“Sixtine Chapel of the East” - Voronet Monastery

The Church of St. George of the Voronet Monastery is possibly the most famous church of Romania. It is known throughout the world for its exterior frescoes of bright and intense colours, and for the hundreds of well-preserved figures placed against the renowned azurite background. The church of Voronet that Stephen the Great built included the chancel, the naos with its tower, and the pronaos.

Voronet Monastery is probably the most accomplished sample of artistic achievement in Moldavian architecture and painting. The monastery was built at a time of peace with the Turks, when Stephen the Great had centralized the state, giving a new impetus to its economy and culture. Its inside and outside paintings were made between 1534-1535, during Prince Petru Rares’s rule and at the behest of Metropolitan Grigore Rosca, a salient scholar of his time. The paintings on the church walls have a distinctive chromatic harmony, a special manner of composition, nerve and clarity. The artistic approach of painters has a warm humanism, as religious scenes depict Moldavian living people of those times. Thus the angels of the frescoes have the sweet faces of Moldavian women, the archangels blow the bucium - a Romanian shepherd’s musical instrument similar to an alpenhorn - the souls carried to heaven are wrapped in Moldavian towels, whereas the souls doomed to the fire of hell wear turbans just like the Turks - Moldavia’s fierce enemies at the time.

The church strikes by its blue coloration, due to the use of lapis lazuli. The paintings on the north and, to a lesser extent, the west sides of the church have suffered damage, but those on the south and west wall are beautifully preserved. The Tree of Jesse is a harmonious composition in which white scrolls and details stand out against the blue background and red-toned figures. The door is surrounded by scenes from the lives of St Nicholas and St John.

West wall, featuring the Last Judgment painting:
Voronet Monastery, the western wall with Last Judgement painting

The southern side:
Voronet Monastery, the southern side

Eastern side:
Voronet Monastery, the eastern side

North side view:
Voronet Monastery, view from north


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