Saint Cross of Patrauti


Old settlement, the Patrauti village unfolds a long history through the centuries, reminding us of the beginning of the Moldavian State’s glory age. Surrounded by mysterious forests, away from the world, it carries legends in which the dominant figure of Stephen the Great becomes omnipresent. Not far away from Suceava, on the old road on the bank of the river, Stephen the Great founded, in the village of Patrauti, the only nuns’ monastery of his time. The monastery could not survive the obstacles of time, and it was deserted for a long time. It was just in 1711 that it was founded again by the Radauti Bishopric, and later, after Bucovina had been conquered by the Habsburg Empire, it became parish church. Today only the church is left from the entire monastery assembly.


The Holy Trinity Church from Patrauti, together with that of Milisauti, whose base stone had been established five days earlier, opened the construction campaign of the voevod. The Cossacks had destroyed the old church from Putna in 1654, the Austrians destroyed that of Milisauti by in 1917 and so the Holy Trinity Church stayed the first construction. Having a threefold plan with the tower in the nave, fragmented roof and rough rock it processes the plan elements and the plastic ones of the Holy Trinity Church from Siret. Without any counterforts, and with a less pronounced pedestal hardly allowing a glance at the profile, the construction is the simplest of those on foiled plan built by Stephen the Great. On the exterior the three polygonal apses were provided with prolonged niches. Five niches were disposed on the lateral apses and seven on that of the altar. A window is framed in each niche, in the two axes of the church. The lateral walls of the per-nave also allow the light to come through a framed window. As with most of the Moldavian churches, a row of holes spreads under the eaves of the decorative element being composed of glazed ceramic plaques of undecorated green colour. Adorned with 12 niches, holes and with a row of green glazed bricks, the tower relies on a square base.

What is most impressive with the Saint Cross is the perfect harmony of proportions, the stylisation of shapes even though the decoration is very simple and of small dimensions. Its interior is made of a square pre-nave, a rectangular nave and a half-circular altar. The passing from the pre-nave to the nave is made through a door framed in the separating wall. There are cut niches on the right and on the left of the altar. In all constructions of this type the pre-nave was going to get a vault in the shape of a spherical callote on pendentives and arches. The church was accessed through a single door situated in the western part. The decoration of the portal is very simple being made of a frame in beautifully styled broken arch.


From an artistic point of view the painting decorating the church in Patrauti is one of the most important. The Moldavian iconographic programme was designed here for the first time. The great composition Emperor Constantine the Great’s Cavalcade on the western wall is of overwhelming importance; apart from here the scene can only be seen at Arbore church, and it has not been painted in any other country of Orthodox religion. The painting presents the emperor accompanied by a retinue of sixteen saints on horse. Archangel Mihail in the front of the cavalcade shows the emperor the cross which appeared on the sky. The fresco was made with great artistic sense, the painter proving a true preoccupation in rendering different attitudes, in individualising the characters and in describing the age clothing. The way horses were drawn, the simple and firm line confers more movement. The golden nimbuses of the saints and the white nuances that horses were painted in confer brightness to the whole composition. The cavalcade is one of the most monumental compositions made in Stephen the Great’s times. The allegorical sense of this scene, painted immediately after the wars with the Turks had stopped, is to constantly remind that the country’s independence must be kept at any price. Fragments from the Pantocrator were kept form the original painting in the callote of the tower, and faces of angels and apostles on the walls. Because of the deterioration fresco, there can only be seen on the pendentive scenes from The Good News, The Entry into Church, The Birth and The Christening on the tympan and only a few segments from the cycle of The Ordeal. Under the niche of the Ordeal the scenes of Jesus preaching in the temple, The Whipping and The Resurrection interrupt the registry of saints and martyrs. The altar includes the representation of The Secret Dinner, The Eucharist of the Apostles and The Feet Washing. Except for small changes, the Moldavian iconographic programme of the nave and altar of this church was going to be followed by the whole Moldavian painting of Stephen the Great’s age.

Only three tombstones were removed from the pre-nave of the Patrauti church and put outside, their inscriptions being erased with the passing of time. These cannot offer data about their history. The monastery had in its possession a Slavic Tetra-Gospel dating back from 1493, written especially for it in Suceava by Toader. The manuscript stayed at Fintina Alba church until 1900, but today it seems lost.

Although the simplest construction built during his reign, Saint Cross stays the most representative cult monument for the beginning period of the sanctifying campaign performed by the great ruler for the wonderful Moldavian places.