INTRODUCTION

The church of St. Nicholas of the Probota Monastery was chosen as representative of the famous Moldavian Painted Monasteries on the World Cultural and Natural Heritage List in 1993.
Between October 1996 and August 2001, UNESCO, with the financial aid of the Japan Trust Fund for the Preservation of the World Cultural Heritage, and in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Culture and the Archbishopric of Suceava and Radauti, carried out extensive restoration work in Probota. The interior and exterior frescoes and the iconostasis of the church were painstakingly restored. The church was thoroughly repaired and a heating system installed. Several unknown monastic buildings were discovered during the archaeological excavations and the remains were consolidated and partly presented.
The Probota Monastery has withstood time for more than 450 years and, after dedicated work, is once again a beautiful example of Moldavian art and architecture.  introduction

ICONOGRAPHY

When the Probota Monastery was included in the World Heritage List, the original interior paintings were mostly covered with overpainting, and only traces of exterior frescoes remained. The artistic value of the monument was, however, evident and various researchers had concluded that the Church of St. Nicholas was the first church in Moldavia with a coherent iconographic programme both inside and outside.
Removing the overpainting and accumulated dust, smoke and dirt from the interior walls, as well as the successive layers of limewash from the façades, revealed a complete cycle of mural painting. Romanian history of art has benefited immensely from the recuperation of these paintings, as the scenes of the original iconographic programme can now be easily read.The exceptional artistic quality of the rediscovered original Probota paintings forms a harmonious ensemble of the five religious spaces: chancel, naos, burial chamber, pronaos and exonarthex. The same harmony between painting, space and surface is evident in each of the large compositions of the tower, chancel and naos, in the small scenes of the menology in the burial chamber and pronaos, and in the scenes on the star-like vaults of the pronaos.
The high level of the painters is evident. The hundreds of faces in each part of the church are often portraits with unique features. The way the robes are handled confers life and volume to the figures, as do their gestures and poses.  iconography


  
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL CAMPAIGNS
  

The latest excavations at the Probota Monastery compound fall into two distinct stages. The Romanian Ministry of Culture financed the first in 1994-1995, which principally investigated the inside of the church.
The UNESCO project, "International Support for Restoration and Conservation of the Probota Monastery", backed the second stage, which started in 1997 and continued through the summer of 2000.
The UNESCO project sought to build upon the first campaigns of the Ministry of Culture and extend the scope of the investigation.

  


The Archeological Campaigns

The 1994-1995 and 1997-2000 archaeological campaigns at the Probota Monastery resulted in the discovery of several coins. Apart from their significant number, the coins are important for confirming, when no other historical evidence is available, the chronology of the constructions in the monastery yard.


ARCHITECTURAL WORK


The Church St. Nicholas has stood for 450 years. Despite earthquakes, looting and neglect, it is structurally in very good condition. Nevertheless, architectural work has been an important part of the UNESCO project. A new brick floor, with a sub-floor heating system, was laid. New window panes and sashes were installed. Crumbling stones were replaced in window frames, doorways, steps and thresholds. Outside, the buttresses and the stone bench circling the church were repaired. In addition, the Romanian Ministry of Culture contributed to the project with the roofing of the church, the corner towers of the precinct wall, and the new catwalk on the east side of the precinct wall.  Architectural Work



THE MURAL PAINTINGS


The original 16th century mural paintings of the Church of St. Nicholas in Probota were executed a fresco. The artist painted directly on the wet lime-based rendering spread on the walls. Only the amount of wall space that could be painted in a day, a giornata, was plastered. When the rendering dried, it carbonated and bound the pigments inside a durable layer of calcium carbonate. The fresco mural technique is extremely durable. Given good conditions, frescoes can last indefinitly. For nearly half a millennium, the paintings of Probota have endured weather, earthquakes, neglect and modern encroachments like pollution.
During the restoration of the frescoes, between 1997 and 2000, the guiding principle was minimal intervention. The restoration methods chosen depended on the requirements and condition of each section of the fresco. The introduction of new materials, different from those used in Romania before the UNESCO Project, helped to solve some previously insurmountable conservation problems. The experience restorers gained in Probota will allow them to better preserve the other Painted Churches in the area. The Mural Paintings


THE ICONOSTASIS

The iconostasis is the most significant cult object in an Orthodox church after the altar. It can be made of various materials, such as wood, marble or metal, and icons of various sizes, set out in established patterns, adorn its structure. The ecclesiastical function of the iconostasis is to separate the naos from the chancel. Four doors set in three openings provide access for priests to the chancel, where the altar is located. An iconostasis is an integral part of the proper functioning of any Orthodox church.
The iconography of the iconostasis developed between the 9th and the 16th centuries. The system of symbolic representation summarizes the main biblical stories, and the entire Orthodox iconography. The Iconostasis


THE MEANS OF INFORMATION

All the data gathered during the project was collected to provide information for the general public and restoration professionals. The restoration reports, drawings, maps and photographs form the most specialized material. They are stored in six separate databases, one each for mural paintings, archaeology, architecture, iconostasis, scientific investigations and photographs. In addition, there are digital and thematic maps for the different stages of restoration, archaeology and architecture.
The Project website has offered information to a global audience since 1998. The Means Of Information