The Arbore Monastery


Like the churches of Dolhesti and Balinesti, that of Arbore is situated in a place where the last segments of the Obscina Mountains’ crests meet those of Palin Mountains and where a shred of water completes this superb décor as if made by God for the Moldavians. Legend has it that Arbore was Magister of the village, a great nobleman loving God and the people. In 1503 Luca Arbore – Gatekeeper of Suceava – built, with the help of his landlord, a church in the village which carries his name today. The construction started in the second day of April and was finished the same year, on 29th August. The church has a commemorative plaque dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.


Conceived and built in a simple form, starting from the idea of a longitudinal type church, it amazes by its great stylisation. The prolongation of the side walls united through a wide half-circular arch delimits on the outside, on the western façade, a great niche seemingly destined for the room of the bells. Arbore’s masters built straight walls, with huge smooth surfaces, introduced callotes in the nave and the pre-nave by eliminating the initial half-cylinder. The low arches, without spirals, the slopes and the Moldavian arch system confer elegant proportions to the church and show a construction of great value.

Shortly after the workings at Arbore were finished, on 8th September, the same masters built at Reuseni, on the spot where legend has it that Bogdan Voevod’s head was cut off, Stephen the Great’s last foundation, very much like the church in Arbore.

38 years after the building of the Arbore church, in 1581, at Ana’s initiative – Arbore’s sister – the pile of inside and outside painting was realised. Especially impressive in the painting of the church are its adorning quality, its warm and lighting colour, the rhythm and extreme elegance of silhouettes. The whole painting emanates sincerity and is one of the most laic phenomena of Moldavian mediaeval art. The main author of the painting – Dragos Coman – of Iasi is not a cleric, but an exponent of the laic world. And this is obvious through the spontaneity of the painting, by the transparency of the colour, as a watercolour, in the construction of the silhouettes having sometimes non-canonical gestures and attitudes. We must remark the theme inside the church Emperor Constantine’s Cavalcade painted in the open, on the western wall of the pre-nave, and The Great Prayer from the apses. The ingenious painter from Arbore also added a new Prayer on the southern façade. He placed this prayer on the right side of the door in order to symbolically make a pendentive for the scene of the Siege painted on the left side of the door. Among the saints painted there is John the New and the first of them, - a unique case in the Byzantine iconography – emperors Constantine and Elena considered, as known, to be among Moldavia’s great protectors, as early as the 15th century.