A true monastic fortress rises in Probota. The monastery was founded in 1530 by Prince Petru Rareș, the son of Stephen the Great. From 1522, the church served as a royal necropolis. Here are buried the princes Petru Rareș and his son, Stephen Rareș, Petru's wife, Elena Rareș, and two noble offspring: Eftimia, daughter of Petru Rareș and Samfira, daughter of Stephen Rareș. The monastery was built in the vicinity of a wooden church, from the time of Prince Peter Muşatin, and a stone church, built by Prince Alexander the Good, where Lady Oltea, the mother of Stephen the Great, lies buried.
Petru Rareș’ church, built between 1528 and 1530, was painted in 1532 at the initiative of the prince’s cousin, Gregory Rosca, who would become the first abbot of the monastery, and later Bishop of Moldavia.
In 1550, the widow of Petru Rareș, Lady Elena, decided to fortify the monastery. She surrounded it with a square enclosure wall, made of river stone. The wall has sides of 90 metres, a height of six metres and a thickness of 1 to 1.10 metres. The walls have ramparts and battlements. On the eastern side there are three defence towers. The western wall is supported by a buttress, and in the south wall we find a secret loophole. Nevertheless, this fortress wall could not prevent the plundering of the monastery in 1622.
The monastery was rebuilt in 1646, by Prince Vasile Lupu. The works were completed only in 1680. Probota Monastery was an important cultural centre. Four Bishops of Moldova have worked here. But in 1677, the Bishop Dosoftei dedicated this monastery to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In the meantime Greek monks came to Probota, and they left the monastery in a desolate state.
The Romanian government took over Probota in 1863 and decided to close the monastery and transform it into a parish church. In 1904, the church was restored and the tombstone of Lady Oltea was restored. The restoration works were coarse, and some original paintings were destroyed. The monastery was re-established only in 1993, as a convent.
A Moldavian Masterpiece
The church is built from rough stone, with three horizontal rows of bricks. Its plan is triconch, following Byzantine canons. The lateral apses are pentagonal, while the altar is heptagonal. These are decorated with blind arches and above them we find niches arranged in two rows. The high ones mark only the apses, while the smaller ones stretch throughout the construction.
The church is divided into five rooms. The porch has only the southern door. The northern one was closed. Light comes in through the eight gothic windows. The narthex has a Gothic portal and a semicircular vault and is illuminated by four windows. The mortuary room has two windows and a semicircular vault. The nave and the altar are separated by the iconostasis. An interesting detail is the votive painting that depicts Petru Rareș, his son, Ilias Rareș, Lady Elena and the two children, Constantine and Ruxandra. The face of Iliaş Rareș face was blackened after he converted to Islam.
Travel info: The distance between Bucharest and Probota is 387 kilometres, and between Cluj-Napoca and Probota is 337 kilometres.
Photo credit: Florin Eşanu