Buletinul ”Ioan Neculce” al Muzeului de Istorie a Moldovei – XIX / 2013


The Middle Ages are a time of the visual and, in Moldavia as in the rest of Eastern Europe, the painted walls of the churches illustrate the strong currents of the peoples’ mundane beliefs. As cultural images go, the imprint of the current belief on the sacred image is one of the best sources available, as the minor, custom alteration of the canonical scene reveals how the ordinary person viewed a certain behavior, object, person or phenomenon. We found compelling the way the executioners, persecutors and generally the “bad” personages, on the historiated walls of the 16th century church of the Moldavian of monastery of Probota, were depicted holding, wearing and swinging curved “Turkish” swords (sabers), as opposite to the military saints, the archangels and the rest of “good” personages wearing straight ones. The association between the curved sword and “enemy of Christ” is revealed to be, following our superficial analysis, not an element of byzantine tradition, as the whole sacred painting phenomenon and canons in our region points to as its origin. In fact the Palaeologan and earlier painting depict a more realist image of the military man, i.e. the “bad” and the “good” personages are wearing curved swords, while the straight sword is, as rarely as it appears, associated with the “franks” (the westerners of bad reputation in the Byzantine world). The fact that most of the western and Central European medieval and Renaissance imagery holds to the association sabre=bad is significant for the weight of the European cultural stratum in 16th century Moldavia or, at least for the painters of St.Nicholas church of Probota monastery and several other painted churches of Moldavia.