Tucked in the small village of Voroneț, Romania, you can find the great Romanian Orthodox Voroneț Monastery, one of a string of “painted monasteries” in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, built mostly in the 15th and 16th centuries. Voroneț Monastery specifically was built in 1488 over a period of 3 months and 3 weeks (!), and is dedicated to St. George. The monastery was abandoned around 1775 due to political instability, and a monastic community didn’t return until more than two hundred years later in 1991. The building is famous for its beautiful frescoes and icons, both inside and out, which is how it got its nickname as the “Sistine Chapel of the East.”
The frescoes at Voroneț feature an intense shade of blue known in Romania as “Voroneț blue”. “The exterior walls — including a representation of the Last Judgment on the west wall — were painted in 1547 with a background of vivid cerulean blue. This blue is so vibrant that art historians refer to Voroneț blue the same way they do Titian red. Monastery of Voronet has been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Below are some great photos of the beautiful sacred building. Enjoy!
You know the Sistine Chapel and the Notre Dame in Paris, but do you know the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood? Because it’s one of the most beautiful churches in the whole world. Located in St. Petersburg, Russia, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a Russian Orthodox church that was built in the late 19th century under the direction of the Russian imperial family. It is built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally injured in March of 1881. It is full of bright colors, twisting spires, and floor to ceiling icons.
Here’s what it looks like on the outside:
And if you walk inside and look up, here’s what you see:
See what I mean about being jaw-droppingly beautiful??
And yes, this place really exists.
Unfortunately, it is not used as a full-time church. During the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the church was looted and damaged. The Soviet government closed the church in the 1930s. It suffered further damage during WWII.
Since 1970s, it has been used as a museum, even after a major restoration of the church in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
But it can still inspire people’s faith with its beauty!
Here are more pictures of both the exterior and interior. Enjoy!
Explore in 360 degrees the Sistine Chapel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and many more – all online.
Christians have been making pilgrimages to holy sites and churches around the world for centuries. Can’t make a pilgrimage? Here’s the next best thing!
Some tours are embedded on this page, while others can be found with the link provided.
1) Sistine Chapel – Vatican City
Built in the 15th century and painted in the 16th century, the Sistine Chapel is one of the great artistic masterpieces in the world. Michelangelo painted the ceiling and the Last Judgement fresco, while the frescoes on the other walls were painted by a number of other artists. Among other things, the Sistine Chapel serves as the location for conclaves of Cardinals that elect new popes.
This one can only be viewed on the Vatican website, so click on the picture or on the link to check it out.
Located in Old Jerusalem, the Church of Holy Sepulchre is venerated by Christians for containing within its space what is believed to be the places of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection – which makes it pretty important! The original church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but has endured several rounds of extensive damage and restoration since.
Not to be confused with the Kremlin (which is nearby), St. Basil’s Cathedral was built in the 16th century on orders from Ivan the Terrible and served as a Russian Orthodox cathedral for centuries until it was confiscated and forcibly secularized in the late 1920s by the Soviet Union. It remains property of the Russian government today and is used as a museum.
Link: Start the tour! (Note: the virtual tour can take a little bit of time to load.)
This great wonder of the world was built in the 16th century in the midst of the Protestant reformation, replacing the aging church that had stood on that site since the 4th century. The largest church in the world, it is built on top of what is believed to be the grave of St. Peter, the first pope.
Church of the Nativity is located on the place that Christians have traditionally believed that Jesus was born. The first church was built in the 4th century under Constantine but was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in the 6th century. Since then it has gone through numerous restorations, additions, etc. Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic representatives run and maintain the current church.
6) Cathedral of St. Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul – St. Paul, MN
Atop the highest hill in the Twin Cities (with the Minnesota state capital just a bit lower down the street!), the St. Paul Cathedral is everything you’d expect of a beautiful European cathedral – except that it’s in the U.S.! It’s the third largest completed church in the U.S., and the fourth tallest. Built in the early 20th century, it is a co-cathedral with the Basilica of St. Mary (see #6) for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Built in the early 20th century, the Basilica of St. Mary was the first church designated a basilica in the U.S., and serves as a co-cathedral with the Cathedral of St. Paul for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.
When was Canterbury Cathedral built? That’s a hard question to answer, since different parts of the current structure were built, torn down, rebuilt, added on, etc over nine centuries, from the 10th to the 19th, with the site having been used as a cathedral since the 6th century. During the Protestant reformation in the 16th century, the Church of England took control of the church from the Roman Catholic Church.
Built from the 12th century to the 15th century, Exeter Cathedral serves as the seat of the Anglican bishop of Exeter. Among its large collection of relics, the church has what is supposedly the Burning Bush, as well as part of a candle used by an angel in Christ’s tomb. Like the Canterbury Cathedral, Exeter Cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic cathedral, but was acquired by the Church of England in the 16th century.
Directly across the street from Rockefeller Center in the middle of New York City, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in the 19th century when midtown wasn’t as populated, and its large size dominated the area. Construction began in 1858, paused during the Civil War, and was finished in 1878. Further work was done in the early 20th century, and it was named a National Historic Site in 1976. It is currently used as the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of New York.
11) Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres – Chartres, France
Built mostly in the 13th century, Chartres Cathedral is the latest of at least five churches that have stood in its location. Amazingly, most of the stained glass in the church is original. Among its many boasts, the church claims to have the Sancta Camisa, the tunic worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary at the birth of Jesus. It is still the seat of the Catholic bishop of Chartres.
12) Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington D.C.
Located on the campus of Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception “is the largest Catholic church in the United States, the largest church of any kind in the western hemisphere, the eighth largest church building in the world, and the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C.” Construction began in 1920, but wasn’t completed until 1961 due to the Great Depression and WWII. Even so, significant additions have been made as recently as 2012. In addition to a beautiful array of images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from different cultures, the basilica houses the papal tiara of Pope Paul VI.
The Romanian Orthodox Church is considering a Romanian monk persecuted by the communists and known as the “saint of Transylvania” for sainthood. … Boca, who became a monk in 1940, was harassed by the Securitate secret police, detained and did forced labor on the Black Sea Canal, a notorious labor camp where tens of thousands of political prisoners worked in the 1950s. In 1959, he was banned from leading worship and the Prislop monastery, where he is now buried, was converted into a retirement home. He was forced to retire from the church in 1968 and spent 15 years painting religious images and icons in the small church of Draganescu in southern Romania. The church’s interiors are now considered among the most beautiful in the country. Elder Arsenie Boca reposed in the Lord in early 1989, a month before Romania’s anti-communist revolt, aged 79. Though he is not yet canonized, Elder Arsenie’s grave, located in Prislop Monastery, is visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims every year, where many miracles occur. One miracle which everyone can see is that the flowers over his grave never die or wither , neither in the hot summer or the frigid winter.
For his amazing life, the documentary “Fr. Arsenie Boca – Man of God” is a MUST. “His colleagues at the Theological Academy of Sibiu named him ‘The Saint’, he is considered a founding father of the Romanian Philokalia by father Dumitru Staniloaie, who thought of him as an unparalleled phenomenon of Romanian monasticism.
Sought after and followed by thousands of believers eager to quench their spiritual thirst from his inexhaustible spring of serenity; legendary for his prophesying and healing gifts, painter of souls and painter of churches, man of culture, philosopher of sciences and religion, father Arsenie Boca was, just like Saint Basil as depicted by him in his essential work The Path of the Kingdom.
A disciple calmly walking across the stormy seas, an unmoving pillar against the troubled waves, a man among people, providing guidance and strength with otherworldly serenity, unflinching in the belief that God alone is ruler of our world. An unequaled personality, a magnet for thousands of people in all walks of life, and also a target for suspicion for the authorities of his day, who failed to understand the source of his exceptional power to gather people around him.”
As one person interviewed in this documentary says: “Fr. Arsenie made Christ transparent to us.” He still does. His presence in the midst of us after his passing is a reminder of the proximity of Heaven. This film is an opportunity to (re)discover it for ourselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptbTap5NHqw
The Sistine Chapel of the Romanians: the Draganescu Church
Father Arsenie Boca lived in Draganescu for 20 years and in 1968 he began painting the parish church, a work that took him more than 15 years. As he wasn’t allowed to celebrate service, some of the priests who visited the church over the years claim that Arsenie Boca has actually painted the sermons he delivered at Sambata de Sus.
Rainbow colors reverberating in frescoes, light flowing from Christ’s Resurrection, Heaven trickling down through the painting brush, that’s the way the murals painted by Orthodoxy beacon Arsenie Boca at the “St. Nicholas” Church of the Draganescu town – Giurgiu County can be translated and rendered into metaphor. …
Prophetic Artist in Shackles
His frescoes are diaphanous, and the images are accompanied by metaphors referring to people’s weaknesses and sins, by aphorisms, quotations from the Holy Scripture, sometimes by teachings of the Father and biblical scenes: the Resurrection, a picture of hell, the Group of the Righteous. The paintings are said to have a visionary, prophetic content, as it is known that Father Arsenie Boca had the gift of spiritual far-sight: one of the scenes, two tall buildings engulfed in flames, is said to allude to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, not to mention those where items like a cell phone, a space shuttle, satellite dishes, all unusual things in that period, appear.
Morning prayer by Arsenie Boca Lord Jesus Christ, help me let go of myself today, as I can create great problems from small and insignificant issues, and this way, caring for myself, I will lose You.
* Lord Jesus Christ, help me so that the prayer of Your Holy name will wander (work) through my mind more than lightning on the sky, so that I stay clear of even the shadow of bad thoughts as, look, I am sinning every minute. * Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, because we stumble as we are walking in the dark. Our temptations are closing the eyes of our mind, forgetfulness has become like a wall amongst us, turning our hearts to stone and all together have made the prison cell in which we keep You crippled, starving and naked, wasting our days. *
Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us and set fire to this prison cell, light up the love in our hearts, burn the thorns of our temptations and make our souls bright.
Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, come and live within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit prays through us with unspoken sighs, when word and mind don’t have the power.
* Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, because we don’t realise how imperfect we are and how close You are to our souls; and how distant we become through our sins. Shine Your light over us, so that we see light through Your eyes and live eternally through Your life. Our light and joy, praise be to You!