Ladder to heaven
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A steep ladder climbs step by step clad bearded monks in long robes. Above their heads in the open skies are angelic choirs, and at the bottom are horned devils chasing from the ladder to the hellish abyss of those who hesitated and lost their balance on the road to heaven.

The painted composition covers the entire outer northern wall of the Church of the Resurrection in the Suceviţa Monastery in Bukovina, Romania. This unusual iconographic motif referred to as "Ladder to Paradise" or "Ladder of Jan Klimak" (author of the 6th century mystical treatise) delights not only with the theological and mystical depth of the message, but also with saturated colors (despite the passing of centuries) and an unusual shade of blue. The monastery in Sucevica (Suceviţa) belongs to the group of "painted monasteries", examples of fifteenth and sixteenth-century Moldavian art - unique due to the complete coverage of their outer walls with polychrome with extensive theological cycles. My dream was to see these wonders from the moment I saw the photographs in the book about Romania of Łukasz Galusek and Michał Jurecki, beautifully published by Bosz Publishing House. Last year I managed to get to Bukowina. We stayed in Vatra Moldoviţei, in a modest Chrysanthemum guesthouse with a breathtaking view of the nearby monastery (Mânăstirea Moldovița) and the Church of the Annunciation of the Mother of God. Contact with the example of a painted monastery for the first time was an unforgettable experience. Our delight caused not only the artist's sophistication and the picturesque location of the monastery among the green hills, but also the unique atmosphere of the place. It has been in the hands of nuns since 1532, that is since the foundation of the monastery by Piotr Raresz, son of Stefan the Great. In addition to the obligatory seasons of prayer, the nuns are invoked by the characteristic toacă sound (tapping on a long board with a wooden hammer), they deal with servicing tourists and the faithful. Apart from Moldovita and Suceviţa, we are captivated by the small church of the St. John the Baptist in Arbore. It is distinguished by a completely different color scheme and a special style of paintings with a delicate drawing and sublime shades of green. This differs them from the famous "blues from Voreneţu" or polychrome on the outer walls of the church of St. George. Orthodox church of St. George, founded in 1488 by Stefan the Great, was already decorated during the time of Piotr Raresz. Particularly noteworthy is the extensive scene of the Last Judgment, which covers the outer west wall. On the left side of the composition, a trained eye will notice a black elephant in the scene of the Resurrection of the Dead.




North wall of the Suceviţa monastery with the representation of "Ladders to Paradise".



North wall of the Suceviţa monastery with the representation of "Ladders to Paradise".



North wall of the Suceviţa monastery with the representation of "Ladders to Paradise".



Orthodox church in Arbore



Orthodox church in Arbore



Orthodox church in Arbore



Moldoviţa Monastery



Moldoviţa Monastery



Moldoviţa Monastery



Moldoviţa Monastery



Humor Monastery



Voroneţ Monastery - western wall with the presentation of the "Last Judgment".



Monastery Voroneţ-– Resurrection of the dead.

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