PUTNA Monastery - Putna commune, Suceava County

The beginnings of Putna Monastery, the most important religious, cultural and artistic centre in mediaeval Moldavia, take us back to the year 1466 when, upon the initiative of Prince Stephen the Great (1457-1504), a church of impressive dimensions was built on a patch of forest cleared for the purpose. The edifice was erected among 1466 and 1469 and consecrated in 1470; to it was added a few more buildings: a princely home standing on the southern side, outer walls and defence towers; all of them completed in 1481.
A few years only after the completion of the buildings and fortifications, a dreadful fire destroyed most of the church, the outer walls and the princely home. The following years, the prince and founder rebuilt the church that soon recovered its former lofty appearance.
In 1536, another conflagration seriously damaged all the buildings; there followed a new restoration completed in 1559, on the initiative and at the expense of Prince Alexandru Lăpuşneanu (1552-1561; 1564-1568).
Despite subsequent restoration work, partial or complete, time, earthquakes and landslides caused a lot of damage to all the monuments Putna Monastery consists of leaving their indelible marks on them, so that the church more especially required renovation and repairs. In 1653, the church, which had been built in the 15th century, was pulled down to its foundations and replaced in 1654-1662 by a new building which, with slight alterations, has lasted to this day. In this period, the princely residence and the precinct walls were also enlarged and repaired.
However, this important restoration did not last more than three quarters of a century, for in 1739; Putna Monastery was destroyed by a powerful earthquake, which made it necessary to start ample restoration work between 1757 and 1761, upon the initiative and with the endeavors of Metropolitan Iacov Putneanul.
Another important stage in the building of the monastery in the past was marked by the restoration work effectuated from 1854 to 1856, when the precincts were enlarged and new walls were erected, 23 m. to the north of the previous ones. New cells were built parallel to the wall; the old princely residence was demolished, a new building - including a kitchen, a refectory and cells - was erected, together with a new abbey on the western side and a chapel on the north side.
Restoration work on the monastery was started again towards the close of the 19th century, under the supervision of the Austrian architect K.A. Romstorfer.
Ample scientific restoration work was under way in 1969, when the church, the treasury tower, the entrance tower and the belfry - built in 1882 to replace a 15th-century tower - were restored in succession. Between 1974 and 1977, the former abbey standing on the western side of the courtyard was replaced by a wooden building, a museum housing art collections, while the cells built in 1854-1856 on the northern side were replaced and renewed.
The size and complex plan, the rich decorations (carved stone, terracotta and paintings)as well as the appearance for the first time in the ecclesiastical architecture of Moldavia of the exonarthex and of arches arranged slantingly in the vaulting of the pronaos are the basic characteristics of the earlier church of Putna Monastery, making of it a brilliant prototype in which the most important achievements of the previous epoch perfectly combine with the valuable renewing contribution of Stephen the Great's master builders who erected the monument.
An attempt at reconstituting the plan and spatial structures of the earlier church at Putna proves that even if its characteristic features - the presence of the burial vault and the vaulting of the pronaos more especially - are to be found in other previous monuments, they were to be taken over and adapted creatively to grace other places of worship built subsequently.
The new church, having the same triconch plan, was erected among 1654 and 1662. It was almost the size of the earlier monument and its walls rest partly on the old foundations. There are some important alterations in the vaulting system, while the outer wall on the west, built a little back from the former wall towards the interior, was strengthened by two buttresses supporting obliquely the corners of the building. The wall separating the burial vault from the nave has been replaced by two thick octagonal pilasters resting on strong stone pedestals.
The only carved element preserved from the 15th-century church is the monumental porch which links the pronaos to the burial vault; it is rectangular in shape decorated with crossed moldings characteristic of Stephen the Great's epoch.
The iconostasis richly carved in wood, dates from 1773 and belongs to the period of constructive upsurge- characterizing Metropolitan lacov Putneanul's pastorate.
The only edifice dating from Stephen the Great's time which has been preserved whole - the only evidence that at the time of its first erection Putna Monastery was a genuine fortress, the strongest and loftiest of all Moldavian Monasteries - is the treasury tower, built in 1481, standing on the western side of the precincts.
To the same earlier period belong the vestiges of the former princely home and its outhouses which archaeological diggings rediscovered in recent times and made it possible to study them.
One reaches the courtyard of the monastery by passing under the entrance lower, reconstructed in 1757 at the expense of Prince Constantin Racovitã (1749-1753; 1756-1757), and on the site or very close to another tower erected by Stephen the Great in 1481.
Besides the repeated filling and leveling of the steep sloping terrain, widely different initially -in height from north to south, one can notice in the evolution of the precincts of Putna a concern for the preservation of its fortified character and for a correct use of the inner space. The outer walls of the monastery, first erected in 1481, were successively rebuilt in the mid-seventeenth (1654-1662), eighteenth (1757-1760) and nineteenth (1854-1856) centuries, when the constructors built the new walls on the old foundations dating from the 15th century.
On the initiative and with the support of its founders, a short time after it was built Putna Monastery - together with some antecedent monasteries, such as Sucevita, Neamt, Bistrita and Moldovita - became an outstanding habitat of Romanian mediaeval culture. As early as 1467, scribes, calligraphers and miniature painters who had learned their craft under Gavril Uric came from Neamt to work at Putna Monastery.
Besides skilful calligraphers and miniature painters, many embroiderers, icon makers, weavers, silversmiths, sculptors in wood and book-binders toiled on in the quiet atmosphere of the monks' cells at Putna. They continued valuable Romanian patterns and achieved works of great artistic value which today are the pride of all museums and libraries housing them.
Special mention should be made of the sumptuous and elegant Four Gospels created here, adorned with miniatures in which perfect drawing combines with a motley color scheme in which gold prevails, as well as the fine embroideries (epitaphs, iconostasis curtains, coverings of tetrapods and of graves, stoles, etc.), many of them on show in the museum of the monastery.
A famous school where Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were taught was set up in the latter half of the 15th century and was open all through the 16th century. One of the outstanding scholars who taught at the school was Eustatie, of Romanian stock, who at the end of the 15th century transcribed the music of several psalms and composed many psalms himself.
A careful study of the history of Putna Monastery - an important cultural and artistic centre, a refuge and a defence fortress in times of stress, a princely residence and burial place - reveals that, for Romanians everywhere, the monastery is the symbol of a period of remarkable economic, social and political progress, a telling proof of the permanent aspirations and struggle of the Romanian people for liberty, independence and national unity.

Category: Monasteries of SUCEAVA
Added: Aug 29, 2010
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