The foundations of Neamt Monastery have been laid since the fourteenth century.
The present church, which belongs to a monastic ensemble, was built by Stephen the Great (Ștefan cel Mare). Although there was another place of worship built there, it was in an advanced state of disuse due to Tatar attacks and to a great earthquake.
Stephen the Great (prince of Moldavia) decided to build a new church by cancelling the restoration of the old church. The new church, called „The Holy Ascension of the Lord” (or “Church of the Ascension – Înălțarea Domnului“) was sanctified on 14th of November, 1497.
Neamt Monastery is found in Vânători Township, 14 km away from Târgul Neamț City, on Nemțișorului Valley.
Rules for visiting
All Moldavian monasteries require a certain dress code.
We recommend decent attire: men – long trousers and a sleeved T-shirt; women – skirt or long pants, and a sleeved T-shirt. In case of breaking the rules, you will receive garments at the entrance of every monastery. By abiding to the rules, you show your respect towards the place of worship and towards the monks and nuns who live there.
Most big monasteries in Moldavia oblige you to buy entrance tickets or pay fees for taking photos.
Visiting Neamt Monastery will cost you 5 RON per person. There is no fee for taking photos.
The entrance in the monastery’s precinct is made through a belfry, which was built in the fifteenth century before the erection of the church of Stephen the Great. In the same period were build, the monks’ cells and walls of the fortress with its defence towers were built.
At the entrance of the tower’s gangway you can admire – among the paintings from the fifteenth century – one painting in particular which depicts the old church.
The Church of the Ascension is a beautiful religious edifice highly representative for the Moldavian architectural style. Has grand proportions, harmonious silhouette, richly embellished facade. It is the biggest and most imposing church built by Stephen the Great.
Idiosyncrasies of the Moldavian monasteries
- the advent of the chamber of the tombs in the elevation profile of the building between the nave and narthex.
- the volume of the roof is peculiar to this area – prominent cornices made in order to protect the paintings found on the facades;
- richly embellished facades with vivid and glazed ceramics depicting religious motifs and scenes.
The interior painting marks two distinct phases: the reign of Stephen the Great, seen through the altar, nave, chamber of the tombs, and the reign of Petru Rareș (1527-1546), seen though the frescos from narthex and porch. You can differentiate the two styles both through the decorative features and through its narrative style. There are differences regarding the size of the frames in which the scenes are painted.
The exterior painting of the church is not that rich. The only depictions that survived are the paintings of some saints under the roof’s cornice.
The church underwent many changes in time.
Initially small-sized windows were later enlarged and put in gothic stone frames. The roof also underwent changes from its initial shape. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the church had a short roof with a neoclassic gable. The steeple had a bulb-shaped roof with baroque influences.
The church got the original image of the roof only in the 1954-1961 restorations. At the same time they scraped the facade and took away the parasitical wall coat. This has highlighted the unexpected details in ceramics, such as the drawn pilasters with the help of glazed bricks. They tried bringing the monument back to its original colours and shape.
In the precinct of the monastic ensemble, you can see a second church – St. George Church (Biserica Sfantul Gheorghe) – built in 1826 in the neoclassical architectural style.
It underwent several changes in time. The biggest alteration was dismantling the construction near the old church and rebuilding it between the monks’ cells near the eastern part of the ensemble. The purpose moving it was in order to highlight the Church of Stephen the Great. You can still see traces of the old building due to its visible foundation.
It is interesting to note that on the exterior part of the belfry, towards the precinct, there is a depiction of an eye enclosed in a triangle. It represents the All-seeing-eye, or the Omniscient.
The eye reminds us of the old name of Neamt Monastery – The Omniscient, or Christ Pantocrator.
We recommend that you also visit the monastery’s museum.
It houses a rich thesaurus of clerical art items, many of which were crafted by the monks: icons, Bibles, crosses, goblets, weaves, and wooden or stone sculptures. In the same museum you can see a replica of the sword and crown of Stephen the Great.
At Neamt Monastery there used to be a centre for calligraphers and miniature painters. Since the fourteenth century, many of the manuscripts from Neamt were delivered to Putna monastery and other monasteries in Moldavia.
These rich scholarly traditions were continued and developed in the nineteenth century by the advent of the typography. The monastery was tooled up with a manual pear-wood typography press.
As an important typography centre, Neamt Monastery ended up collecting in its library over 18000 tomes, among which 600 were manuscripts.
Here you can find the richest monastic library in the country. Between 1808 and 1830, at Neamt Monastery, 35700 books have been published, the climax being in 1816, when 2800 books were published.
The apogee of Neamt Monastery was probably in the late eighteenth century, when almost 1000 monks used to live in the precinct of the monastery.
During your visit, on request, you can visit the belfry, a place which gives you an interesting perspective over the entire monastic ensemble.