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Popăuţi Monastery

Popăuţi is a monastery situated in Botoşani, a city in northeastern România. It was built in


1496 by Prince Stephen the Great (1457-1504). Popăuţi Monastery ensemble was included in
the list of historical monuments in the county of Botoşani in 2004, with code BT-II-a-A-01929
and is composed of :

1) Church of St. Nicholas-Popăuţi - dating from 1496, with changes in 1858, with code BT-
II-mA-01929.01

2) The belfry - dating from 1496, with code BT-II-mA-01929.02

History
"St. Nicholas" – Popăuţi was built in 1496 as a parish church, was founded by Prince
Stephen the Great located on the outskirts of the town, area known as Popăuţi. It has several
similarities with other churches in town built at the end of the reign of Stephen, churches as:
“St. Nicholas” from Dorohoi and “ St. George” from Hârlău. On the north wall of the
narthex, there is a Slavonic inscription where is written: “Io Stephen Prince, by the grace of
God, Prince of Moldavia, Prince Bogdan's son, built this house in the name of our father
among the saints and wonderworker Bishop Nicholas.”. In 1751, the church was converted
into a monastery. Because of this, they built a wall around the monastery. Many rulers have
endowed the monastery with estates: half of the estate Tătăraşi (1748, Grigore II Ghica), the
other half of the estate Tătăraşi (1751, Constantin Racoviţă), the estate of the Botoşani and
the grazing ground brought from Cantacuzino family (1753, Constantin Racoviţă).

In 1753, Prince Constantin rendered the monastery to Antiohia Patriarchate. Later, Greek
monks were installed there. The boundaries of the monastery have been strengthened by:
Grigore III Ghica (1776), Alexander I Mavrocordat (1783) and Alexander Moruzi (1803).
Monastery lands, along with ponds and vineyards, are leased by the Popăuţi abbey. Because
of this, the income went into their pockets. Among the abbey monastery in the nineteenth
century mention: Greek Archimandrite Innocent who became Metropolitan of Ilicopoleos in
1820, and Gheorghian monk Joseph (1864), the future Metropolitan-Primate of the
Romanian Orthodox Church.

The secularization law of monastery estates in 1863 led to the dispossession of lands held by
the monastery and the monastery became Popăuţi parish church. Monastery properties are
transferred to different institutions of Botoşani: Abbots houses are given the army in 1868
and the orchard is taken by the Railway Company in 1870. The relegation of the monastery
to the title of church has negative effects on the whole monachal compound. Due to breaches
of the church is covered with
metal sheet in 1891. However,
the deterioration of the church
continues, and in 1897 half the
church has collapse. Deanery of
Botoşani decides at 15 July 1897
closure of the church.

St. Nicholas Church is practically


saved by its declaration as an
historical monument in 1897, the
Romanian government taking the
task of renovating it. At the
beginning of the twentieth
century (1899-1906), the church was renovated from the initiative of the Historical
Monuments Comission. This way, the door from the northern side of the narthex was
inmured. The clock tower is repaired in 1908.

In 1991, Bishop Daniel Ciobotea of Moldova and Bucovina restored Popăuţi Monastery
which was populated by monks only in 1996.

The Architecture of the church


The church from Popăuţi was build in the Moldavian style, this being visible not only in
the plan and room setting but also in the construction system of the narthex’s dome and
exterior decorations.

The church is build from stone in a cross shape. The walls are over one meter thick. The
church entrance is made through the gothic frame door located on the southern side of the
narthex. Initially there was another door on the northern side of the narthex but it was
immured at the beginning of the twentieth century. The church has four windows.

On the outside, the church has a façade from unplastered red brick. The lower side of the
façade is covered with geometrical arranged stone and the corners of the building are made
of massive stone blocks.

The church’s dome has a rectangular shape on the outside and cylindrical on the inside. It
stands on the narthex’s roof through two star-shape foundations. It has four windows
arranged by the cardinal points and small buttress on the diagonals. On the sides of the dome
there is a line of long niches and some ceramic discs.

The narthex is over enlarged being illuminated by a gothic style window set on the
western wing. Between the narthex and the nave the was a wall that was destroyed in the
nineteenth century, today the entrance is made from
an archway set on two pillars fixed in walls. The
nave has two small windows with gothic frames on
the semi round side niche. Above the nave there is a
dome which is cylindrical on the inside and
rectangular on the outside. Also, the shrine has a
pointed archway window set to the East.

The interior decorations of the church is from the


fifteenth century and is preserved only partially. The
only original paintings preserved are the heads of
Jesus and angels from the shrine, scenes from The
Passions Circle painted on the niches of the nave and
the bust of a prophet on the northern wall of the
narthex. The other pictures have been restored in the

nineteenth century. The picture on the wall that


separates the narthex from the nave has disappeared in the eighteenth century.

Archaeological diggings made inside the church led to the discovery in 2003 of a
necropolis, here being buried on three levels 25 corpses. As Luca Diaconu from Popăuţi
declared, “most important are the persons from the first level. It is about a man from
Botoşani who was brought home from the Lower Country, where he was head of a village.”
On the tombstone are engraved the following words: This is the grave of the crazy head for
Christ from Botoşani. To his eternal remembrance, 1492.

Other constructions
The belfry
Northwest from the church building stands a belfry seventeen meters high, which is built
along with the church. It is built from stones carved at corners and at the door frames. On the
outside the tower has a square shape at level one and three and a octagonal shape at level
two.

The tower had multiple functionalities, also serving as shelter in dangerous situations.
This way, access to the first floor could be made only by a ladder located outside the tower
which could be lifted. At the third level there was the bell along with four great openings to
the cardinal points.

The belfry from Popăuţi along with the tower from Putna monastery and the belfry from
Bistriţa Monastery is one of the few buildings of this kind preserve from Stephen the Great’s
era.
The new church
In the last few years there was built a new church having the shape of a ship and not
having any domes. The church’s wall is eighty centimeters thick with interior spaces of 33.5
meters long, 8.5 meters wide and 19 meters tall.

Other buildings
Apart from the old church and the new one and the belfry there is another building that
hosts the abbacy. In the old buildings of the Abbots House was installed the Infectious
diseases Department from “Mavromaţi” Hospital in Botoşani.