» » The Arbore Church or How Moldavian Architecture Combines Oriental and Western Influences
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8-12-2014, 15:37

The Arbore Church or How Moldavian Architecture Combines Oriental and Western Influences

Category: History / Moldova / Arbore

The Arbore Church or How Moldavian Architecture Combines Oriental and Western InfluencesOne of the most spectacular architectural monuments is the Moldavian Church Arbore. This place of worship combines the Byzantine tradition of worship sites with Western influences, filtered by the Catholic Poland. The church was built by the hetman Luca Arbore, the Moldavian army commander during the reign of Prince Stephen the Great, declared a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Church. Since 1993, this church is part of UNESCO’s world heritage. The founder of this church, Luca Arbore, was part of the high aristocracy of Moldova. His father was commander of the Neamt Fortress. In 1486, Luca Arbore became the commander of the garrison in the capital of Moldova, Suceava. He was one of the trusted men of Stephen the Great, and received the rank of hetman, namely, the army chief of the principality. He also held the position of commander under the reign of Stephen the Great's son, Bogdan the Blind. Then, he became regent of Moldova in the first period of the reign of Stephen the Great's grandson, Stefan Voda. However, later on, Stefan Voda killed Luca Arbore and his sons, Toader and Nichita, whom he accused of treason. Their memory is preserved in the old church of the village Arbore. Initially, it was an entire aristocratic residence, out of which only the church survived. This was built on top of the ruins of an Orthodox hermitage. Construction work began on April 2, 1502 and ended on August 29, 1502, a remarkable record for that time.
The church is dedicated to the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. During the expedition of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent against the ruler Petru Rares, the church suffered severe damage. Consequently, in 1541, the sister of Luca Arbore, lady Ana, paid the craftsman Dragosin, the son of the priest Coman, to restore the painting.

Diverse Influences

Dragosin was a secular artist who deviated from the canonical hieratism of Byzantine icons, and incorporated Renaissance influences in his painting. He also painted the outside of the church. On the outside, the place of worship is rectangular, while the inside is pseudo-trilobal, due to the walls of the nave which are carved on the inside. The construction material was raw stone for the walls and brick for the arches.
The length of the church is 22 metres, with a width of 9.10 metres and a height of 8.5 metres. It has no towers, but a hipped roof instead. There is a cornice of carved stone under the roof, and the west wall has an inbuilt niche, which was a complete innovation for the Moldavian architecture. The entrance is through a Gothic portal located in the southern wall.
Light enters through five small windows set in stone frames. The construction includes Moldavian arches inspired by the Gothic style. The church manages to create a harmonious blend between the Gothic and the Byzantine. This synthetic style of the church is also visible in the iconography, which displays Eastern saints, such as St. Macrina, as well as Western saints, i.e. St. Christopher. The founder of the church is buried in the church, under a stone canopy, similar to the one in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, where King Casimir IV Jagiellon is buried.

The distance between Bucharest and Arbore is 462 kilometres, while between Cluj-Napoca and Arbore it is 309 km.
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