Luca Arbore was the gatekeeper of Suceava, one of the greatest boyars of Stephen the Great and counselor of Bogdan III. Of his old boyar court, only the church of the Beheading of St John the Baptist, built in 1502 as the family necropolis, still survives.
After Luca’s beheading, his sister Ana took care of the church’s painting in 1541. The church preserves priceless interior and exterior Byzantine frescoes, painted mainly in shades of green. The main murals depict celestial beings arranged according to their hierarchical significance: angels and seraphim at the top, followed by archangels and saints below, then martyrs.
On the church’s exterior, the Constantinople Siege, depicting the siege of the Persians in 626, receives real substance. The painter’s originality is most visible on the western façade, as the wall seems to be an immense book of miniatures. This style, unique among the Moldavian monasteries due to its Renaissance influence, is considered to be the best of the period of Stephen the Great and Petru Rareş.
The interior paintings were seriously affected during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the church’s roof was destroyed. Remarkable are the portraits of Luca Arbore and his family from the votive painting, as well as those of the Virgin Mary and of Emperor Constantine the Great. An important aspect is the fact that the saints often have gilded auras, sign of the opulence characteristic to the wealth of the church’s builder, even in a period of permanent conflicts with the Ottomans. Victory against these invaders is symbolically invoked also in the Cavalcade of the Holy Cross painting.
Inside the church lies the tomb of the founder, one of the most representative Gothic funerary monuments in Moldavia.
How to get there:
Arbore Monastery is situated 37km north-west of Suceava, on the road which leads to Rădăuți. Turn left after you reach Milișăuți on DN2K.