1400AD-Present-Modern Era Europe Romania Churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas, Monasteries UNESCO World Heritage Sites

500 years of splendor: Arbore Monastery and the past in shades of green

Arbore Monastery, Bucovina
Legend has it that during the reign of voivode Petru Rareș, a hunt in the nearby forest brought a white deer, considered a divine symbol. The stag led them to a beautiful and peaceful place, stopping in front of a large tree. Interpreting this event as a heavenly sign, the voivode and those around him decided to build the Arbore Monastery in this place, considering that God was guiding them towards their action. Thus, the Arbore Monastery was founded and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, becoming an important center of prayer and spirituality in medieval Moldova.

Tourist Information

Construction Year1503
TypeMonastery / UNESCO
FounderLuca Arbore
Getting thereCar (from Gura Humorului) – 35 km
The closest airports:
Suceava (SCV) – www.aeroportsuceava.ro
Iasi (IAS) – www.aeroport.ro
Top tourist
The Black Pottery of Marginea (15 Km)
Suceava Fortress
When to visitEvery Day, Day time
LocationArbore Village, Suceava County, Romania, Europe


Why is Arbore Monastery important?

Arbore Monastery, also known as St. John the Baptist Arbore Monastery, is an important Orthodox place of worship located in northern Romania, in Suceava County, near the town of Gura Humorului. It stands out in particular for its particularly valuable wall paintings, which give it a special place in Romania’s cultural and religious heritage.

The history of the monastery has its roots in the 16th century, during the reign of the Voivode of Moldavia Petru Rareș. The monastery was founded around 1502, and the name “Arbore” is taken from the name of a local nobleman who helped build the monastery. However, the most significant contribution to the monastery was made by the Movilă family, who financed the renovation and painting of the church in the 17th century.

The Arbore Monastery is dedicated to the “Beheading of St. John the Baptist“.

One of the most remarkable features of the Arbore Monastery is the murals on the exterior walls of the church. These paintings date back approximately 500 years and represent a true treasure of Romanian medieval art. The paintings are made in the specific style of the Moldavian art of that period and include religious scenes, portraits of saints, and biblical and historical events. Bright colors and fine details give the church a special beauty and charge it with deep spiritual meanings. The exterior frescoes were painted by Dragoș Coman.

The predominant color of the frescoes is green. There are 47 shades of green combined with other colors such as red, blue, yellow, pink, and ochre. Two stone blocks, located near the monastery, are hollowed out with indentations in them and stand testimony to the place where the beautiful shades of green of the Arbore monastery were prepared.

The artist was a genius, his travels being a point of inspiration for the drawings, he innovated and brought a new vision to the frescoes. The fusion of Eastern with Western and secular elements was done in a surprising way. The most important frescoes are Hymn of Prayers to the Virgin, Siege of Constantinople, Last Judgment, Prodigal Son, Adam plowing, Eve purring (in Genesis), Holy Women at the Tomb, numerous scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, such as the Birth, Baptism, Resurrection and more.

Inside the church, the frescoes present the portraits of saints and martyrs. These portraits are accompanied by their specific stories and attributes, thus contributing to the teaching and veneration of saints in the Christian tradition.

These frescoes not only adorn the church but also convey Christian teachings and values through art. They have survived time and still retain their beauty and significance, attracting visitors from all over the world to admire them and connect with the history and spirituality of Arbore Monastery.

Over time, the Arbore Monastery has gone through various stages of restoration and conservation to preserve its artistic and historical splendor. It has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage since 1993 along with other historic churches and monasteries in this region.

Legends of Arbore Monastery

Arbore Monastery has several legends related to the monastery and the area where it is located.

Legend of the Foundation

The legend says that during the reign of the Voivode of Moldavia Petru Rareș (who ruled between the years 1527-1538 and 1541-1546), something happened that brought the foundation of the Arbore Monastery to the attention of the courtiers. At that time, the ruler and members of his court were hunting in the nearby forest.

During the hunt, it is said that a white deer, traditionally considered a symbol of the divine, guided the hunters to a particularly beautiful and peaceful place. There the white deer stood and looked gently at a large tree. In that place, voivode Petru Rareș saw a divine sign, a call to build a holy place.

Thus, in accordance with this vision, it was decided to build a monastery in that place. The voivode and the people around him perceived the appearance of the deer and its guidance as a heavenly sign and believed that God was guiding them to this action. Following this vision, Arbore Monastery was founded, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, which became a center of spirituality and prayer in medieval Moldova.

The legend of the Movilă family

Another legend is related to the Movilă family, which was one of the important noble families in Moldova. It is said that during the construction or renovation of the monastery, members of the Movilă family would have had divine visions or would have been guided by supernatural forces in the process of beautifying and endowment of the monastery.

The legend of the preservation of paintings

Over the centuries, the murals of the Arbore Monastery have been preserved in relatively good condition, even in the face of natural degradation factors. In one of the legends, it is said that the paintings were protected by the miraculous intervention of saints or angels, who carefully guarded and restored the colors and details.

The legend of the patron Saint’s holiday

Each monastery has a feast day in honor of its patron saint. The legend of Arbore Monastery may include the story of the events or signs that led to the election of Saint John the Baptist as the patron saint of the monastery.

Arbore Monastery, Bucovina

About the author


I am Catalina, and my passion for travel, mysteries, legends and archaeology drives me to explore the world and uncover its hidden wonders.