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Suceviţa Monastery/Romania

Introducing Suceviţa Monastery

The winding mountain road from Moldoviţa to Suceviţa Monastery, the largest and arguably finest Bucovina monastery, offers breathtaking views, reaching 1100m before descending. The heavily-frescoed church (built 1582–1601), inside the fortified monastic enclosure, has a bare western wall. Legend says that the fatal plunge of the artist there from the scaffolding dissuaded other painters. The red-and-green-based exterior frescoes date from around 1590.

Entering the complex, note the exterior Ladder of Virtues fresco, with its 32 steps to heaven. It exhorts priests, monks and nuns to righteous behaviour, and to avoid the unfortunate fate of the clerics depicted tumbling from the ladder due to sins like greed or vanity. More good cheer appears on the porch's south-side archway, where frescoes depict the Apocalypse and the dark visions of St John in Revelations.

The continuity of the Old Testament and New is emphasised on the southern exterior wall, where a tree grows from the reclining figure of Jesse, flanked by ancient Greek philosophers. The Virgin, depicted as a Byzantine princess, stands nearby, with angels holding a red veil over her head.

The church's tomb room contains the coffins of Moldavian nobles and monastery founders Simion and Ieremia Movilă. Suceviţa was the last painted monastery built, and the only one not built by Ştefan cel Mare or his family. Ieremia Movilă (died 1606) is depicted with his seven children on the western wall.

The monastery's museum exhibits various treasures and art pieces.