Contrary to first impression, the village of Humor1 (Romanian: Mănăstirea Humorului) doesn’t have anything in common with Humor (in its Polish meaning). The name was taken from the small Humor River flowing over here, and the name of the river stems from a Hungarian word homor, meaning just swift water.
The first mention of the Humor village dates back to 1415 (though probably it already existed in the 13th century), and the first monastery was built here towards the end of the 14th or at the beginning of the 15th century – unfortunately it was destroyed during an assault. In 1530, in that same place, the construction of a new monastery started; the new complex included the 'Dormition of Mother of God' Church, and in 1641 the monastery was encircled by defensive walls. Unfortunately, apart from the church itself, only the fortified tower, also built in 1641, has been preserved till now.
The 'Dormition of Mother of God' Church was built in a characteristic to northern Moldavia (Moldova) clover plan (a rectangle supplemented by three apsides). It consists of three separate, connected by portals rooms (the nave, the pre-nave and a burial chamber), as well as of a porch with arcades. The church is covered with a simple roof and it doesn’t have any tower.
In 1535 the master Thomas of Suceava adorned the temple with beautiful frescoes, which have been for the most part preserved in quite good condition. On the south wall we can see, among other things, an illustration of the Marian Akathist finished with a scene of saving Constantinople during the Persian siege of 626. The walls of the three apsides are filled with a portrayal of the celestial hierarchy. The worst preserved are the frescoes on the north wall, depicting, among other things, The Tree of Jesse. In the porch we will see The Last Judgement, in the pre-nave – scenes from the lives of saints, and in the nave - The Last Supper and The Crucifixion, among other things.
In 1993 the 'Dormition of Mother of God' Church from Humor monastery was inscribed in the UNESCO's World Heritage List. Together with it, six more painted churches of Bucovina (Arbore, Moldoviţa, Pătrăuţi, Probota, Suceava, Voroneţ) were included, and in 2010 the Church of Resurrection of Sucevita (Suceviţa) Monastery was added to the list.
Voronet (Romanian: Voroneţ) is a small village situated around 7 km from the town of Gura Humorului. One of the best known of Bucovina painted fortified monasteries - Mănăstirea Voroneţ – is located here. It includes the painted church of Saint George, which at times, for its beautiful frescoes, has even been called the Sistine Chapel of the East. As I have written before, the church in Voronet, like the church of the Humor monastery and six other Bucovina painted churches, was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In 1488 Stephen the Great himself founded the church for the local monastery; the construction took only 111 days and it was finished on 14th September. Later on, the entire complex was encircled by a wall, which did not protect the monastery against raids, inter alia, the one of 1653, when both the Voroneţ and Humor monasteries were plundered by the Cossacks led by Timothy Chmielnicki, son of Bohdan Chmielnicki.
Luckily, in spite of its stormy history, the monastery outlasted till our times, and in 1990 even monks returned there. Nowadays, it is a very well known monastery, and what follows, very willingly visited by tourists (not only by those from Romania). In that case, the area at the monastery could not be lacking in the stalls with innumerable amounts of souvenirs.
The most precious edifice of the monastery is the painted church of Saint George. A legend goes that when the Turkish troops attacked Moldavia, Stephen the Great visited Daniel the Hermit in the local skete and asked him for advice. After winning the battle2 against the Turks, he founded the monastery, and there a church devoted to St. George, who had brought him victory. Stephen the Great was famous for his great piousness. It is said that he founded as many monasteries as many battles he won.
The church of the Voronet Monastery, like the 'Dormition of Mother of God' Church, was built in a clover plan, and similarly, it was covered with a characteristic to the painted churches, wide shingle roof, which protects the priceless mural paintings against the rain. However, unlike the one described above, the nave of the Voronet church was topped with a tower.
The internal mural paintings date back to two different periods. Beautiful frescoes adorning the nave and the apsides of the temple were painted in 1496. From the lantern’s vault Christ Pantocrator (Greek: Παντοκράτωρ - Almighty) looks down on the world, underneath in the next circles we can see seraphs, angels, apostles and in the end the Fathers of the Church. Beneath one can see many scenes from the Bible, as well as Stephen the Great devoting the temples to Christ through St. George.
In 1547 the porch was built and the pre-nave, the porch and the exterior walls were painted. Apart from the most threatened north wall, most of the mural paintings are perfectly preserved. Until today, the composition of the natural dyes which were used to paint the temple, and which turned out to be so long lasting, has not yet been deciphered.
The most famous mural painting adorns the west wall. It is The Last Judgement. In it we can see the dead being raised from the graves, and above - the condemned Judes, Saracens, Turks and Catholics. On the throne the Holy Spirit is sitting, and above Him - Jesus Christ, at whose feet flows out an infernal river, into which the sinners are thrown. In the highest position, on the sky, there are the personifications of the twelve constellations, and in the central place - God Himself. At His sides one can see angels who are rolling up the sky – the world is ending.
On the south wall we can see scenes from the lives of Saint Nicholas and Saint John the New of Suceava. On the left side of the door stand side by side Daniel the Hermit (who established here the first skete) and Gregory Roşca – a Moldavian metropolitan who in 1547 founded the polychromy and building on the porch, where he was buried later on. Farther on the left one can see how the patron saint of the temple – Saint George – is killing a dragon. On the internal wall of the pre-nave one can see an illustration of the tree of Jesse, framed on both sides by portraits of six ancient philosophers. On the apsides the celestial and earthly hierarchies are painted. As I have written before, the mural paintings on the north wall are strongly faded and one cannot see much in them.
In the Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic Countries (Polish: Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich) the village appears under the name of Humora.
I was wondering what battle they may be talking about. About the battle of Vaslui, in which on 10 January 1475 Stephen the Great defeated three times stronger army of the Turks led by Suleiman Pasha? A great and noticed in entire Europe victory over growing Turkish power would be a good reason to thank God. However, a considerable disparity between the dates makes me wonder, as the construction of the church did not start until before 13 years later, when Stephen the Great lost to the Turks a great deal of lands and even holding the Moldavian throne cost him much effort. Well, perhaps it is only a legend.
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