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Almanah 2014

“byzantium After Byzantium” in the Sixteenth Century Moldavia

Presentation at the 6th Symposium of Romanian Orthodox Spirituality, Trinity College at the University of Toronto, ON, April 13, 2013

The Byzantine influence on the political, cultural, and intellectual development of Moldavia began in the fourteenth century. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moldavian art was considered a posthumous “child” of Byzantium, or “Byzantium after Byzantium,” as Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga would say. Byzantine-Moldavian art is original on many levels: in the production of illuminated manuscripts, in church architecture, and it is evident in church frescoes.

Moldavian iconography reached its climax under the rule of Prince Petru Rareş (between 1527 and 1546). The churches were covered with elaborate frescoes, not only on the interior walls, but also on the outer walls from the cupola to the ground.

The church of Humor monastery1

In 1993 these churches were classified as UNESCO patrimony, due to their unique exterior frescoes. The exterior of five of them, Arbore, PătrăuŢi, Probota, Humor, and MoldoviŢa, were painted during the reign of Rareş. Only one of them, SuceviŢa, was erected and decorated with exterior frescoes fifty years later, and the exterior of VoroneŢ was painted one year after the death of Rareş.

This article will present two frescoes which are unique not only for Moldavian iconography, but for Christian iconography at large.

The Depiction of the Proskomedia in the Church of Probota Monastery

In 1530 a new church was erected at Probota monastery under the patronage of Petru Rareş. It was painted with interior and exterior frescoes in 1532. Up until the construction of Probota, Putna monastery, containing the crypt of Stephen the Great and his family, was the cultural center of Moldavia. Although Rareş at first respected the primacy of Putna monastery (his first wife, who died in 1529, was buried there), Putna lost its primacy after he built Probota monastery in 1530. The church of Probota then became the burial place of Rareş’ family, and the monastery also became the new literary center of Moldavia. 2 The Prince decided to change the family burial site from Putna to Probota on the advice of his cousin Grigorie Roşca, who was abbot at Probota monastery between 1523 and 1546.3 The monks of Putna protested the decisions of Rareş to change the family burial place and the literary center, and there is a document from 1563 that describes that protest.4 However, the monks’ protest was ineffectual, because the prince’s decision was final.

The church of Probota is one of the most important achievements of Romanian architecture and is representative of 16th century Moldavia. The outside painting is greatly compromised due to many factors, most seriously being weather erosion. Ironically, the interior painting was preserved “thanks to” the several layers of over-paint the walls received during the eighteenth and nineteenth century attempts at restoration. Between 1996 and 2001, UNESCO, in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Culture and with the financial support of the Japanese Trust Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, established an international restoration team to revive Probota’s frescoes. 5 They removed the successive layers of the over-paint to reveal the exceptional sixteenth century iconographic display, with original approaches to the canonical themes that make these frescoes unique in Moldavia.

The Church of Probota monastery - altar – St. John Chrysostom sacrificing Christ9
The Church of Probota monastery - altar – Proskomedia

During the restoration work a discovery was made in the altar of a depiction of fourteen hierarchs and two deacons from the first Christian centuries, contemplating Christ’s sacrifice. In place of the Christ Child lying on the liturgical diskos as depicted in the traditional iconography of the proskomedia, there are two severed forearms.6 Next to the diskos stands St. John Chrysostom holding in his right hand a small knife and in his left hand an adult Christ, depicted in miniature, with his arms severed. This image is a visual depiction of the idea of liturgical sacrifice where the bread and wine are changed into the very Body and Blood of Christ by the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Liturgy of St. Basil, composed in the fourth century, was initially used in Orthodox Church services.7 In the fifth century, St. John Chrysostom composed another liturgy, which is not radically different from that of St. Basil. They differ mainly in the prayers called the Anaphora, as well as in some of the songs that are sung during the liturgy, and in the liturgy’s length, with that of St. John Chrysostom being shorter.8 Gradually St.Basil’s liturgy was replaced by that of St. John, which is used throughout the year. By contrast, the Liturgy of St. Basil was (and is) used only ten times each year: on Christmas Eve, St. Basil’s feast day (January 1), the eve of the Theophany (January 5), the five Sundays of Great Lent, Holy Thursday, and Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). The iconographers who painted Probota depicted St. John Chrysostom as sacrificing Christ, and not St. Basil, as is often seen in iconography. This feature of the icon is probably due to the greater frequency of Orthodox usage of the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

Although the fresco is appreciated as unique for its Orthodox iconography, it is problematic from the theological point of view, because in the Eucharist Christ is whole and not divided as the fresco depicts him. St. Nicholas Cabasilas explains that in the Eucharist the Lamb of God (Christ), who “is broken and distributed, but not divided, ever eaten but never consumed,” is the sanctification of those who partake of him.10 Hence, the canonical depiction has the whole Christ Child placed on the diskos and not merely his severed forearms as in Probota’s fresco.11

The Fresco Depicting the Fall of Constantinople at the Churches of MoldoviŢa and Humor Monasteries

During the reign of Rareş, the major political threat to his country came from the Ottomans. The Moldavian prince’s political message against the Ottoman Turks found its place in the exterior frescoes of the churches of MoldoviŢa and Humor monas-teries, precisely the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople. In what follows, I will provide three interpretations of this fresco: the first interpretation sees in the fresco not the historical Fall of Constantinople, but rather the hope for the victory of the Byzantines (depicted as Moldavians) over the Ottomans; the second interprets the Fall of Constantinople holistically, in the context of a fresco series; the third interpre-tation is connected with a graffito inserted into the fresco. The first two interpretations are put forward by contemporary scholars, whereas the third belongs to a sixteenth century anonymous commentator who was critical of the lack of historical veracity in the depiction of the Fall of Constantinople as a victory of the Byzantines over the Ottomans Turks.

1. The First Interpretation of the Fresco Depicting the Fall of Constantinople

The scene of the battle for Constantinople from the MoldoviŢa and Humor monastic churches is part of a larger fresco, which illustrates the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God. All the thirteen parts of the Akathist are depicted in the fresco, but the first kontakion puzzles the viewer.12 The first kontakion of the Hymn alludes to the victory of the Byzantines over the Persians in 626, whereas the fresco did not depict this battle. Confused by the appearances (the costumes of the sixteenth-century Turks and the use of artillery by both armies) some Romanian scholars have argued that the fresco represents the Fall of Constantinople (1453) and is depicted as a victory for Byzantines based on a lack of historical knowledge on the part of the iconographers. Some interpreters point to the fresco from the Arbore monastic church, which, in their view, was painted by more educated iconographers who explicitly depicted the siege of Constantinople of 626 rather than that of 1453.13 However, the origin of the depiction of the Fall of Constantinople as a victory for Byzantines must have a more suitable explanation than the iconographers’ lack of historical knowledge of a disaster of such proportions.

At Humor and MoldoviŢa monasteries (painted during the first reign of Prince Rareş) the depiction of the text had been changed; instead of the battle of 626, the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 has been painted. Contrary to the outcome of this latter historical event, the Byzantines are made victors. Moreover, the defenders of Constantinople are all sixteenth century Moldavian soldiers recognizable by their costumes. The Moldavians as defenders of Constantinople is related to the desire of Prince Rareş to be the liberator of Constan-tinople and to become the new Emperor of Byzantium. Hence, the Moldavian icono-graphers adapted the theme of the Akathist Hymn, and implicitly the scene of the battle for Constantinople, to the contemporary e-vents in their country, changing it into a national invocation: in the same way that the Mother of God helped the Byzantines to defend themselves against the attack of the Persians, she will help the Moldavians to resist the Ottomans.14 Therefore, the fresco is not only the image of the ‘victorious’ Constantinople, it is by extension that of the ‘victorious’ Moldavia. The questions which arise are why and how Prince Rareş hoped to become the new Byzantine Emperor.

In 1527, following the death of Prince ştefăniŢă (Rareş’s brother), the Moldavian bishop and boyars sent for Rareş to bring him to Suceava (at that time the capital of Moldavia) to be crowned as Prince of Moldavia. According to a sixteenth century Moldavian chronicle, one night during his journey to Suceava, Rareş had a dream in which two hills of gold bowed before him.16 Rareş interpreted this dream as a ‘prophecy’ that he would be a strong prince. At that time in Eastern Europe many “prophecies” were circulating about a liberator of Constantinople, describing him as a light-haired old man, merciful, pious, and modest.17 Rareş believed that the prophecies referred to him. He, an illegitimate child (in his interpretation this meant a modest condition), unexpectedly became prince at the age of 40, somewhat “elderly” at that time, and he also saw himself as merciful and pious. Such details seemed to fit the “prophecies” well; hence Rareş identified himself with the foretold liberator of Constantinople.18

Church of MoldoviŢa Monastery, the Fall of Constantinople - detail15
Church of MoldoviŢa Monastery, The Fall of Constantinople - Turkish army, detail

For the fulfilment of his hope he requested prayers at the monasteries of Mount Athos in Greece. In 1533, Rareş received a group of monks headed by Macarius, the abbot of Hilander, a Serbian monastery on Mount Athos, because he wanted to become the patron of this monastery.19 The Prince promised to his visitors that he would give a generous annual donation to the monastery in return for intercessory prayers to the Mother of God, to be sung by the abbot and his companions every Monday. Macarius also promised the prince that he would commemorate him in a liturgy every Tuesday, with kóllyva, a ritual food, and drinks for the monks.20 The monks would loudly sing the polychronion for Rareş, as for a Byzantine emperor, as long as he lived.21 The document22 finishes with the prince’s promise to considerably increase his annual gift to the monastery if “God and the Holy Mother of God will have mercy and deliver them from the foreign people,” that is the Ottomans.23 He even prepared with Prohor, the archbishop of Ohrida, the ceremonial for his coronation as emperor.24

In 1538, during a conspiracy against him, Rareş fled to Transylvania, abandon-ing the Moldavian throne. In 1541, he re-turned as Prince of Moldavia, with help from the Ottomans, which now was a vassal principality of the Ottoman sultan. There is a widespread view that the exterior frescoes of the monasteries, established during Rareş’ second reign, reflect the new political changes.25 Thus, on the exterior walls of the monastic church of Arbore painted during Rareş’ second reign, is depicted the siege of 626 by the Persians and not the “victorious” Constantinople. There is no doubt as to which siege is depicted, as can be understood by the costumes of the soldiers and an inscription above the battle scene which specifies that is the battle of 626 which is shown. Thus, it seems that the prince had learned the importance of “political correctness,” even if he may have retained the vestiges of hope for a future liberation of Constantinople from the Ottomans. Paradoxically, on the same wall, there is a fresco of the Last Judgment. In it those who enter hell first are none other than the Ottoman Turks.

Petru Rareş and his family – votive painting, Probota Monastery

“Victorious” Constantinople disappeared from the Moldavian frescoes at the same time as Rareş’s hope to be the savior of Constantinople vanished in smoke; hence, too, his retreat from the political scene. According to contemporary witnesses, Rareş was never a vassal to the Sultan, and he naively hoped for a miraculous liberation of both Moldavia and Constantinople.26 Not only did Rareş not see his dream fulfilled, but his elder son, Ilias, renounced his Christian faith and converted to Islam. Ilias’s ascent to the Moldavian throne, his reign and his conversion to Islam, are described in the Chronicle of Grigore Ureche:

Both his nature and his face showed him as a kind, merciful and steady man, which would make one think he would be like his father. But he disappointed all expectations, because he looked like a tree in bloom, but he was inside a poisonous pond…. Among the numerous lawless acts Prince Ilias did, as he followed the advice of Satan, he left the reign of the country to his brother, Prince Stephen and his mother, in the year 7059 (1551). On May 1 he went to Emperor Suleiman, where he received the religion of Mohammed, giving up Christ, thinking that he would acquire great honor from the emperor. 27

In 1550, before his conversion to Islam, Ilias, considering himself as the second founder of the Probota monastery alongside his father, asked the iconographers to modify the church votive painting and depict him as mature, rather than as a child, as well as crowned like his father.28 The iconographers did as he wished, but after Ilias’ conversion to Islam, to show their disapproval, they painted over his face with dark hues to emphasize that his choice, in their view, amounted to selling his soul to the devil.

Whereas the first interpretation of the Fall of Constantinople isolates the fresco from the rest of the iconic program, the second interpretation integrates this fresco within the iconic programs to the left and the right of the representation of the Fall of Constantinople.

2. The Second Interpretation of the Fresco Depicting the Fall of Constantinople

There are scholars who connect the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople at Humor with two others which border the scene, namely the Burning Bush on the left and the Parable of the Prodigal Son on the right. The Burning Bush is an illustration of the passage from the book of Exodus (3:1-5) where God called Moses at the site of Mount Horeb from the midst of a bush “burning with fire” though it “was not consumed.”29 The Orthodox Church inter-prets this event in two ways. According to hesychast teaching, on seeing the flame, Moses was permitted to see God's uncreated energies, which is why the bush was not consumed.30 The second interpretation is that the burning bush on Horeb has to be understood as a foreshadowing of the Theotokos. Here is the parallel: the Theotokos gave birth to the incarnate God while remaining a virgin and the bush burned without being consumed. On the Moldavian fresco, in the middle of the Bur-ning Bush, one can see a small icon representing the Mother of God as “Oranta” (i.e., Praying Virgin), also named the “Lady of the Sign” (i.e. the Virgin of the Incarnation with Christ-Emmanuel on a medallion on her breast) or “Platytera” (i.e., wider than the heavens).31 On the right side of the fresco depicting the Fall of Constantinople is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which illustrates the narration in Luke (15:11-32).

According to Sorin Dumitrescu, the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople was placed between these two frescoes in order to emphasize the fall of the Orthodox Christian center, which in itself was considered by Prince Rareş as a disaster.32 Be that as it may, the disaster was a redemptive one, similar to the lesson taught by the parable of the prodigal son. Hence, the three frescoes have to be “read” together from an eschatological perspective. Constantinople had the honor of being chosen as the Orthodox Christian center, like Moses was given the honor to contemplate the uncreated light of God. Yet, the inhabitants of Constantinople made themselves the “sons of sin,” like the prodigal son who decided to leave his father’s house and live a sinful life. This is why God decided to suspend the glory of Byzantium, and, hence the depiction in the fresco of the historical fall of Constantinople and the victory of the Ottoman Empire. However, there is hope and the fall of Constantinople is not lasting. One can see on the fresco, in the middle of the Burning Bush, the image of the Mother of God who gives birth to the Redeemer. If there is repentance, as in the parable of the prodigal son, Constantinople will be freed, because no sin can overcome God’s kindness and love for humankind, however great the sin might be.

The Burning Bush - Humor Monastery
The Parable of the Prodigal Son with Moldavian dancers – the church of Humor Monastery

It is significant that the frescoes depict again the life of the Moldavians. At the banquet offered by the father upon the return of his prodigal son, the Moldavians dance happily. They are dressed in folk costumes: shirts with ornaments, long tunics touching the knees and tied at the waist with girdles, and boots of different colors. This scene is a remarkable “localization” of the eschatological banquet.

The second interpretation of the Fall of Constantinople emphasizes the importance of “reading” the frescoes holistically, that is, taking into account the whole composition and its theological interest. This fresco was of interest to believers ever since the sixteenth century. In the following section, I will describe a sixteenth century graffito referring to the Fall of Constantinople.

The Third Interpretation of the Fall of Constantinople: A Historical Graffito

Graffiti are the most frequent acts of aggression against Moldavian murals. There are numerous scratched inscriptions encountered from all epochs as a consequence of the wish of people to leave traces of their visits to the monasteries. The majority of them are located in the lower areas of the churches’ murals, and frequently record the name and date of their visit to the monasteries. Vandalism on the murals is apparent in the form of illustrations of animals, plants, and sometimes the prayers of pilgrims. What is more, as a consequence of occult practices, parts of the frescoes were removed, in particular the eyes and ears of the saints that were used in magic.33

Besides these acts of vandalism, there are sixteenth-century graffiti, probably made by monks, who were among the few literate sectors of the population of those times. Over the years, some graffiti acquired a documentary value, for they can be correlated with various events of the period.34 One example of this kind of graffito was discovered in 1930 by André Grabar, on the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople at MoldoviŢa monastery.35 The inscription follows the upper side of the wall which surrounds the city of Constantinople, under the Moldavian soldier who is bent over a cannon.

Part of fresco with incisions
MoldaviŢa monastery – detail with the sixteenth century inscription

The graffito of this anonymous author is very important because it gives a rare example of the way in which a sixteenth century Orthodox Christian interpreted the fresco. The inscription deciphered by André Grabar reads as follows:

They pictured the glorious victory of Constantinople over the Scythian Khan, but why did they not represent the misfortune and the disaster they suffered because of the Saracen emir?36

The anonymous author observed that the fresco depicts the victory of Constan-tinople, and wondered why the disaster which Constantinople had historically experienced, and which was on everybody’s mind at that time, was not depicted. The author of the inscription was perhaps a literalist who wanted to see not a symbolical representation of the past, nor of a future victory of Byzantium over the Otto-man Turks. He perhaps preferred to see the fresco depicting the historical truth. For the average sixteenth-century Greek person, the hope for a miraculous liberation of Constantinople was not a hopeless dream, as it seems to have been for the Moldavian author of the graffito. 37 We do not know if other ordinary Moldavians had the same opinion as the anonymous author of this graffito, but it is obvious that the ambition of Prince Rareş to be the liberator of Constantinople was either unknown, or rejected by a nameless viewer who was moved to express his experience of the reality of the time rather than the hopes and dreams of the fresco painters.


While Prince Rareş loved and appreciated the entire Moldavian heritage and wanted to preserve the tradition of Moldavian church architecture, he also knew how to encourage the integration of new artistic perspectives into a cultural heritage. The results can be seen in the unique interior church frescoes, as the Proskomedia analyzed above, and also on the exterior frescoes which continue to amaze viewers. When depicting the Fall of Constantinople on the exterior walls of the churches of Humor and MoldoviŢa monasteries, the iconographers tried to connect the iconographic art with the political ambitions of Prince Petru Rareş to free Moldavia and Constantinople from foreign domination. The iconographers depicted this fresco in the context of the representation of the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God, one of the most beloved prayers of Orthodox believers. They placed the Akathist Hymn and the Fall of Constantinople on the right side of the entrance of the church, easily seen by those who entered it. The iconographers did not impose on the viewer their own interpretation but allowed the fresco to be interpreted by each believer according to his own spiritual understanding.

Does the fresco represent the historical fall of Constantinople, or is it a depiction of the hope held by Prince Rareş, who saw in himself the fulfillment of the “prophecies” about the liberator of Constantinople? We cannot know if the iconographers spoke with Prince Rareş about this fresco, but what we do know is that political pro-paganda was never more subtle than in the Humor and MoldoviŢa depiction of the Fall of Constantinople. At Arbore monastery, and later at SuceviŢa monastery, the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople was replaced with the siege of 626. After Rareş’ death, the illustration of the Fall of Constantinople disappeared from the Moldavian frescoes and was never depicted again on any other church in Moldavia.

The 1993 UNESCO recognition of the artistic treasure of the Moldavian monastic churches painted on the exterior walls was an important moment in recent Moldavian history. This recognition has obviously en-couraged cultural tourism, as well as the efforts of specialists in the restoration and preservation of these unique monuments. At the same time, it is important for the Christ-ian community in Romania. Today, one can see vital communities of nuns or monks at the monasteries, and they are not alone with their treasure, but the faithful fill the churches for each liturgy. However, the inclusion of the Moldavian churches as part of the worldwide cultural heritage points to the extending of a broader opportunity in both East and West to speak of a spiritual and theological treasure that is to be found with-in the walls of these monastic churches. Thus, this article points to the need for exploring avenues to making them better known. It underlines the fact that this is an initial stage in the process of capturing the attention of the wider community in both East and West, and particularly that of specialists in art, architecture, theology and history.

Prof. Dr. Adriana Bara

Concordia University, Montreal
Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism,
Montreal, Canada


1The author took all the pictures included in this article.

2 Emil Turdeanu and E. D. Tappe, “Centres of Literary Activity in Moldavia, 1504-1552,” The Slavonic and East European Review 34 (1955), p. 108.

3 Mircea Pacuraiu, Istoria Bisericii Ortodoxe Romane (Vol. I. Bucharest, Romania: Institutul Biblic si de Misiune al

Bisericii Ortodoxe Romane, 1991), p. 471.

4 The letter of the archbishop Gregory is in: Mihail Roller, Documente privind istoria Romaniei: A: Moldova (Bucharest, Romania, 1954), pp. 168-169.

5 For more information on the restauration programme for Probota monastery, see the UNESCO website:

6 The Proskomedia is a service in the Orthodox Church for the preparation of liturgical gifts (the bread and wine), which is performed before the Liturgy.

7 Hugh Wybrew, The Orthodox Liturgy: the Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite (Crestwood, N.K.: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003), pp. 54-61.

8 Ibid.

9 It should be mentioned that, in the Orthodox Church, women are not allowed to enter the altar (except in the case of a monastery’s abbess). I was able to take this picture thanks to the help of abbess of Probota monastery.

10 On the theology of the Eucharist, see: Nicholas Cabasilas, A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, J.M Hussey and P.A McNulty, transl. (London, UK: SPCK, 1960), pp. 18 and 81-82.

11 For the depiction of the Christ Child on the altar’s walls, see: Paul Hetherigton transl. The Painter's Manual of Dionysius of Fourna (Torrance, California: Oakwood Publication, 1996), p. 505 (465).

12 The Akathistos Hymn is divided into thirteen parts, each of which has a kontakion and an oikos. The kontakion usually describes an event from the life of the saint to which the Akathistos is addressed and ends with the exclamation, “Alleluia!”, whereas an oikos is an anaphoric request or praise.

13 Ciobanu in his PhD dissertation describes the scholarly discussions concerning the Fall of Constantinople depicted in Moldavian churches. Constantin Ciobanu, Sursele literare ale programelor iconografice din pictura murala medievala Moldava (Chisinau, Institutul Studiul Artelor, 2005), pp. 17-22.

14 Paul Henrry, Les églises de la Moldavie du nord des origines à la fin du XVIe siècle : architecture et peinture : contribution à l'étude de la civilisation moldave (Paris, France: E. Leroux, 1930), p. 241; Sorin Ulea, “Originea si semnificatia ideologica a picturii exterioare moldovenesti,” SCIA (1963), p. 72.

15 The church of Humor Monastery painted exteriorly in 1535 has the depiction of the Akathistos Hymn well preserved, but that of the Fall of Constantinople is in a very advanced stage of decay. The church of Moldovita monastery, exteriorly painted in 1537, has the fresco of the Fall of Constantinople better preserved. The two monastic churches were apparently painted by the same group of iconographers since the exterior frescoes are very similar, indeed almost identical.

16 Ion Neculce, O sama de cuvinte, edited by Iorgu Iordan (Bucharest, Romania: Editura de Stat pentru Arta, 1959), pp. 12-13.

17 Ciobanu, op.cit., pp. 74-78.

18 Ion Toderascu, “Prima Domnie” in Petru Rares, edited by Leon Simanschi (Bucharest, Romania: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste Romania, 1978), p. 54.

19 Petre S. Nasturel, Le Mont Athos et les Roumains: Recherches sur leurs relations du milieu du xive siècle à 1654 (Roma: Pont. Institutum Studiorum Orientalium, 1986), p. 137.

20 Kólliva (Greek κ?λλυβα) is a ritual food obtained from boiled wheat, which is used liturgically in the Orthodox Church.

21 The Polychronion is chanted during the Orthodox liturgy for the secular authorities, the church authorities, individuals, on specific occasions.

22 Roller, op.cit., pp. 356-357.

23 Nasturel, op.cit., p. 138.

24 Ciobanu, “Sursele Literare,” p. 80

25 Sorin Dumitrescu, Chivotele Lui Petru Rares Si Modelul Lor Ceresc (Rares' Shrines and Their Heavenly Models) (Bucharest, Romania: Editura Anastasia, 2001), p. 80.

26 Nicolae Iorga mentions that Ieronim Lascu the negotiator at the Ottoman Porte during Rares’s second reign who said that the prince was very unhappy with the Ottoman domination of Moldavian lands. Neamul Romanesc in Basarabia (Bucharest, Romania: Editura Fundatiei Culturale Romane, 1995), p. 174.

27 Grigore Ureche, Letopisetul Tarii Moldove, edited by Liviu Onu (Bucharest, Romania: Editura Stiintifica, 1967), p. 120.

28 Ovidiu Boldura, Pictura murala din Nordul Moldovei, Modificari estetice si restaurare (Mural Painting in the North of Moldavia, Aestetic Modifications and Restauration) (Suceava, Romania: Accent Print, 2007), p. 152.

29 All the biblical quotations are from The Orthodox Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers), 2008.

30 Hesychasm, an Orthodox teaching defended by St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), maintains that, through spiritual discipline, silent contemplative prayer and God’s grace, one can see the uncreated light of God, in the same way that the Apostles Peter, James and John had beheld Christ’s glory on Mount Tabor. St. Gregory Palamas also teaches that, though it remains impossible to know God in His essence (to know God in and of Himself), it is nonetheless possible to know Him in His energies.

31 In Orthodox iconography, the Oranta is the prototype, while the Theotokos of the Sign and the Platytera are variants of the Oranta. From the fresco, it is difficult to say which one of the three it is, due to the state of degradation (see: (authored by Dr. Vivian Olender).

32 Dumitrescu, op.cit., p. 77.

33 Boldura, op.cit., p. 179.

34 Ibid., p. 165.

35 André Grabar, “Un graffite slave sur la façade d’une église de Bucovine,” in L’art de la fin de l’antiquité et du Moyen Âge (Paris, France: Collège de France, 1968), p. 74.

36 Ibid., p. 75.

37 Ibid., p. 79.

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