's painted monasteries to be frescoed and, along with Voronet is probably the best preserved. The master painter responsible for Humor's frescoes, which were painted in 1535, is Toma of Suceava, the most famous church painter of the time. If at Voronet blue is predominant, Humor is mainly painted in reddish brown (from oriental madder pigment), completed nevertheless by rich blues and greens. The Last Judgment, placed on the wall beneath the unusual open porch, is similar to the Voronet one, but, unfortunately, the Tree of Jesse has been effaced by erosion. The significant difference is that the Devil is portrayed as the Scarlet Woman, though this patch is now so faint, that it has become nearly invisible. Such misogyny had its counterpart in the peasant conception of Hell, assumed to be a cavern upheld by seven old women who had surpassed Satan in wickedness during their lifetimes. Since the women are mortal, the legend goes, the Devil (Dracul) must constantly search the world for replacements - and he never fails to find them.

Another famous exterior painting, Hymn to the Virgin, has been inspired by the poem written by Patriarch Serghei of Constantinople, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who is reputed to have saved the city during the attack of the Persians in 626. The Persians are, however, depicted as Turks which is a common device in these monasteries, their paintings being used in part for political propaganda in addition to their spiritual meaning. The Siege of Constantinople, displayed on a large surface, in a central position, also suggests Moldavians’ wish to defeat their enemies, the Turks. In the narthex, a mural painting displays Petru Rares and his family; the prince is also buried within the church together with his wife, Anastasia. The princely throne in the church bears Moldavia's coat of arms.

The tombstone of Teodor Bubuiog is situated under his portrait and that of his wife’s. Petru Rares and his wife are both buried in the monastery church as well.

Humor Monastery held for many years the valuable 'Humor Evangelistry', a book dating back to 1473, painted by monk Nicodim and displaying a famous portrait of Stephen the Great. The monastery houses a valuable collection of icons dating back to the 16th century. The monastery, underwent several restoration works, in 1868, 1888, 1960-1961, 1967-1970, and 1971-1972, when the paintings were washed.

 The Monastery of Humor is special because of its great artistic values, and due to the peacefulness it offers the visitors. Although rank was of great importance during the Middle Ages, this church being thus built with traditional roof shingles, and not with towers, Humor Monastery is a place where arts, tradition and the profound belief in God intertwine.

Humor is 6 km north of Gura Humorului on DJ 177. In Gura Humorului you can find accommodations and travel information. Gura Humorului can be reached by railway after a 47 km ride from Suceava and 32 km from Câmpulung Moldovenesc, while by road the distance on E 58 is 36 km to both Suceava and Câmpulung Moldovenesc. Suceava can be reached on the main European roads E85, E58, but also on the railway Bucharest-Chernivtsi-Lvov or by air. The city has an airport with flights to Bucharest and even abroad.

Come and Discover Bucovina

sâmbătă, 16 aprilie 2011

Putna Monastery

The beginnings of Putna Monastery, the most important religious, cultural and artistic centre in mediaeval Moldavia, take us back to the year 1466 when, upon the initiative of Prince Stephen the Great (1457-1504), a church of impressive dimensions was built on a patch of forest cleared for the purpose. The edifice was erected among 1466 and 1469 and consecrated in 1470; to it was added a few more buildings: a princely home standing on the southern side, outer walls and defence towers; all of them completed in 1481.
    A few years only after the completion of the buildings and fortifications, a dreadful fire destroyed most of the church, the outer walls and the princely home. The following years, the prince and founder rebuilt the church that soon recovered its former lofty appearance.
In 1536, another conflagration seriously damaged all the buildings; there followed a new restoration completed in 1559, on the initiative and at the expense of Prince Alexandru Lăpuşneanu (1552-1561; 1564-1568). 

    Despite subsequent restoration work, partial or complete, time, earthquakes and landslides caused a lot of damage to all the monuments Putna Monastery consists of leaving their indelible marks on them, so that the church more especially required renovation and repairs. In 1653, the church, which had been built in the 15th century, was pulled down to its foundations and replaced in 1654-1662 by a new building which, with slight alterations, has lasted to this day. In this period, the princely residence and the precinct walls were also enlarged and repaired.
    However, this important restoration did not last more than three quarters of a century, for in 1739, Putna Monastery was destroyed by a powerful earthquake, which made it necessary to start ample restoration work between 1757 and 1761, upon the initiative and with the endeavors of Metropolitan Iacov Putneanul. 

    Another important stage in the building of the monastery in the past was marked by the restoration work effectuated from 1854 to 1856, when the precincts were enlarged and new walls were erected, 23 m. to the north of the previous ones. New cells were built parallel to the wall; the old princely residence was demolished, a new building - including a kitchen, a refectory and cells - was erected, together with a new abbey on the western side and a chapel on the north side.
Restoration work on the monastery was started again towards the close of the 19th century, under the supervision of the Austrian architect K.A. Romstorfer.
    Ample scientific restoration work was under way in 1969, when the church, the treasury tower, the entrance tower and the belfry - built in 1882 to replace a 15th-century tower - were restored in succession. Between 1974 and 1977, the former abbey standing on the western side of the courtyard was replaced by a wooden building, a museum housing art collections, while the cells built in 1854-1856 on the northern side were replaced and renewed. 

    The size and complex plan, the rich decorations (carved stone, terracotta and paintings)as well as the appearance for the first time in the ecclesiastical architecture of Moldavia of the exonarthex and of arches arranged slantingly in the vaulting of the pronaos are the basic characteristics of the earlier church of Putna Monastery, making of it a brilliant prototype in which the most important achievements of the previous epoch perfectly combine with the valuable renewing contribution of Stephen the Great's master builders who erected the monument.
    An attempt at reconstituting the plan and spatial structures of the earlier church at Putna proves that even if its characteristic features - the presence of the burial vault and the vaulting of the pronaos more especially - are to be found in other previous monuments, they were to be taken over and adapted creatively to grace other places of worship built subsequently.
    The new church, having the same triconch plan, was erected among 1654 and 1662. It was almost the size of the earlier monument and its walls rest partly on the old foundations. There are some important alterations in the vaulting system, while the outer wall on the west, built a little back from the former wall towards the interior, was strengthened by two buttresses supporting obliquely the corners of the building. The wall separating the burial vault from the nave has been replaced by two thick octagonal pilasters resting on strong stone pedestals. 

    The only carved element preserved from the 15th-century church is the monumental porch which links the pronaos to the burial vault; it is rectangular in shape decorated with crossed moldings characteristic of Stephen the Great's epoch.
    The iconostasis richly carved in wood, dates from 1773 and belongs to the period of constructive upsurge- characterizing Metropolitan lacov Putneanul's pastorate.
    The only edifice dating from Stephen the Great's time which has been preserved whole - the only evidence that at the time of its first erection Putna Monastery was a genuine fortress, the strongest and loftiest of all Moldavian Monasteries - is the treasury tower, built in 1481, standing on the western side of the precincts.
    To the same earlier period belong the vestiges of the former princely home and its outhouses which archaeological diggings rediscovered in recent times and made it possible to study them.
    One reaches the courtyard of the monastery by passing under the entrance lower, reconstructed in 1757 at the expense of Prince Constantin Racovitã (1749-1753; 1756-1757), and on the site or very close to another tower erected by Stephen the Great in 1481.
    Besides the repeated filling and leveling of the steep sloping terrain, widely different initially -in height from north to south, one can notice in the evolution of the precincts of Putna a concern for the preservation of its fortified character and for a correct use of the inner space. The outer walls of the monastery, first erected in 1481, were successively rebuilt in the mid-seventeenth (1654-1662), eighteenth (1757-1760) and nineteenth (1854-1856) centuries, when the constructors built the new walls on the old foundations dating from the 15th century.
    On the initiative and with the support of its founders, a short time after it was built Putna Monastery - together with some antecedent monasteries, such as Sucevita, Neamt, Bistrita and Moldovita - became an outstanding habitat of Romanian medieval culture. As early as 1467, scribes, calligraphers and miniature painters who had learned their craft under Gavril Uric came from Neamt to work at Putna Monastery.
    Besides skilful calligraphers and miniature painters, many embroiderers, icon makers, weavers, silversmiths, sculptors in wood and book-binders toiled on in the quiet atmosphere of the monks' cells at Putna. They continued valuable Romanian patterns and achieved works of great artistic value which today are the pride of all museums and libraries housing them.
    Special mention should be made of the sumptuous and elegant Four Gospels created here, adorned with miniatures in which perfect drawing combines with a motley color scheme in which gold prevails, as well as the fine embroideries (epitaphs, iconostasis curtains, coverings of tetrapods and of graves, stoles, etc.), many of them on show in the museum of the monastery.
    A famous school where Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were taught was set up in the latter half of the 15th century and was open all through the 16th century. One of the outstanding scholars who taught at the school was Eustatie, of Romanian stock, who at the end of the 15th century transcribed the music of several psalms and composed many psalms himself.
    A careful study of the history of Putna Monastery - an important cultural and artistic centre, a refuge and a defence fortress in times of stress, a princely residence and burial place - reveals that, for Romanians everywhere, the monastery is the symbol of a period of remarkable economic, social and political progress, a telling proof of the permanent aspirations and struggle of the Romanian people for liberty, independence and national unity.

Genesis @Arbore Monastery

joi, 14 aprilie 2011

In 1503 great hetman Luca Arbore founded a chapel in the village bearing his name, to be part of his estate. Arbore was one of the most important boyars in the courts of Stephen the Great, Bogdan III and Prince Stefăniţă. Political differences separated Arbore from Prince Stefăniţă, he lost his position as hetman and guard of Suceava, and was beheaded in 1523.

The church is dedicated to the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. The dating of the paintings is unsure. An inscription found inside the church states that Dragoş, son of priest Coman of Iaşi, painted the church in 1541 at the request of Ana, niece of Luca Arbore. Usually, this is considered the date of both the interior and exterior paintings. There are some researchers who think that the date 1541 only refers to later modifications.

Architecturally, the church is part of the group of churches that mark the end of Stephen the Great's reign. It belongs to the so-called mixed type. Outside, the plan of the church is rectangular with a semicircular apse at the east end. Inside, the plan is triconch, with the two lateral apses of the naos carved out of the thickness of the walls. The west façade of the church is very distinctive. Only here in Arbore and in Reuseni, a giant niche replaces the exonarthex, Originally, the church bells were placed here, on a wooden beam, and now the space is used to give offerings to the dead. Exceptionally, all the façades are smooth, without any niches or recesses. The church follows the smallest possible plan: there are only three rooms, the pronaos, the naos and the chancel.

The church has a high split-level roof, rounded at both ends. The main body of the roof covers the pronaos and the naos, while a lower roof covers the chancel. There is no tower, as is common in a church founded by a nobleman. Inside, both main rooms of the church have a dome.

It has remarkable fresco paintings against a predominant green background. The green is in five shadows and 47 hues combined with red, blue, yellow, pink and ochre. Unfortunately the secret of combining colors held by the painters of Arbore is now lost. However, scientists were able to identify thirty substances, including animal size, vinegar, egg, gall and honey. Restorers can now only stabilize what has been left of the frescoes. The interior paintings were seriously damaged in the 17th-18th centuries when the church remained without its roof.
The paintings were made by a team led by Dragoş Coman from Iaşi. The artist proves to be a genius: a widely-traveled man, he innovates, has a new vision different from the one of his predecessors, he succeeds in making a bold synthesis of oriental and western elements, well integrated in tradition though. Most of the paintings represent scenes taken from the Genesis and the Saints' Live. They are delicate and vivid, whereas houses are drawn in perspective. The best preserved frescoes are found on the relatively sheltered south and west walls.
In the narthex, which also functions as a burial chamber, one may find the tombs of the church founders, Luca Arbore and his Polish wife, Iuliana, decorated with unusual Gothic stonework that bears a strong Polish influence.

The icon screen dates from about the same time as the church itself. It is heavily encrusted with smoke, but paintings underneath are intact, preserved by the very grime which obscures them.

Inside the monastery, an ethnographic museum with a rich display of the region's most valuable assets is worth visiting. The monastery was restored between 1909-1914 and 1936-1937, and appears on the UNESCO list of monuments.

Sursa:wikipedia,marvaoguide,crestin ortodox

The “Last Judgment”@ Moldovița Monastery

miercuri, 13 aprilie 2011

The Moldovita Monastery is one of the oldest monastic buildings in the region. A fortified stone church was erected around 1410, the monastery was built in 1512 by Petru Raresh.
The characteristics of the monuments in the era of Stephen the Great were kept (vault, tomb room, recesses in the apses, elements of Gothic influence etc). The Princely House, a valuable building, erected in 1612. The enclosure wall, 6 meters high, and over one meter thick, still has fortified towers.

The inside painting keeps with the tradition. The “Crucifixion”, in the nave, is deemed the most valuable achievement on that theme in the Bukovina churches.
The outside painting dating from 1537 shows resemblances to the fresco of Humor with its complexity and richness. In the porch the “Last Judgment” can be seen. The southern façade, favoured and better preserved, has best kept the “Hymn to Our Lady”.The color specific to Modovita Monastery is yellow.

The museum of the monastery holds manuscripts dating the 15th century, manuscripts which make references to the way the monastery school used to be organized and to any other general cultural activities.
The most valuable manuscripts are the ones that date from the 15th century, which are true treasures of culture and feudal art. Today, they are kept in the library of the Dragomirna Monastery. The Four Gospels (1613) and a psalm book (1614) were written calligraphically in here. Moldovita Monastery is one of the few monuments that contain original assemblies of carved furniture. The princely chair of Petru Rares’s time (the 16th century) is the most valuable work of this kind in Moldavia. The embroidery works offered by the voivode Stefan the Great (the 15th century) are as well precious.