Situated in an area where the beauty of the landscape and the overwhelming silence urge one to return to his own self, Sucevita Monastery is considered to be one of the most refined constructions. Possessing an outstanding architecture, covered with frescos and paintings which are a delight for the viewer and having in its patrimony church works of great artistic and historical value, the building is a perfect equilibrium between line and colour.
Documents dating from the 15th – 16th century mention the Sucevita wooden hermitage patronised by the Lord’s Face Change, and which had been situated on the same location where the great church was built.
In 1584 the Radauti Bishop Gheorghe Movila built and dedicated the church to be patronised by the Lord’s Resurrection. A few years later, Ieremia Movila, the Bishop’s brother, added to the church two open porches, one on the northern side and one on the southern side.
Movila’s church is surrounded by walls 6 metres high and almost 3 metres thick, with towers and guarding alleys on all sides. On the eastern side of the interior wall there are houses from Movila family’s time, and on the north-eastern side the foundation of another house can be noticed. Traces of certain foundations of monks’ hermitages can be noticed on the south-eastern side. The interior also includes an imposing bell-tower, four-sided, supported by abutments. The two bells from Movila’s time are at the second floor. The other towers were built with an octagonal plane. Sucevita still keeps architectural elements known from Stephen the Great’s time, masterfully combined with motives from the time of rulers Rares and Lapusneanu. While keeping the trilobat plane, abutments and lateral apses, the church resembles very much the other Moldavian constructions. The prolonged niches of the apses, 11 of which are situated on the eastern one and 5 on the lateral apses remind of the 15th century architecture. The interior is made of the porch, pre-nave, nave and altar.
The entrance door into the nave is framed and decorated with sculptures here and there. The vaulting system of the pre-nave is made up of spherical callotes. The windows have frames of crossed rods on the outside. The passing towards the tombs room is through a door framed by crossed rods. The room is lighted through two windows. The depositing place for the objects given to the church is over the half-cylindrical vault. The entrance in the nave is simply framed with Renaissance elements. The cupola and the spire of the nave are built on springs, and the interior space of the spire is lighted through four windows. The round apse of the altar is continued by a rectangular space. The altar on its turn is lighted through a single window placed in its central axle.
The painting from Sucevita is as valuable as that from Voronet, Arbore and Moldovita. It continues the tradition of the Moldavian masterful painters, delighting the eye by the brightness of the colours and the compositional plasticity. Ioan Zugravul (John the Painter) and his brother, Sofronie, made the working. The themes suggest the interest for narration and for introducing nature elements inspired by the Old and the New Testament, from the history of the Christian church and from the life of the Greek-Catholic culture. A register of seraphs and cherubs can be noticed immediately under the roof on the northern façade. 13 scenes inspired from the Genesis follow it. The most important theme is “the Heavenly Ladder” in the vision of Saint John the Ladderman, which is a vision of the Judgement Day, but with elements borrowed from the Romanian tradition and folklore. Arranged on seven registers, the facades of the apses are painted with scenes inspired by the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. The southern façade of the pre-nave discloses the themes Iseu’s Tree together with Jacob’s Ladder and philosophers from the Greek –Roman antiquity. Various scenes of the Prayer for the dead, the Old Testament and the Life of Pious Pahomie were placed on the superior side of the exonartex. The porch includes the frescos with the scenes of the Coming Judgement, scenes from the Old Testament and zodiacal inscriptions. The callote of the pre-nave includes, according to the tradition, the wall painting of the Holy Trinity and Jesus the Saviour and the Lives of Saint George and Nicolas are painted on the walls. Various scenes from the Gospel and Jesus Pantocrator can be seen in the southern apse and in the spire’s cupola. Scenes of the Genesis were painted over the pew.
Ruler Ieremia Movila and his family are represented between the door and the southern wall. The portraits of Gheorghe Movila and of his father Ioan, who became a monk in his last years, conclude the painting of the church.
The painting of the church, made on four registers, includes: The Lord’s Lifting to the Sky and Mother Mary surrounded by apostles; The Tent of Confession, Filoxwenia, the Resurrection and the Pyre; the Apostles being given the Eucharist; Hierarchs. The painting from Sucevita constitutes a document of faith and history by the multitude of themes and scenes approached.
The Movila family found eternal peace at Sucevita. The monastery’s thesaurus, of overwhelming importance, includes an Epitaph dating back in 1597 adorned with 10,000 pearls, which is a gift from Ieremia Movila, two tomb covers embroidered with golden thread and pearls on silk, crosses, 16th century icons, manuscripts decorated with miniatures. A hair tress belonging to Lady Elisabeta, Ieremia Movila’s wife is kept in a silver capsule. Legend has it that as a sign of great pain Lady Elisabeta cut a hair tress and sent it home while she was a prisoner of the Turks.
The Sucevita monastery assembly is one of the most valuable Moldavian art monuments by the beauty of its architecture and the artistic quality of the decorating painting.