Painted Monasteries

The painted monasteries are one of the most striking attractions in Romania. Some travelers might be surprised to learn that there is more to the country than Communist architecture and folklore about vampires, but whatever your interests or background knowledge, they are well worth seeing. These Romania monasteries are known for their magnificent painted exterior walls. Frescoes were completed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and they are known for their elaborate detail. While castles and fortresses, medieval towns, and the thriving capital city of Bucharest are all reasons to travel to Romania, the painted monasteries should also be high on the list for anyone who appreciates art.

These frescoes are considered masterpieces of Byzantine art and attract both art buffs and regular tourists alike. There are a number of monasteries in Romania that have this feature, but perhaps the most striking is the Voronet Monastery. The frescoes depict a variety of images and scenes, including portraits of saints, images from the life of Jesus, and depictions of heaven and hell. The purpose of the frescoes was to illuminate stories from the bible. Unique in Europe for their detail, vibrant colors, and how well they have survived, many art-lovers and history buffs plan trips to the country just to visit these Romania monasteries, as well as attractions like Dracula's Castle.

The painted monasteries were named UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1993 as a result of their historical significance and intricate detail. The Voronet Monastery is located in northeastern Romania and is the most famous of the Romania monasteries. In Europe this monastery is often called the Sistine Chapel of the East as a result of its fantastic paintings on both the interior and exterior of the monastery. One color is featured heavily in the frescoes at Voronet Monastery, and since has been called Voronet blue. Today, nuns provide a guided tour of the monastery to visitors.

There are other painted monasteries throughout Romania that are worth a look as well. The best preserved monasteries are Arbore Monastery, Humor Monastery, Moldovita Monastery, Patrauti Church, Probota Monastery, Saint George’s Church, and Sucevita Monastery. These striking images became well known to the art world after an article in the Smithsonian Magazine in 2007. Since this time, a revived interest in these fantastic frescoes has attracted more and more visitors to Romania.

If you’re planning a trip to see the painted monasteries in Romania, you will want to leave yourself a bit of time. Some travelers hurriedly rush from one to the next in a blur of a day, but the monasteries are best seen over the course of two or tree days. It is possible to travel between them utilizing trains and buses, but the best way to see them would be to join a tour or rent your own car. This way, transportation won’t be a concern and you can view the monasteries in any order you please. Car rental in Suceava, which is a one hour flight from Bucharest, is most popular, and from here, the monasteries are no more than a 30-minute drive from one another. Excursions and daytrips are also available from this starting point. Seeing photographs of these frescoes doesn’t compare to seeing them in real life, so go ahead and get planning that off-the-beaten-path trip to Romania.

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