The Putna Monastery
We know about Putna that it was the first monastery built by Stephen the Great. Moreover, the ruler wanted it to be his place of eternal rest. Thus, like Bogdan I and Alexander the Good, Stephen the Great meant the monastery to be the ruling family necropolis. Stephen the Great proved his appraisal towards the church by the numerous gifts he made. As mentioned in the Putna 1 and 2 Chronicles, the ruler set the foundation in July 1466. The building of the church lasted for three years, but the interior walls were only built in 1481. The blessing of the church took place on 8 September 1470. It is very likely that the church suffered several changes in 1484, following a fire. The present building is from the 17th century, and was subsequently modified in 1757 and at the beginning of our century. With all the transformations, it keeps unchanged the fortress aspect so characteristic for the great Moldavian monastery settlements.
Undoubtedly the church of the Putna monastery was monumental as the masters and painters surpassed their own talent in working there. Chronicle writer Ion Neculce mentions its beauty.
The Tower of the Thesaurus is the only one left from the fortifications of Stephen the Great’s monastery. According to the plaque, it was built in 1481 and it was conceived as a two-floor building, with a terrace at the top, with a crenellated parapet. Today it has a sharp roof. Light comes in through narrow windows, decorated with frames of sculpted rock in a laic manner reminding the late gothic. The Entrance Tower, made of a base floor crossed by a passage and a vaulted floor provided with bulwarks, belongs to the 17th – 18th centuries.
Even though the church does not keep anymore decorative elements, bricks and glazed discs, specific for the architecture of Stephen the Great’s time, it resembles other contemporary churches in shape and dimensions. The walls are split in two areas by a belt in a rope shape, with a row of holes sculpted in the plan of the wall in the higher part. The northern wall was strengthened with counterforts added in the 18th century.
The inside of the church is split into five rooms (porch, pre-nave, the tomb room, nave and altar) and it certainly belongs to he original plan. The two entrance doors situated on the southern and the northern sides of the porch allow the access into the church. A frame of gothic influence especially interestingly made connects the entrance door to the pre-nave.
Its walls host Stephen the Great’s tomb. The oak leaves, the folded trunks forming four heart-shaped medallions and the bull’s head decorate the tombstone deposited in a niche in the tomb room. It was here that the ruler’s last wife, Maria Vochita, the second wife, Maria of Mangop, having a tombstone of oriental inspiration, as well as Stephen the Great’s two sons, Petru and Bogdan were buried.
An important school of copiers and miniaturists functioned within the monastery. There were copied and decorated religious texts, and during the 10th and the 16th centuries an elementary school and a medium school functioned here, where the chronicle writers and the clergy of Moldavia were formed.
The Moldavian embroidery is one of the most original creations of Romanian mediaeval art. The icon waves and the tomb covers are evidence of the creative spirit of the Moldavian artists of Stephen the Great’s time. The Putna Monastery can be proud of the rich collection of priests clothes, most of them forming a true gallery of portraits. Among the most original pieces, there are the priests clothes with prophets given to the monastery by Stephen the Great. It dates from 1490, and presents the twelve prophets. The tombstone of Maria of Mangop, the descendant of the Paleologs, is of undoubted value, too.
The builder of the Putna monastery also gave to it a silver censer with a great artistic value, a few hand crosses, among which one is sculpted in cypress wood and several icons.