Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 21 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Anselm of Canterbury
home iconTravel
line break icon

Eastern Europe has its own Sistine Chapel



Daniel Esparza - published on 06/07/17

A glimpse at the Orthodox monastery of Voronet, in Romania.

The monastery of the small Romanian villa of Voronet is perhaps the best known and most beautiful of the so-called “painted monasteries” of Ukraine, Romania and Moldavia.

However, this was not always so. During the era of communist totalitarianism, both Voronet and the other monasteries in the area remained almost anonymous, if not almost purposely hiding in silence, supported and maintained only by the dedicated hands of local Orthodox nuns and monks. Today these monks and nuns welcome visitors who come to admire the exquisite frescoes of the “Sistine Chapel of the East,” the great Voronet Monastery, which took only three months and three weeks to build, back in 1488.

The monastery is covered, both internally and externally, with frescoes that illustrate not only biblical scenes and iconographic references of religious themes, but also include portraits of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, as belonging to the Christian theological and philosophical traditions.

But the uniqueness of Voronet, which separates it from traditional Byzantine painting and its neutral golden backgrounds behind the characters represented, is a mysterious blue color, which is everywhere around the monastery. Voronet’s frescoes are, in fact, known for this intense blue background pigment, known as “Voronet Blue.” Its composition remains a mystery today, more than 500 years after the founding of the monastery, except to the monks who religiously keep the colors of the building alive.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
New study shows that these 2 childhood habits make you a happier ...
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.