The Bucovina Monasteries. Putna

One dark night, back when Moldova was threatened by the Ottoman invasions, Ștefan cel Mare was returning from a hunt. On his way through the forest, feeling tired, hungry and upset,  he came across the cell of Daniil Sihastru and knocked at his door. Interrupting his prayers, the hermit let Moldova’s ruler in. He already knew that Ștefan cel Mare was worried about his country, so he advised him to do the following. In the morning he was to climb up the hill behind the cell and shoot an arrow in the distance. He must build a monastery where it lands.  And if he does, the country would be protected from defeat. The next day, Ștefan cel Mare shot his arrow far away into the woods. After a long search, he found it poked into an old maple tree. On that very spot he brought his finest craftsmen and on the 10th of July 1466 the first cornerstone was laid for the Putna Monastery.

At the end of the open valley. the green pastures are making way for hills. At their foot we can make out the silhouettes of some houses. The road crosses the Putna village and takes us all the way to the open gates that seem to await our arrival. Just by standing in front of it we can already tell that Putna Monastery is larger and more imposing than what we’ve seen before, at Moldovița and Sucevița. The entrance tower holds Moldova’s emblem, a very old original piece from 1471. The church is different. The coloring makes it sober. However, all the fine decorations and the floral sculptures, especially those on the tower and around the windows, stand out even better on this light shade of gray. It was initially covered in paintings, all on a gold background, but in the years to come it suffered attacks both from enemies and from nature. Therefore, the church was rebuilt in the 17th century. Ștefan cel Mare’s most important foundation is truly massive. The towers are high and the cells are built on several levels. Together with the walls they form a powerful defense.  The monastery was conceived as a royal necropolis. Ștefan cel Mare, his son Bogdan, his grandson Ștefăniță, as well as other members of the Mușatin Dinasty, are all buried inside the church. On a bright sunny day such as this, one won’t help but notice how the colorful roses stand out in front of the pale walls.

Behind the church we visit the museum. The stairs lead to the second floor where we find a large collection of valuable items, from medieval pottery, to manuscripts, religious objects and also many embroideries, all woven with gold threads. Among them we discover the arrow which decided the location of the monastery. On the lower level we can see the outfits that Ștefan cel Mare and his family used to wear.

Just outside the main gates, under the forest, in a cemetery’s yard, we find the oldest wooden church in Romania, an important landmark of great architectural value, which is not very well known. Legend has it that, after deciding on the place where he would build the Putna Monastery, Ștefan cel Mare first brought a small church from Volovăț. This was built at the beginning of the 15th century, when Dragoș Vodă ruled Moldova.

Close to the village we found another legendary place connected to Putna Monastery. The signposts directed us behind the last houses, over the river and on an iron bridge that apparently had some problems keeping its parts together. It was somehow all twisted and bended to one side. Going over it meant having to overcome some prominent humps, strongly holding on to the wheel and hoping to God that the car will not jump into the river. We survived the trip and got to the other side to Daniil Sihastru’s cell. It is simply a round boulder, carved with a door, a couple of windows and a small room inside. A wooden latter goes up on the “porch” and from there inside a cool room, where Daniil Sihastru used to pray, fast and secretly advise Ștefan cel Mare.

Upon visiting all these places that are closely related to the construction of Putna Monastery, I can’t help but wonder how much of it is actually legend.  When returning, we had to face our greatest fear once again. The bridge. I’m writing these thoughts right now, which means it didn’t give in. So I’m sure about one thing..these parts really are protected.

Since you’re here, it wouldn’t hurt visiting The Dark Pottery workshop at Marginea, as well as Moldovița Monastery and Sucevița Monastery. And there are still plenty more to come!




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