The Bucovina Monasteries. Arbore

We were getting farther away from home and closer to the northern border. This was once the center of Moldova and for centuries it has witnessed wars and terrible battles. A great part of Romanian history was written here.

We started our travels from the mountains of Obcinele Bucovinei (“The Bucovina Springs”). We already visited the Moldovița, Sucevița and Putna Monasteries and it seemed like we were heading for the plains. But as we continued we found ourselves once again turning towards the hills, only this time the road was leaner, crossing many settlements on the way.

Arbore is one of a series of these small villages. It is modest and without so many publicity about the important landmark in the center. In fact, the Arbore Church is so humble that one can pass by it without even noticing it.

Luca Arbore was one of Ștefan cel Mare‘s closest gentlemen. He was also the gatekeeper of Suceava, a great distinction in Moldova, meaning that he was in charge of the troops. In 1502 he bought a piece of land on which he began construction of the family court. The chapel was the Arbore Church we see today. In 1523 Luca Arbore was  accused of treason and he was decapitated. He was not proven guilty, nor did he have a trial. The massive and luxurious constructions of the Arbore court went to ruins and today they are only a pile of dirt.

On the side of the road there’s a small fence. Behind it, tall trees filter the sun beams in a game of lights, hiding the contents of the yard. We enter through the bell tower, which is separated from the church. It is a simple combination of wood and clay, resembling some medieval watch tower. On such a hot summer day the first thing we did was take refuge on a bench under a huge tree. While catching our breath we could make out some religious scenes on the western side. It was quiet. There was no one here but us. The empty yard puts the church in the center of attention. Here and then, grass coveres the alleys. Fabulous trees act as ancient keepers of this place. Under their shade some funeral stones keep aging.

On the exterior, the church kept its original form. The faded paintings have not been restored since they were first laid on, in 1541. On the northern side, as it is typical for these old buildings, the drawings have been washed off.

There was something about the church that was drawing us toward it. It felt comforting to sit down and look around, breathe the air, not hear a thing.

We went round it again and again. There are cracks in the walls and the drawings lost their color. This only makes the Arbore Church more valuable. It’s a privilege to be able to stand in front of a five centuries old creation, to put your hand on what has been touched by millions before, feel the vibe of both good and bad times, honest and hypocrite men. It saw people coming and going and it will probably still be there long after we are gone.

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