The Humor Church

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At the end of the 15th century, during the reign of Voevod Alexander the Good, the vornic of Humor built a rock church for the monks, to the wood hermitage of Humor village. Under the ruler’s care and later on under Stephen the Great’s care the Humor monastery developed beside it.

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The church built by village chief Ivan turned into ruins during the first decades of the next century.

Surrounded by trees and fields near the ruins of the old church, in a scenery defining itself as purely romantic, The Mother Mary’s Dormition Church faces time, the foundation of which was established in 1530 by the care of great chancellor Teodor and of his wife Ana. The church is the expression of the Moldavian style from Stephen the Great’s last decade of ruling and it crystallises new elements of architecture individualising it from the other religious settlements of the great ruler. The open porch replacing the old closed porch and the secret room – the room superposed on the tomb room – are innovations in the Moldavian architecture of that time. Four especially beautiful arcades in broken arch up to the row of holes support the porch. Two arcades on the lateral facades have a strengthening function, and the others symmetrically opened in the western façade have high parapets of brickwork. A double medium arch splits the interior space in two parts equally covered with beautiful cross-like vaults. The prolonged niches and the rock pedestal are decorative elements that draw one’s attention instantly. The absence of the tower from over the nave is a characteristic note in the architecture of the church. On the northern and southern sides, the light penetrates gently into the room through two windows. The tomb room and the nave are lighted in their turn through windows placed in the southern wall of the church and in the axis of the apses. The altar is lighted through a window which was framed in its apse. Thus, a strange light circulates through the church revealing saints’ faces.

What impresses and amazes at the same time are the external and the internal paintings adorning the church. Unfortunately, the painting of the northern wall was destroyed mostly because of the bad weather. However, fragments of the Saint Martyr George’s Prayer for the Dead, a few scenes from Iesei’s Tree painted on a particularly spectacular background of blue colour, two columns with philosophers and Abbot Paisie’s face were kept nevertheless. The scene of the Final Judgement occupies the western part of the building. The military saints Dimitrie, Gheorghe and Mercurie are also represented on a column of the porch. The paintings on the southern façade were the best kept. Angel faces appear in each hole and 24 scenes of the Hymn Prayer for the Dead, disposed on three registers beside the pre-nave. Those who worked on the frescos of the church also evoked the siege of the former Byzantine capital by the Persians. Only this time, the painter replaced the Persians with the Turks, fact with very important connotations. Thus, the scene The Siege of the Constantinopole occupies the space between the pedestal and the scenes of the holy prayer of the dead. It is said that the artist who worked on the mural decoration of the church painted his face in the horseman throwing the spear towards the Turk commander.

Next to the tomb room the scene is reproduced of the Pyre in Flames beside the 15 scenes from Saint Nicholas’ Life, as well as the Example of the Prodigal Son. Angels, prophets, apostles, hierarchs, martyrs and pious people are part of the gallery of characters pained on the three apses. They look towards the axis of the eastern apse. The person entering the nave of the church will look towards the vault. Here Mother Mary Praying is painted wearing a medallion with Jesus at the neck and surrounded by 16 angels. A circular register presents 24 prophets. The vault ends with a beautiful crown of achantus flowers. Orthodox hymnologs, the seven ecumenical synods, the saints celebrated by the Orthodox Church in September, October and November, martyrs and pious people can be noticed in the four corners of the pre-nave, on the higher surfaces of the walls. In the tomb room, Mother Mary’s face and life scenes seem to watch over the rest of those buried. Jesus Pantocrator surrounded by patriarch angels and prophets are painted on the vault of the nave and on the walls there is the cycle of the ordeals, His Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection. The walls of the altar were painted with four scenes from The Secret Dinner.

The votive paintings are of special importance, real documents of that age. The ruling family, Petru Rares and lady Elena are painted in costumes of the age. The painters rendered various elements of Moldavia’s life in most of the churches in the 16th century, and Humor is not an exception. In all paintings at Humor the faces are profoundly human, the design and the colours support admirably the composition.

Ruler Vasile Lupu built durable walls and a massive tower in 1641.

Pieces of great artistic and liturgical value are kept in this saint place. The golden iconostasis, six big icons and a small wood cross dating from 1623 are among these.

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