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The silent sound of the stone: the sculpture of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery of Iasi.

There are unique moments in which divine providence mandatorily holds under the same ideal a people's or a community's essential values, thus answering a call or fulfilling a long awaited for aim in a way that seemed impossible until recently. Such a moment was the building of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery of Iasi. The favourable context almost imposed to the decision makers that counted on the same direction, reciprocally conjugating and emphasizing the skills of a generous ruler ready to seize the moment with the discernment of an illuminated monarch; this is to acknowledge the signs of time, qualities supported in their building approach by the creative talent and intuition of craftsmen able to synthesize and materialize new artistic formulations via the patterns of Byzantine tradition.

It is the year 1642. Europeans discover New Zeeland, Galileo dies foreseeing heliocentrism to the world, Rembrandt paints "The Night Watch", Velasquez's genius embellishes the Spanish Court, whereas Bernini spreads his statues and fountains around cities. Versailles had not become yet the residence of the French royal family and Harvard college had been founded a couple of years before only to become the oldest and most reputed university in America. Echoes of the baroque and of the Counter Reformation rising at the time reach Romanian Principalities, as well.

The brightest century of Moldavian painting was coming to an end; it was renowned for its frescoes that adorned the churches' external walls when the voivode Vasile Lupu and the holy metropolitan Varlaam were finishing building and painting the ruler's church of the new monastery whose patrons were the "Three Holy Hierarchs". The Moldavian painting already distinguished itself by the new interpretative formulas of iconographic art particular to the other Orthodox spaces, thus testifying to the existence of well-organized painters' brotherhood, able to come up with novel stylistic and thematic solving within Byzantine hermeneutical frameworks. Against this background, it seems unusual that, for the painting of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" church, the founders called in foreign church painters. This means that at the time, there were either no proper church painters among the locals or the founders' ambitions significantly overcame what had been achieved so far in the field of church painting in Moldova. However, not the painting will bring fame to the church, but its exterior sculpture, the stone bas-relief clothing the entire body of the building like a flowery garment. On the uniqueness of carving achievements of filigree stone facades with geometric and floral motives and on the context in which they rose I will attempt to overview several ideas and images in a short essay.

The oldest and most illustrative document that refers to the act of birth of the church is the marble carving above the entrance door which reads as follows: "With the will of the Father and the help of the Son and by the action of the Holy Spirit, it is I, the servant of God, our Lord and master, Jesus Christ the Saviour and prayerful to the Trinity, I, Vasile the Voivode with the mercy of God, ruler of the principality of Moldova and with our lady Tudosca and our children, God's gift, Ion voivode, Maria and Ruxandra, raised this holy prayer in the name of the Three Holy Hierarchs, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. It was sanctified by the hand of archbishop Varlaam on May 6, 7147 (1639)" (Grigora? 1962: 16, note 1; Iorga 1908: 150-159) (1).

Since prayer equals a construction work for the soul, the church builders of Three Hierarchs holy day establishment envisaged the entire bas-relief ensemble on the church walls and called it "a holy prayer"; thus, they invested this ornamental embellishment with cathartic symbols and attributes of a beauty offering materialised in stone. The richness of the ornamental writing in the external walls is neither a consequence to an artistic extravagance, nor the intent of an intellectual drive; on the contrary, the abundance in decoration is a result of harmony and compositional balance. Parietal surfaces unveil themselves as a petrified flowery tapestry, symbolically recalling the Garden of Eden in a dialogue of various allegorical hypostases of the Tree of Life in the Citadel of New Jerusalem, anticipating and illustrating the beauty of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. This is because in Orthodoxy beauty cannot be separated from the Truth, and man sanctified by the grace of the Holy Spirit reflects the beauty of the Uncreated World in his artistic-sacerdotal creation. Not having an autonomous aesthetic schedule as purpose, the beauty of ecclesial art only designs another form of the cult and officiating of the sacrifice brought to the One that made world beautiful. Without precedent in the tradition of our architecture, the church had been the most important and spectacular edifice built in Moldavia so far, a successful artistic experiment, having no equal in its singularity; it is a building that benefited from enormous investment in an era in which the standard of life of most inhabitants was more than modest and the country's treasury was far from the economic power of states that acquired their wealth from the vast colonial domains. Nothing would have been possible without the church founders' remarkable effort as they took responsibility as if they had a holy obligation with the conscience that no sacrifice is too great when made for God.

On the foundation of this "holy prayer" there lies the fame of a true cultural and ecclesial institution whose activity involved various personalities, namely the metropolitans Peter, Varlaam and Dosoftei who were canonized by the Church and ended up being worshipped as saints. The architectural ensemble built, destined to the new monastic establishment will soon prove to be useful offering, in 1642, the framework in which the works of the Iasi Synod will be carried out; here, as a response to the challenges of the Reform and Counter reformation, Orthodox values will be reaffirmed in a Confession of Faith. In fact, the purpose of the new monastery was not only to serve as the headquarters of a metropolitan cathedral, a plan that never came into being, but also as rulers' necropolis and outpost of affirmation for the right (orthodox) faith against the background of Uniatism which ravaged the Northern areas of Moldova, and protestant proselytism that threatened the western border of the country.

Having Peter Mogila, the Metropolitan of Kiev's direct support, as he donates the first printing press in Moldavia to the monastery, the first books in Romanian come out and they were translated and annotated by Metropolitan Varlaam, a learned theologian and a good administrator, qualities which recommended him for the Ecumenical Patriarchate Throne. He would also propose to the ruler Vasile Lupu the building of the first princely school following the model of the Kiev College, founded and led by the Metropolitan Peter Mogila which would also come into being with the help of the Metropolitan of Kiev. There was the need of a higher school for Moldavian youth that had no other options than Jesuit colleges.

Access to learning and knowledge of the Scripture in the mother tongue was more than necessary. A proper and well documented answer was required to contextually lead to a mind-set change from protestant rationalism of Biblical interpretation to the unseen working side of the Church. Hence the rise of writings that insist on the lucrative power of prayer and a particular focus on the cult of the relics of saints, new akatists of the saints were printed and spread, there was a call for the symbolic and power and charisma of holy images, enriching the iconographic program with story narratives and new models of virtue. It is also important to mention that before Vasile Lupu brought the relics of Saint Parascheva to Iasi in 1641, there was already a plan to build a special site, a marble niche in the southern wall of the church destined to the coffin of her holy relics.

If Vasile Lupu was the one who financed and supervised the works, a significant contribution to the peculiar aspect that delights our sight due to the external bas-reliefs, apart from the architect's, was that of the metropolitan Varlaam. The idea of completely covering the church walls in decorations draws on the relation between Varlaam, an archimandrite at the time, and one of his predecessors, the metropolitan Anastasie Crimca and the ruler Miron Barnovschi; Varlaam was close to both and shared their ideas. In a way, they were indirectly "the hidden founders" of the project of the monastic complex on the bank of Bahlui river, subsequently shown in another couple, namely the one between the metropolitan Varlaam and Vasile Lupu. It is not by mere chance that Dragomirna monastery built by Anastasie Crimca and Miron Barnovschi was, among other things (3), one of the models used for building "The Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery. The bas-reliefs of the church steeple at Dragomirna, the torsade belts, the gothic room of the refectory and the high fortification walls (Badarau, Caprosu 2007, 177, 180, note 108) (4) are some of the similitudes and common points of a project that Varlaam and Vasile developed and finished together in their foundation. Varlaam was also familiar with Miron Barnovschi's intention to bring a printing press to Iasi, an idea that would actually come into being, as mentioned above; the necessary infrastructure will also be installed at "The Three Holy Hierarchs" monastery (5).

An ornamentally unconventional liturgically meant project

The name of the artist who envisaged and coordinated the building and its sculpture remains unknown. Research shows that he would have originated from the Orient, possibly Constantinople. The lapidary signs discovered on restoration by Lecomte du Nouy show that a part of the sculptors and stone workers were from the west, others were Transylvanian Saxons and Moldavians, whereas the remaining ones were probably Armenians or Georgians, according to some researchers (6). The great merit of the anonymous craftsman consists in the transposition and materialisation in stone of the sleeping partners' wishes,--conciliating the sobriety imposed by the status of an ecclesial edifice with the freedom of artistic expression--, thus creating a plastic space that embeds graphic and ideational analogies from most varied directions. Even more remarkable is how he managed to find the common denominator in the association and rereading in a unique key of all ornamental motives from various cultures, adding new content to their symbolic meaning.

For some, the monument seems to be a simple Moldavian church whose walls benefited from the application of lines, lines without interstices and lack of imagination - a compilation of ornaments that randomly fill the entire external surface from the cornices of the steeples to the church socle. For others, the decoration is a map of hidden symbols whose meanings augment its value and beauty, in their partisan acceptance, hence the legitimacy of the presence of the church among a series of "world wonders". A triumphalist speech or an undermining one comes as equally risky and inconclusive in the attempt to objectively describe reality and see only what needs to be seen, not more or less.

The true challenge of the one who supervised construction works was to gather, synthesize and harmonize elements of the Byzantine tradition with Oriental ornaments in a unitary whole; Gothic and Renaissance influences were added to the basic texture of local traditional popular motives. The lace curtain in white stone, impressive by its constantly modulated vastness of the surface with flat reliefs is traversed by a luxurious network of fine mould that itinerate endless zig zag rows in diamond forms of all shapes. The many oblique fragments resulting from diamond lines cover the parietal external surface, embedded in other decorating structures, thus prolonging the optical motion effect of the lines from a row to another, underlining the dominating force lines of the compositional ensemble.

The overlapping horizontal rows that irregularly alternate in motive registers, be they geometric, vegetal or combined without being repetitive of monotonous, contain rosettes and ornamental disks whose symbolism may acquire connotations and multivalent signification in the eyes of the beholder. If the silhouette of the church could be entirely contemplated from the distance, without the external decorum aggressively distracting from the proximity of the walls, the ornamentation displays its details with the same discretion, the eye easily recognising the richly decorated traditional tapestry in the model chosen by the sculptors; they seem to quote passages and give them a personal interpretation without showing off their virtuosity, proving how they understood to adapt the baroque lesson to the local landscape.

The disequilibrium between architecture and ornament, invoked by some art critics (Baltrusaitis apud Macarie 2005: 77) to refer to baroque aesthetics through which the excessive contribution of decorum denatures the full perception of the architectonic structure is, at present, either diminished or cancelled. Through their quantity and distribution in the ensemble economy, ornaments are not that structurally engaged to determine or visually contaminate the edifice's forms and shapes; on the contrary, the tempered plasticity of parietal structures, discretely padded with short bas-reliefs, laniary displayed according to compositional schemes of a moderated dynamism, confers a note of elegance and discrete preciousness to the external walls. Here we cannot speak of the "void horror" proper to the architecture of Asian temples where the decorum almost suffocates architectonic forms or of the ornamental opulence of a decadent rococo avant la lettre, whose agitation hides and distorts the clarity of forms. However, from the hybrid character and the multitude of sculptural motives--unusual until that time and afterwards in Moldavian architecture--, we can easily deduce the influence of the Polish vision, of baroque and Islamic art, filtered and assimilated by the Christianism of ancient Byzantine territories, if we were to refer only to the two of the most close cultural neighbours of Moldavia in those times.

The fragmentation, multiplication and excessive stress of details in decorating modules, specific procedures of Arabic art creates an internal dynamic and plasticity of surfaces which we also encounter in the asymmetric, yet controlled agitation of European baroque compositions. Similarity is reduced to the artistic means of expression because, from a conceptual and motivational viewpoint, each one is defined by cultural affinities organised according to different aesthetic and religious criteria.

There are studies (Macarie 2005) (7) on the "Three Holy Hierarchs" bas-reliefs where, register by register, all ornamental motives are analysed, following their provenance and symbolism. However, not all decorating elements were translated, contents and all, from the place of origin, some of them were simply copied in a rudimentary mimetism; others were reproduced from an inner drive that pertains to the sensitivity of that category of composers that create new artistic realities, having as exigency the conjugation of compositional elements for the sake of euphony (Zamfir 2012: 343-355) (8). A symbolic image may be formally identical in a culture and another, yet its significance draws on the context of location. For instance, a stylised grapevine contains a particular symbolism according to the geographical and cultural area of representation, with distinct connotations and significance, from religion to religion. If in Greek mythology, the grapevine was a crown on Bacchus's head, in Christianism the Vine is the symbol of Christ's sacrifice. Without being aware of these significances, some artists are simply enchanted by the sinuosity of the curves, the symphony of the spiralled structures of the harmonious overlapping and braiding vines, the plastic expressiveness of representation, reproducing the motive from purely aesthetic considerations for the sake of the art.

In the virtue of the multivalent significant interpretations, the symbolic content of ornamental motives borrowed from other cultures gains the specific note of religion and host culture, a different colouring in the perimeter of a Christian monument. Irrespective of the meanings of symbols in various cultural and religious environments of origin, once they entered the Christian Orthodox space, they were adapted to understand certain contents, the founders and the architect chose the decorating motives that corresponded from the viewpoint of accessibility and familiarity, to them and the faithful so as to receive the message that had to be passed through these graphic signs.

Without neglecting the basic principles of composition, namely rhythm, repetition, harmonic empty-full or large-small relations, to name but a few, the stone craftsmen admirably managed to find a balance between the content and message of their art and the appropriate means of expression for embellishing an edifice of liturgical destination.

The grazing light from certain hours of the day emphasizes the light-dark value contrast of the arabesque technique, the ramification of the mega-decorum in white-yellow stone (Gabrielescu 1891: 40) (9) getting silver shades, at the impact of light on the porosity of its prominences.

The reliefs melted by light that paradoxically exposes to the eye a velvety rugged aspect marks, by the convex-concave alternation of surfaces, a merry relation between the lying neat and silent surfaces and the grand size of relief surfaces; the craftsmen managed to find a fine balance between the full and empty alveoli of sophisticated gometries in the large casing.

Similar to a giant honeycomb, the stone embroidery at "The Three Holy Hierarchs" metaphorically recalls us the image of the supra-dimensional starched-stiff collar, an emblematic piece of clothing in aristocratic baroque vestments, treasured for the same aesthetic qualities that we also admire impressive parietal bas-reliefs; this is brought into play in reference to the solving of the balance between the quality and quantity of details, in which the part and the whole altogether catch the eye of the viewer in an autonomous way, without any competition.

The silent symphony composed of a series of decorated notes, smartly spread on the stone staff of the impressive grand score is part of the work of art that cannot be easily taken as a standard for other similar attempts. The result is a successful synthesis which has not revolutionized the history of national architecture through its prototype feature, yet it impresses due to the concept novelty and uniqueness.

A silent music in stone, to harmonize content, message and means

Pointing out the graphic resemblance of parietal decorative structures with the staves charged of musical notes of a gigantic score, there is remarkable correspondence between the visual-auditory effect of the ornamental mural structure and the melodic speech of unison music played by several instruments or sung by various voices in perfect concordance. This is not about the reading and translation of graphic signs to their sound equivalent, but a similar artistic vision and compositional structure. For the sake of comparison, we could take the ornamental bas-reliefs and one of Enescu's musical compositions such as Prelude in Unison (10), despite the fact that the authors of the two works, the unknown architect, on the one hand and the composer Enescu, on the other hand, come from different backgrounds and times. The unique and very personal musical language of Enescu's works resembles the other of the anonymous author from "The Three Holy Hierarchs". The uniqueness, genius improvisation, and outstanding individualities are features that particularly show in small, yet not insignificant cultures and, on the scale of history, do not have the time necessary to create schools or artistic currents, being excessively concerned with the art of survival as people.

Similar to his predecessor composer whose work is not only a collection of shelved ornaments, Enescu goes beyond the stage of folklore citation in Prelude in Unison, acquiring the monody character of traditional and church songs for the freedom of expression; from a rhythmic and melodic viewpoint, this brings The Prelude much closer to cult music, recalling the specific cadence in Byzantine chants. Objections raised to both bas-reliefs and Prelude may consist of repetitiveness of some motives, extended to broader dimensions, generating monotony; yet in Byzantine melody, as in liturgical texts, repetition has a theological justification, apart from an aesthetic one (11).

The surface of sculpted rock, of the same asperity and colour, discretely in nuance, equally low in height of the ornaments is analogous in sound to a single melodic line's uttering by a vocal or instrumental group; here, the sound of every instrument maintains the same height and intensity in relation with the other voices or instruments. If Enescu, through his monody character, distinguishes himself in the Prelude from the composing features of European musicians that harmoniously and polyphonically account for their entire musical creation, the absence of alto-reliefs and ronde-bosse sculptures on the church facade is the temperate answer given by the anonymous craftsman of the "Three Hierarchs" to the exacerbated polyphony and the sophisticated baroque harmonies. Reluctance to ornamental exaggerations does not equal total renunciation to construction elements specific to baroque compositional art such as: counterpoint, fugue or polyphony, language formulae taken from the sphere of music, also encountered in the other arts. We are at the beginning of the baroque period when, until the occurrence of vast polyphonic development, homophonic chant (Niculescu 1973) (12) was predominant in the musical productions of the time. There were stylistic variants in which monody and polyphony were embedded in the structure of the same composition; most often and in a distinct manner, they made up the backbone of monody and polyphonic musical pieces. If architecture is also considered the music of space, the analysis of musical compositions of baroque origin reveals to us novel sound constructions of unimagined geometric rigour and thoroughness.

In the atypical decorative project of the "Three Hierarchs", the geometrical forms are also the structural elements that give internal coherence to the compositional framework; however, they can also be encountered as (abstract) autonomous signs that become symbols requiring a particular reception and interpretation grid when invested for a specific reason. The density of elements from a certain perimeter, their diversity and dimensions, the interval relations between them, the pace of occurrence of several motives or forms, their interaction, interference or repetition based on a set algorithm, are only a few of the ordering components of a compositional plan applicable both to the art of music and plastic art. However, not any geometry may become aesthetic form that generates emotions, and the simple use of composing formulae does not guarantee the accomplishment of masterpieces. If "any architecture is a construction, not any construction is architecture" (Bouleau 1979: 266) (13), and sometimes very little means everything, and too much, nothing.

This also holds true for musical instruments, according to Enescu as none of the effects foreseen by him in the Prelude can have the corresponding sonority when fewer than required (14); following this reasoning, a greater or smaller density of ornamental reasons in bandeaux would have affected the artistic quality and optimal perception of the message transmitted by the stone master. Without acknowledging the existence of equivalence between the consistency of the number of instruments and the density of ornaments, I would nonetheless argue that the audacious initiative of fully covering the church walls in bas-reliefs almost failed. This would have led to the surcharging of the decorating elements, detouring their purpose to the pompous boast of kitsch (15), either via excessive rigour, thus condemning the entire ensemble to the view of an inanimate, cold and ordinary composition. On the contrary, this solution, at the verge of the risk to fail, testifies to the true art of great creators, exceptional possessors of the sense of measure and balance; they know that, along the other ingredients that account for the quality of a work, quantity may translate into the infinitesimal amount that makes the difference between poison and medicine, in the plan of composition.

The distribution of decorating motives in alternating rarefied and concentrated areas, by overlapping reliefs and crevasses that emphasize certain areas of interest, offers a unique visual treat due to the embedding of static and dynamic surfaces. A glance or a more contemplative regard retains the repetitiveness of the same superposed horizontal registers from the encounter with the immense parietal composition of the Three Hierarchs; here, similar to stair steps, the multiplied braiding ornaments in storied lines recall the endless waves with a specific optical effect that suggests eternity, the infinite so often invoked by the theological and ideological dimension of baroque art. To the same extent, in a constructive low and reflow, unison as composition, develops and reveals a wide and varied range of sensations and sound effects from the maximal tension state to that of total detente, implying the idea of an infinite metropolis with the consequence of a meditative bolero.

What strikes as remarkable in both compositions is the relation between the constituent parts of the works that observe the ratios of the golden section. In height, the church wall is divided into two unequal parts through a torsade belt framed by two black granite lines, containing graphic models, inspired by Polish renaissance. The belt divides the wall surface on the gold section caesura as the only stress in the Prelude, marked by the tympanum via a light crescendo and descrescendo in tremolo segments the duration of the musical opus in two unequal parts according to the golden section relation (Bentoiu apud Stroe-Vlad 2012) (16). The same relation (Badarau, Caprosu 2007: 191) (17) facilitated by the torsade belt can also be en countered in the steeple facade ratios (18). We cannot truly know whether the artists calculated and intentionally aimed at highlighting that part or simply had an intuition that emphasis was necessary there; it is obvious that the caesure is placed on the demarcation line of the golden section. The great creative spirits may reach a common denominator on the field of art, not only by applying the same principles which are universally valid, but also by following their intuition.

Most often, a composition is organised around a dominating theme, an important centre or an imaginary reference point around which lines, surfaces and all the other elements are distributed so that they achieve balance. The axis of balance for the work may be deduced by the composer, among other things, according to its geometrical centre of the golden section. By applying the latter to a composition, the perfect geometrical structure is avoided (Ghyka 1981: 353, 474, 478) (19), shifting the central axis as necessary, either to the right or left, up or down.

In spite of the fact that the stylistic particularities and compositional organisation of the decorating ensemble recalls a baroque mentality, this does not come as the result of programmatic applications only. The solutions provided by the author, the geometry of ornaments draw on a popular-traditional form of thinking, the grammar of a language that symbolically expresses and plastically passes on messages with any content, signs and calligrams that ritually accompany both daily life events: birth, baptism, matrimony, etc. and theological truths such as the Holy Trinity dogma. Many of the "abstract" figures and symbolic graphic elements, part of the universal heritage, can be recognised not only in the ornaments of the artefacts in ancient cultures such as Cucuteni or Vadastra, but also in the ones belonging to the Celts, Longobards, Armenians and Arabs only to refer to the ones that display similitude with the mix of decorations from The Three Hierarchs.

The geometric motives of traditional fine arts are simply the letters of traditional decorative art (20). In the era of church building, any family has at least a dowry chest full of weave fabric and clothing sewed with various motives, every one with its purpose and meaning. The owners of these "collections" of motives and symbols were familiar with the language of traditional ornaments (21), in the sense and context of motive representation few of us understand today. They were able to see and feel the beauty and meaning of ornamental motives. And since "there is no exclusively formal beauty" (Gherasim 2003: 249),--a content being always engaged by form--, to catch the meaning and significance of bas-reliefs we need to go beyond the aestheticism of form and elucidate what the entire panoply of signs that cover the church walls could have signified for our ancestors.

Almost all bandeaux include vegetal elements in their ornaments: leaves, stalks and scions. Even the lines with the most emphasized geometric motives, all but three, are embedded with buds and stylised seeds. The most common ornamental motives are the following: the tree, depicted in various stylised hypostases, a varied range of forms derived from diamonds, the cross in multiple formulas available in fine arts, the sun as solar disk and various floral rosettes. Similar to the circle, solar disk or rosette, diamond symbolism has solar connotations in traditional vocabulary. On the peasants' tapestry, the solar symbol is represented as a diamond (more concentric diamonds with stair-like lines), with names that include cosmic elements as components, i.e. "the circle wheel", "the cosmic tree", "the large flower", etc. (Prut 1991: 76-78) (22)

Due to its position of the highest relief of all bandeaux, the torsade belt, flanked by the two black granite belts and polished until it shone holds, by far, a privileged place in the economy of the ensemble. The belt is braided in three strips, two of them decorated in leaves, similarly to garlands (23). What strikes out immediately after the torsade are the two lines of trilobite under the cornice, the penultimate row three times overcoming in height any other bandeau. The following lines that draw our attention due to their high position on the bas-relief are the three rows of disks and rosettes that, in a chiasmus (24) mark the beginning, middle and end of the composition vertically displayed on the church facade. Following the most elementary forms of musical composition (consisting of prelude, development and code) and more, the three disk rows could emphasize cele the three moments of narration development, based on the formula: announcement of the message, its presentation and recapitulation.

Any composition has its points of maximum tension which reveals to us the important moments of place in fine arts. I have already brought into play the three rows of rosettes and solar disks which specifically unveil to us gradually, the higher, the more highlighted. In the low row, the disks are smaller and displayed more rarely, whereas, in the middle, under the torsade, they are much more frequently displayed and framed in blind arcades. In the upper row, disks are not only much larger, but also located within niches with trilobate arcades. Another observation is that the two lower lines and the two under the cornices, on the one hand and the two median strips of black granite that frame the belt, on the other hand are composed of a great density of vegetal motives or stylised trees. Emphasizing the vegetal elements, much more intensely represented in the beginning, middle and end of the composition, the author creates a thematic parallelism that catches the viewer's eye and guides it towards the centre of interest for the main subject, the leafy torsade, in our case.

The habit of containing the church with a belt meant to divide the height of the facade into two was taken over from the principality of Wallachia. Sometimes the belt relief was not twisted, and looked like a simple profile achieved from the cast of a whole. Much too emphasized not to fully draw one's attention, it seems that in the Three Hierarchs the twisted belt does not have a simply decorative role. Besides the fact that it illustrates, in the most suggestive manner possible, the Holy Trinity dogma, the torsade, or in a more popular manner, the braided rope is a transposition in a three-dimensional variant of morphologies derived from popular-traditional spiral-meander ornamentation with a wide range of names such as: the wave, river, stream, water wave, snail, reel, rope (cord), knots, lightning, the shepherd's staff, his star, the wrong path, etc. (Prut 1991: 51-54) Also called the strayed path, the long path, the forgotten path, the virgin path, path of the stars or the milky way, the calligrams suggest the stylised image of water flow meanders, a zigzag trajectory or the labyrinth itinerary follows a line of quadrangles that may three-dimensionally embody the ornamental motive of the twisted rope (Ibidem: 55). (25) Sometimes, in Wallachia, the torsade could be found between two brick rows, positioned in such a way that the brick cusps (edges) form two jagged lines. The relief shades and lights of the two jagged lines framing it above and below achieved a visual effect that described a zig-zag trajectory over the middle belt, thus recalling the way of the strayed path.

If the torsade belt symbolically illustrates the relation between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, one of its three fascicles stands for the Person of Christ that the prophets foretold to restore the fallen nature of man at the end of time. Comparing the attributes given by the prophets to Messiah and the ones He used to describe Himself, namely the popular attributes of the calligrams pertaining to the braided rope it resembles with. Thus, He represents: the path, the water of life, the staff, the star, the scion, etc. The moment in which Christ shows Himself to the people is the Incarnation from the Virgin Mary; for this event, cultic chants give to the Mother of God the same attributes the Son is identified with: leafy staff, water of life, path, spring, etc. Many of the prophetical allusions on the arrival of Messiah make use of allegorical images, signs and elements of the vegetal medium: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him..." (Isaiah 11, 1-2) Or, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43, 19). The event of God's Incarnation divides history and time into two as a borderline between the Old and the New Testament. As a symbolic landmark between the two worlds, the torsade-belt is the allegorical image of the event of Incarnation one of the three streams that flows from the Holy Trinity, the Spring of Life, an expression of Christ's humanity in fine arts. The belt unceasingly surrounds the church (26) like a sinusoidal stalk, hence the symbolism of endless life through the dynamics of the vegetal element that continuously rises to the light.

Although it seems to be an odgon braided in a torsade, if we closely follow it, we note that the twisting of the three tori does not respect a logical and predictable volume development; the leafy torsade actually looks like an aesthetic path with decorative and symbolical valences (27), standing for a convention that expresses the dogma of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation respectively. The torsades of the belt around its axis at equal distances, either to the right or the left recall the motive of the devious path, the meanders of a river or the knotted braided rope, where every belt twist substituted a knot's braiding. The motive of the knotted rope pertains to the symbolism of ascension, the motive of the stair or tree. It is also worth mentioning that one of the Egyptian hieroglyphs that represents a knotted rope points out to the name of man or the individual's distinct existence as a person (Chevalier, Gheerbrant 1994: 340). By means of its three-dimensional constitution, the knot symbolically bridges different plans and by extrapolation, it may be interpreted as a passage between different worlds. This intertwining of different plans in the braided rope suggests the symbolic image of embracement altogether of the Persons in the Holy Trinity perichoresis; within it, Christ willingly descends to the fallen world and becomes human to save us all.

The torsade works like a belt for the middle of the church, constituting a visible emblem that proclaims power investing the one wearing it. In some court ceremonies or when vows are taken in a convent, the belt symbolizes the promise made, an assumed dependency, and willing submission to someone (Ibidem: 316-340). The messianic idea throughout Isaiah's prophetic writings underlines the quality of God's servant, Ebed-Yahweh, that Messiah takes on: "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one ..." (Isaiah 42, 1). The quality of Ebed-Yahweh, Servant of God is, among other things, a result of the ultimate obeisance to the will of the Father and from the descendancy of Messiah from the House of David. Ebed-Yahweh is compared to a scion, an offspring (sapling), terms that bear the idea of priest-king in themselves: "... I will raise up for David a righteous Branch" (Jeremiah 23, 5-6); "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground." (Is. 53, 2) (Semen 2008: 89-95).

The leafy torsade embedded in much symbolism synthesizes the content of several soteriological events throughout the mega-decorum of the facade charged with bas-reliefs, offering to us, via fine arts and symbolism, a view on the history of salvation. All in all, the act of God's Incarnation includes all events that are marked as holy days in the iconomy of salvation: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Baptism, etc. Therefore, reference to these feasts is unavoidable when we mention the leafy torsade. Expressed through the image of the sun, spring or rejuvenating scion, all themes and symbols included by the torsade allude to a source that generates life, vascularises and feeds the entire compositional tissue as the Holy Trinity works and brings life to the world through its uncreated energies.

Mirrored parallelism (Marcus et alii 1975: 14, 233) (28) that focuses on the torsade-belt and bilaterally reflects all the motives and forms with a mainly floral and vegetal content mark the three hypostases of creation; the one before the fall, the restored one through Christ's Incarnation and the renewed one from His second Coming. These moments, symbolically rendered by the trees in the Garden of Eden, the leafy torsade and the Tree of Life from the Citadel of New Jerusalem are brought together in a visual dialogue by the messianic idea that passes the same theological reality from generation to generation. Based on the ideas above, we witness the existence of a graphic symbolism--represented by a series of vegetal elements; scions, stalks, shoot, branches, offspring, etc.--, that in a suggestive and plastic manner express the prophetical act of communication of Messiah's idea.

A concise, artistically wrought synthesis of redemption

The basic idea and common elements almost impose us the comparison of the vast parietal bas-relief with the monumental composition of the Tree of Jesse, a theme frequently approached during the period in which Moldavian frescoes distinguished themselves best; however, in this case the branches go around the entire surface of the church like a vine bonfire carved by the inspired chisel of the Spirit. The message of the promise to restore the fallen nature,--that circulates from the beginning of history as the sap of a giant tree from its root to the end of its branches--, goes from row to row and climbs the steps of a chronological and soteriological stairway. Also, it finds artistic expression in the distillation of a true dendrological breviary from the synthesis of a tree's image to the stylisation of buds and seeds spreading throughout the entire net of ornamental midrib. In fine arts, the solving of this dynamic process is obtained by the repetitiveness of the solar-floral disk configurations that accompany and emphasize the registers from the beginning, middle and end of compositional narration, through the counterpoint stress (29) of certain decorative motives, as well.

Through the most visible instances of related ornaments that reciprocally amplify their aesthetic valences via the counterpoint, there are the diamond forms and solar or floral disks. When individually admired, the beauty of the rosettes fades and it does not have the same expressivity. Their message is not as strong as when one contemplates them altogether in their syntactic complexity or spread in a perimeter available for a glimpse and they can show the entire beauty and richness of the decorum. The rosette-disks, although unveiling and gradually displaying their uniqueness, complete their plastic discourse and symbolic message due to the complementariness and the simultaneity of their reception. As an echo that confirms the same message or image through repetition, a little different from a mode to another, every disk irradiates a personal "light" from a different angle; this grows and finds vertical amplification along with the disk size and density.

Analogously, the diamond forms as perceived as populating the edifice facade through a diversity of overlapping sizes combining with other geometrical and vegetal motives. They question themselves and answer to each other, on both sides of the torsade, displaying their particularities; on the one hand, they show themselves from the intersection of a line of circles and from other composite forms and, on the other hand, they find themselves multiplied in the braiding that corset the external surfaces of the church like endless curls, from place to place.

Although the parallelism of horizontal bandeaux and strict alignment, module after module, of the decorative motives, could give us the impression of a rhythm imposed by the equal distances between ornaments, the resulting squares actually do not encapsulate the dry predictability of a mathematical table; on the contrary, the craftsman took the liberty to enlarge or reduce the dimensions of the modules and the spaces between them to the advantage of artistic expression, as can be noticed. Many cases of imperfect combination in ornament ends, minor accidents that pass unnoticed from the distance, unforeseen asymmetry, deformations via agglutination or extension of the intervals between ornaments, unintentional most of the times, lead to the same improvisational effect of heterophony music. Equally present in the development of decorative bandeaux and the traditional melody discourse, the light accelerations or pace diminutions, called parlando rubato in musical language, are fluctuations of the rhythmic structure which add to plasticity and expressivity (30). Following the same register of musical expression, yet referring to the category of well-directed and represented accidents both in academic and folkloric language, we may bring dissonance into play (Plesu 1974: 92). (31)

Intentionally used, the role of dissonance is to underline, through light disagreement, a certain aspect of a composition without affecting the balance of the entire ensemble. In the entourage of the two black granite strips, the torsade-belt seems much lighter than the two other stone bandeaux, by comparison. Rigorously analysed, it shows a small stylistic disagreement between the decorum on the black granite--which distinguishes itself through a more sinuous duct of ornament shapes of a baroque-renaissance vision--, and the other decorative strips, characterised by another type of stylisation and synthesis of forms. Of an outstanding finish, polished and engraved with ornaments of a different facture, the strategic positioning of the two granite strips itself gives room for understanding that the approach was an intentional one. The intended use of dissonances (in this case, the increase of the value contrast and stylistic change) was meant to increase expressivity, catch the viewer's eye and direct it to a certain area of interest. By means of maximum contrast, almost led to extreme on the value scale between the bright relief of the belt and the black shining granite which aims at emphasizing a surprise element, a shocking one considering the unusual event of the Incarnation of the One foretold by the prophets beyond nature and named "a light for the Gentiles" (Is. 49, 6).

The bipolarity of compositional spaces, symbolically illustrated by contents that pass on complementary messages from the Old and New Testament, topographically mark the main event which is also the key to the interpretation of the biblical message; yet, following the same chiastic mindset, it gives us freedom to approach narration from any other place of history. As a result,--either we choose to get close to the semiotic of stone illustrations that recall the first days of Creation, or we focus on the ones that prophesize the Apocalypse days,--by symbolically facilitating the motives that bring together all registers and allow us to gain access to the complete understanding of the entire history.

Following the way in which traditional art depicted ornamental motives, we can identify two tendencies; one is "geometrical", also called "segmented", and the other--often very close to natural archetypes --is the one of sinuous forms, with curved margins (Mardare 2016: 199). On the surface between the torsade and socle fringe, there are mainly decorative "geometric" elements and the superior register, due to the richness of phytomorph elements mostly contains the type of depiction in sinuous shape forms and rounded volumes. Most often, along circles, there is an intercalation of combined forms with curve shapes and sharp and rounded margin palmettos. Both types of decorations are compatible, one completing the other so that both the geometry elements and the rounded ones form a unitary and harmonious structure of the parietal ensemble (Ghyka 1981: 84). (32)

In the mixture of sculpted forms on the "Three Hierarchs" facade, we can notice the resulting ornaments from the fractal development of decorative modules that similarly and progressively grow and multiply according to the principles of arabesque composition; however, modulated reliefs are not arabesque proper. The latter is the ultimate depiction of motives inspired from nature. The progressive passage from the living line to the ideographic one and from the ideographic one to the geometrical one defines the spiritual sense of arabesque art. The occurrence of the regulated polygon as part of the ornamental arabesque repertoire turned Arabic art into exact science since mathematical abstraction forced the spirit to follow absolute convention (Faure 1970: 226, note 1; 228) (33).

Even if ornamental richness entitled us to deem equal the two filigree productions, the ideograms converted to Christian ethos which form the decorative ensemble on the church facade; they distinguish themselves from Ottoman arabesques by the richness in content, symbolical-metaphoric expression, and especially the process of making essential an idea turned into a symbol in fine arts, features that the rigorous language of deeply nude arabesque abstraction in desert drought cannot ever acquire (Faure 1970: 225-226.)

Through the valences of a symbolic image, several historical realities may be related and even overlap. For instance, the motive of holy and sanctifying water, symbolically evoked in various moments of history, may be represented by the image of the Jordan river flowing, thus recalling the restoration of creation and may be reflected by the water wave of the rivers that kept the realm of Eden green (Genesis 2, 10-14) or sprang from beneath the Lamb's throne (Apocalypse 22, 1); they marked the beginning and end of the world and perhaps, more fully, it may be encountered in the image of "the Spirit of God, hovering over the waters" (Genesis 1, 2).

Therefore, the motive of water could be identified on the facade covered in bas-reliefs, either as representation of the Jordan stream due to the torsade or in the image of original water waves that give life, symbolically illustrated by a germinating vegetal structure around the socle; last but not least, it may be depicted as the flower pot or Kantharos tree (34) recalling the spring of the water of life from the Jerusalem above (Apocalypse 22, 2-6).

Similar to the representations of pre-Christian art and our popular traditions, the image of the tree of life "came from the conception of the cosmic tree, close enough to the prototype of the so-called "biblical" and "Iranian" trees. Sometimes, the crown bears the image of big fruit and birds and the trunk, with a thickened lower part is associated with the tree roots" (Mardare 2016: 147). If the religious imaginary of some cultures considers the tree to be a symbol of rejuvenation for nature, in general and vegetation, in particular, in traditional Christian iconography, the tree of life occurs under the shape of the leafy cross or the Cross-Tree, an image that may be associated to ascension symbols such as: the staircase, the pillar, the staff, the mountain, etc. One of the most significant symbolical images encountered in the "Three Hierarchs" decorum is a variant of the Tree of life, represented as a budded and leafy tree whose concentrated labyrinth root expresses power and sanctity of Deification that is eternal spring to itself and offer to all.

The representation of Christ's genealogical tree, calling on the symbolical image of the Tree of Jesse, although not explicitly described from a graphic viewpoint, can be found in biblical chronology and is plastically marked on the facade by key historic events which may also be deduced from the knowledge of decoration habits in fresco of the external church surfaces. It is during the time of metropolitan Varlaam that the last major fresco representations of Moldavian church walls are preserved. Thus, the "Saint Elijah" church in Suceava preserves a deteriorated external wall painted in fresco, where, at the base of the ladder of "Saint John of the Ladder", there lies the representation of metropolitan Varlaam under the inscription: "Archbishop Varlaam, Metropolitan of Suceavschi" (Sesan 1959: 84). It is possible for the scene of the "Tree of Jesse" to have been painted on the opposite wall, now completely deteriorated; the scene is still visible on the northern wall, as well, at the monastery of Humor, in several fragments.

In guise of a prelude, known and appropriated by metropolitan Varlaam, the church steeple from the monastery of Dragomirna called for a change of language, an unprecedented sculptural experiment in Moldavian architecture, adopted and subsequently achieved with great mastery on the entire surface of the church exterior at "The Three Holy Hierarchs". The external scenes once painted in frescoes are retold in stone, in a completely different language. The incompatibility of Byzantine iconography with three-dimensional sculpture cultivated in Western Europe churches was a decisive factor in choosing the symbolic language of the bas-relief as means of expression. Anastasie Crimca's desire to accomplish, at Dragomirna, a synthesis between the vertical aspirations of Western church volumes and the beauty of stone arabesques that embellish Oriental edifices was supervised and tempered by the specificity of the two Christian spaces. The difference between the Byzantine world and the Western one of the Renaissance lies in the distinction between discipline and harmony (Plesu 1974: 89-90). (35) The symbolical ideograms are characterised by the geometrical balance and symmetry, specificity that may express a supernatural, non-contingent reality opposed to the principle of imitation of truth in nature. These apparently abstract formal syntheses are images of an ideal world, impossible for realist plausibility; however, they could also be defined as a plastic attempt of adequacy to the imperative of representation of a transcendent reality of absolute (Gherasim 2003: 136-137) (36).

First of all addressing the contemporaries of the church building, what seems to us, nowadays, a story difficult to decipher, read much more easily for them. Although the motives on the facade do not find themselves as such in traditional Romanian ornaments, it seems that the ones who took on the art of weaving and sewing were the most accurate interpreters and cultivators of symbolic vocabulary. Perhaps the tradition to decorate with bas-reliefs the external church walls would have endured if the country rulers had not been the Phanariots. Without the perspective of stability in country ruling, the leaders did not invest that much in church building. Therefore, we could have had many more churches with external walls decorated in bas-reliefs as in the case of Armenia or Georgia, yet imprinted in the specificity of our religious and cultural background.

Old photos showed that before Lecomte du Nouy's restoration, there was no rapport in stone ornaments as now; on the contrary, they were interrupted by ends in every piece of stone, hence the much more fragmented general aspect of the surface at that time. The disappearance of the ditches that contained the surface of every fragment made the background much quieter, emphasizing the shapes of sculpted ornaments. From the fugitive analysis of several key rows, we may guess the general message of the composition as if we only read the subtitles of a book's table of contents and we become aware of its content, without aiming at further details. Not all rows sculpted on the facade are equal in height and bear the same baggage of information. There is significant contrast between the waist of the denticulate row and the height of the niche row with decorating vases. Similar to the striations in the section of a tree's trunk, based on which we distinguish the rainy from the draught years, row succession--some of them more buddy and leafy than other poor or even arid ones,--recall us the diversity of historical periods or the flow of a musical piece in which we distinguish barely murmured passages in pianissimo from alternating stressed portions that culminated in fortissimo.

The base row, positioned between the foundation stairs and the upper fringe of the socle seems isolated from the agitated lace above; even the fringe of profiled stone above it like a roof locates the ornamental row at the low margin of petrified braiding, if not outside the compositional ensemble as if it were tassels of a large holy tablecloth. Expressed through the repetition of motives of the tree of life combined with the one of the water wave (stream), symbolical images of endless feast dance modules remind us of the Edenic period, the time of the ancestors before the fall. The double capsule of the offspring-scion is also, similar to the Christmas tree (pine, etc.) cone, a symbolical reduction and maximum stylisation of a tree whose crown suddenly displays roots embedded with the neighbouring roots, thus suggesting the waves of primordial waters. The multiplication of the scion-offspring with the crown at the beginning of its affirmation and the rhizomes that follow the form of the stream evoke the theme of the spring, the source of rejuvenating energy and the state of the world's inception.

Pendant with the scion-offspring or the tree-root of life which symbolically illustrate the dawn of history, in the upper register from under the niches with trilobite arcades the branches of such a tree show themselves. It is the variant of the Kantharos Tree (or Flower Pot) of Greek origin, a motive also encountered in the iconography of sculptural representations of our funerary stones (Mardare 2016: 148-149) (37). Over the row of trilobate arcades, decorated with "flower bouquet" vases, another row of niches is superimposed, near the cornice, the solar disks within it. The last two arcade rows are full of braided palmettos with a sort of stylized fruit-flowers tendrils that describe the shape of a visible bean pod. Resembling mirrors of the house of the Heavenly Father where there are "many mansions" (John 14, 2), the upper row niches are separated between them by high relief cornices. Beneath, the niches with flower vases are surrounded by colonnettes and the brace external spaces are decorated with these fruit-flowers surrounded by leaves. The colonnettes, with amulets in the middle consist of two superposed elongated pine cones whose alveolate seeds form a scaly structure.

The promised, prophesized and fulfilled incarnation is confirmed at the end of times by the righteous many enlightened by the Sun of Justice (Malachi 3, 20) "who will shine like the sun" (Matthew 13, 43). The disks with spiral rays or floral configurations, the rosettes with geometrical or cruciform motives are all solar symbols that, via fine arts, rewrite and convert into beauty (Ghenea 2001: 163) the silent testimony of sanctification of the ones for whom we acknowledge the grace and shining of the Triumphant Church. The tree in the flower pot, blessed with twelve fruit is the image of the participation of the twelve apostles in Christ; without Him and after his Word, no one can exist in the fullness of truth: "I am the vine; you are the branches (...) apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15, 5).

The Kantharos tree envisages the tree of life from the citadel of Jerusalem above that had the healing leaves and bore fruit twelve times a year "In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Apocalypse 22, 2)

Root and offspring of David, son of Jesse, Christ is at the same time, the star and staff (Origen apud Semen 2008: 142) that came out of Jacob (Numbers 24, 17) and the bright morning star that that shines to enlighten the peoples (Apoc. 22, 16). God-Light shows Himself through sight and inner knowledge, is offering to the people through the Church via the Holy Sacraments. The cult of the Church is a visualisation of the unseen cosmic liturgy which provides the pattern of the hierarchical order that governs the world. Harmony structures both the physical world and man's soul so that when they are in agreement with eternal harmony we could decipher in the silent music of the stone of "the Three Hierarchs", "the holy prayer" of its founders. All the sculptural decorations of the church, its congruence with the great art of Enescu's music, with any true art, in fact bears something iconic in it despite the apparent strict operation with elements of Orthodox iconography or Byzantine hymnography.

Almost all elements of the decorum directly or by means of graphic substitutes express solar symbols or messengers and light diffusers as if they span around the church in a ceaseless prayer. If geographical motives of traditional fine arts are simply the letters of popular decorative art, church facades are large parchments that cover the church in words that unceasingly proclaim and praise the Incarnated Word by means of artistic language convention that facilitates our understanding. The call for the dynamics of the vegetal element, unstoppable in its rise to the light, signifies endless life with no beginning, accounts for an invitation to discover transfigured Taboric Light that crosses the facade mega-decorum in stone, offering to us a synthesis of the history of redemption symbolically expressed and artistically transfigured.

Unique, without breaking with the architectonic values that belong to the same categories of edifices covered in bas-reliefs, the church of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery could be translatable any time either into the landscape of Moorish architecture in Spain or the complex of a monastic settlement of Armenia or Georgia, thus testifying to the universality of form language; similar to musical language, it may attain in time and place any destiny and fulfilment, assuring us that five stones put together in an inspired manner may tell us more about God's greatness and signify accordingly than the building of thousands of fortresses where His name remains unknown.


(1) From a different engraving located on the old bell tower, we find out about its sanctification a year before, in 1638.

(2) Saint Varlaam is the only Romanian hierarch proposed as candidate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate See, without being elected.

(3) The plan of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" church Monastery resembles a lot the one of the Galata church Monastery in Iasi; we also acknowledge many architectonic and decorative elements similar to the ones at Dragomirna monastery.

(4) At first, "The Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery, similar to Golia, Galata or Dragomirna monasteries, was surrounded by a 4-5 meter high stone wall. The Polish messenger Miastkovski tells that the wall inside the court would have been made of brick.

(5) The first location of the printing press was on the semi-basement of the monastery refectory, today the museum in the "Gothic room".

(6) According to the master signs discovered on Lecomte du Nouy's 1904 restoration, it seems that the majority of sculptors were probably Transylvanian Saxons and Poles. There are no clues to the existence of Armenians or Georgians among them. Interestingly enough, the rich communities of Armenians on the Moldavian territory, building their own walls, did not resort to Armenian craftsmen to pass on some of the spiritual ambient of their environment of origin. This also holds true for Dragomirna where there was no involvement of Armenian or Georgian craftsmen and whose steeple was used as model for the Three Hierarchs decorum. In the Three Hierarchs the decorative principle is different from the churches in Georgia, Armenia or Caucasus, where the decorum aims at highlighting the structural elements of the monuments (borders, frames, belts, etc.). The fact that the ornaments are Armenian or Georgian or that the habit to decorate the church walls in bas-reliefs comes from that particular geographic area does not guarantee that the craftsmen who worked for the Three Hierarchs belonged to those lands, as well. In fact, what matters is not the workforce, but the concept and it is not out of question for the author or project administrator to have been Armenian or to have known from the source how to sculpt such ornaments. The way in which the architect arrived to Moldavia from his country of origin or via Constantinople matters less if the result proves that he considered the sleeping partner's intentions and knew how to coordinate a heterogeneous team of stone masters. (See Dobjanschi, Simeon 1979: 42).

(7) I will not insist on the detailed description of every ornamental element, I will simply refer to the facade of the main unit, glancing at the decorum of the steeples where the motives on the facade are repeated to a considerable extent.

(8) There are writers, authors of novels or essays that, despite the fact that they do not express themselves in verse, are particularly appreciated for the poetic art of their writing. This is also Ion Creanga's case. Being a storyteller for the sake of euphony, his writing is a poetic one, the language invented as the writer stresses the musicality of the sentences, polishing each phrase as if it were a chanted verse. The decorum in which actions are taken is fictitious, an ideal world of the fairytale. What he describes in his work is a world of the ideal village seen by a child, yet addressing adults. Creanga's work is truly understood by few, his writing resembles Horace's in greatness; living, harmonious, and easy to memorize, it allows us to quote from it and to learn passages by heart.

(9) Contrary to the picturesque legend, the church walls have never been golden, and no one has ever tried to melt or rasp them to acquire that gold for the simple reason that the operation would have been useless and would not have brought any profit. Assuming it had been golden and someone would have attempted to clear it, the gold stratum would have been so thin that the rasp would have ruined it and the procedure would have taken too long. As hardworking as they might have been (considering laboratory conditions), remains of the golden polish would have remained in some corners which would have probably been duly noted by the restorers almost a hundred years ago. Had they attempted to use fire to melt the gold as the legend tells, the flames would have unequally melted the wall surface, from bottom to the steeple top, and, given its thinness, the golden foil would have turned into ashes. After such a fire there should have remained traces of smoke somewhere; on the contrary, the stone pores do not display any trace of smoke, gold or other special materials that prepared the foiling. For gilding, stone requires special treatment as can be seen at Curtea de Arges Monastery where golden surfaces have been preserved although the church was gilded 130 years before the building of the "Three Hierarchs" church. If, at Curtea de Arges, the restorer Lecomte du Nouy was able to gild again the timeworn surfaces without any restriction, when restoring the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery, he glazed and painted the church frames, as several lines of ornaments and niches on the steeples were only based on the legend of the church gilding. Having no documentary argument and against the protests of the specialists contemporary with him, Lecomte du du Nouy took the risk of gilding certain parts of bas-reliefs in blue cobalt paint; later on, for the less informed, these potions gave the impression that they dated from Vasile Lupu's time. Today, Lecomte du du Nouy's golden ornaments cannot be distinguished anymore, time has worn them out, the only traces remain hidden to the sight and are protected against bad weather in some profound incisions or in the less accessible corners.

(10) Prelude to Unison is part I of Suite I for orchestra, op. 9, by George Enescu. Enescu's innovation consisted in a composition for the orchestra in which part I was represented by a single melodic line, without accompaniment defined by the term "unison" in music, hence the title of Prelude to Unison for part I of the suite.

(11) The repetition of "God have mercy on me" (for forty times, for instance) in a text has a different objective than required by aesthetic demands. Repetition is often encountered in the biblical report, it confirms and strengthens an idea or the message of a revealed text: "Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice" (III Kings 18, 36); or "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep." (John 10, 7) etc.

(12) Homophony is the composition with a predominant voice and the other accompanying it. It is the syntactic category that refers to the simultaneity of sound objects (the frequency axis), considered in succession aspects (on the temporal axis). Musical practice proves the possibility of combining syntactic categories, mixing monody and polyphony which led to the accompanied monody that dominated musical classicism. An evolved homophone thought can be encountered in Johann Sebastian Bach, a polyphonist whose work is, in fact, a perfect symbiosis between sound combinations that regard both simultaneity and succession, the coexistence of homophony, polyphony and monody.

(13) An aphorism of the painter Juan Gris.

(14) In the score, Enescu specifies the minimum number of instruments necessary to obtain certain effects.

(15) See the case of the new church at Slatioara, where the attempt to imitate the ornaments from "The Three Holy Hierarchs" failed and an unsuccessful surrogate resulted.

(16) Bentoiu claims that his Prelude "is, interestingly enough, designed almost ideally following Fibonacci's sequence. The first section comprises 50 measures, the following 30, so both 80 out of a total of more than one hundred and thirty as the last measures occur as a simple echo to the vast development. The only accident in timber - the pedal on sol in the tympanum occurs in the place of the aural section. Be this by chance? - wonders the specialist in music."

(17) Measurements of the steeples, which were much shorter before restoration revealed the golden sequence. Lecomte du Nouy raised the steeples, adding a right bandeau to them, a row of small niches and a cornice with a rich profile to harmonize with the new roofs whose appearance he changed making them higher. See also Badarau, Caprosu 2007: 180.

(18) Lecomte du Nouy was inspired enough to bring the roofs to their initial appearance, namely the general Moldavian church roofs from Stephen the Great to the 17th century, yet he gives up the eaves and roof tiles. Semisphere skullcaps made of metal that Lecomte du Nouy encountered at the end of the 19th century are of Russian inspiration and were built after an earthquake that led to the fall of the old roofs. Initially the roofs had a cone form and were covered in tiles as described the Polish messenger Miastkovski in 1640 and according to the originally painted fresco. After the last restoration, by removing the oil paint coating from the votive shrine that showed the church steeples with the vaulted roofs, the old image of the church could be grasped; the roofs had a cone form, containing tiles and eaves.

(19) "The asymmetric division of a dimension that governs many arts is also a symbol of life and pulsing harmonies". "For a whole, divided into two unequal parts, to be beautiful from the viewpoint of form, we need to have the same ratio between the small and large part as in the larger part and the whole".

(20) These are the claims of the critic and art historian Ion Frunzetti. See Prut 1991: 31.

(21) Thus stylised, most of the decorating elements of bas-reliefs in The Three Hierarchs can also be encountered among the ornamental motives of the peasants' carpets. On the tapestries and peasants' carpets, solar ideograms generally take the shape of diamonds or crosses. Among the ideograms of solar symbolism, there is an S shaped representation called zaua (zaluta) or the hook. Among the ones that take the sign of the cross or stylised monogram of Christ's name, we can mention: the basil, large cloud, star, mill, etc. The most encountered diamond motives are: the wheel of fire or the hook diamond, the chair, the closed flower or the motive of the Cosmos (Universe). The frieze compositions represented by decorative bandeaux on the church facade are often present in the art of carpet braiding. Most frequently, carpet margins consist of decorated ends with meander or zig-zag motives in the symbolic image of the Whirlwind (Swirl) of primordial waters. According to the elements that accompany the winding line, ornaments bear various names such as: the stalk, wave or stream, rope, the strayed of wrong path, etc. The oblique lines force the eye to move up and down, hence the dynamism of the composition. See Mardare 2016: 199.

(22) In other cultures, the diamond obtained from two isosceles triangles adjacent through their base, stands for the relation between sky and earth. In many cultures, the diamond is a symbol of fertility. In Western Christianism we encounter the diamond in association with the image of "the philosopher's stone" or the "The stone which the builders rejected" (Psalm 117, 22). See Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant, Dicfionar de Simboluri (Dictionary of Symbols), vol. III, ed. Artemis, Bucuresti, 1994, pp. 82; 170. See also rev. Gabriel Herea, Mesajul eshatologic al spatiului liturgie crestin: arhitectura si icoana in Moldova secolului XV-XVI (The Eschatological Message of the Christian Liturgical Space: Architecture and Icon in 15th-16th Century Moldavia), ed. Karl A. Romstorfer, Suceava, 2013, p. 30, note 120.

(23) According to some studies, the two strips are covered in scales (a decorative scaly structure inspired by the ornaments of the Iznik ceramics). A much closer look reveals to us the so-called scales in the composition of the strips of non-convex configuration; scales cover and are covered by the halves of other scales (as in fish or snakes). Here the love is rounded and concave, cavity-like to the top that rises and bounces off on the outside similar to a lead that aims at the light. The image of the leaf and (or) flower garlands is very popular in the art of funerary edifices and ancient Greek-Roman cult. Even the decorative motive of the "Iznik" scales from the ornaments of the cult objects ordered for the church (coffee pots and vigil lamps) have their scale rows with their tips up, thus recalling the scales of pine cones.

(24) The chiastic formula is an artistic procedure that allows the reading from both senses of a text's message or of a content of a plastic work; from the beginning to the end and vice versa, and from margin to the centre. In this way, the signification of the message may also be developed from the beginning and the end of the text to the centre.

(25) Derived from the mythological symbolism of labyrinth, represented by a line that describes a spiral row positioned one after another, the strayed path is an ornamental archetypal motive that symbolizes the path on which the souls leave this world to find immortality. In the names that the Romanian peasant gave to the calligrams, "we distinguish the necessary journey with obstacles, the fact that only the long path can lead to the middle of things". Encountered on an endless series of hypostases: furniture, clothing or Easter eggs recalling the double spiral of DNA or the Milky Way, the traditional decorative motive of the strayed path evokes "the image of " an ancestral aspiration to open the gates of the worlds beyond us for the secrets of life and death to be revealed".

(26) Before Lecomte du Nouy's restoration, the apse abutments were shorter and only disrupted the trajectory of the torsade-belt on the Western side of the church.

(27) On the torsade belt that ornates the Dragomirna monastery church, the researcher Mihaela Palade wrotes: " is difficult to describe in words, it is depicted as "a braided rope" into a double twisted torsade that "surrounds it"; when "a stone torsade belt that comprises three strips is alternatively twisted like a rope" or turned "like a rope, similar to a torsade, either on the left or on the right". "Apparently, it looks twisted; however, this is a mere optical illusion in which the change of direction, either in a sense, or another, gives the impression of a twist which regularly changes sense". "The motive is not new, it is currently used in the East-Mediterranean and Armenian areal, yet craftsmen here designed a bi-dimensional motive in three-dimensional key". See Palade 2015: 16.

(28) Despite the appearance of simplicity that folkloric creation most often displays, in popular poetry we often encounter an extremely complex architecture that highlights "phenomena of parallelism between some syntactic and prosodic structures, as well as some very deep and hidden types of repetitions". I here refer to the so-called "mirror languages somehow similar to the palindrome forms or languages with repetitions, i.e. languages that contain sentences of the xax or xx type, where x is an arbitrary sentence".

(29) The technique of using counterpoint, experimented in all artistic genres, reaches an exquisite refinement and virtuosity in the art of baroque. The application of the counterpoint technique gives us the possibility to express different things at the same time, without making any confusion. The two melodic lines or more, or figures of fine arts fulfil and complete each other without losing their individual personality. The effect shows in a nicely decorated and glazed pottery fair. The multitude of models overwhelms us; therefore, if we were to choose one of the pots, we hesitate because we love them all. This happens because a play is very beautiful against the background of them all. The models on the neighbouring pots complete each other, and the simultaneous glance at the ensemble determines the motives to go from vase to vase; thus, our view enjoys the entire landscape as if it were a polychrome symphony. Any vase taken out of content seems much poorly decorated.

(30) Inspired from folklore, hesitations and intended suspensions of the rhythmic approach imprint a specific elasticity of tempo balance on the melodic flow; these are also defining characteristics for Enescu's lyrical discourse.

(31) "From the viewpoint of composition, baroque frequently takes over the musical schemes of Renaissance; significantly enough, it changes their weight in a vibrating dynamism, introducing dissonance to their harmony". See also Lazarescu 2009: 205, note 1. "Dissonances, be they in colour, line, form, etc. need to be considered elements that emphasize an analogy or contrast. (The idea of such a type of anti-harmony was theoretically supported by the American C. G. Abbot in 1934)". We encounter a similar effect in the so-called inexact rhyme from traditional poetry. "The inexact epithet leaves the imprecise impression of unsuccessful rhymes as a result of the author's clumsiness; actually, the procedure it designs is the expression of a genuine poetic refinement. From misunderstanding, but most often with the best of intentions, the older collectors of folklore, starting with Alecsandri, considered it was their duty to make the inexact rhymes right, thus depriving us of many beauties that can only be inferred today". See also Marcus et alii 1975: 84.

(32) From another perspective, through the analysis of the matter's structure, it was demonstrated that organic world is dominated by pentagonal symmetries (the golden ratio, above all), whereas the inorganic world is ruled by hexagonal and cubic symmetries.

(33) A formula extracted from the polygon and reduced to the polygon all geometrical motives of ornamentation.

(34) Kantharos Tree was named after the type of amphora (kantharos) in which sacrifices were made in Greek-Roman temples. The form of the amphora can be encountered in some Byzantine cult vases, as well.

(35) Discipline is necessary, unavoidable and asks for the rigour of the law which means geometric balance in art. The harmony that Renaissance aims at lies under the sign of the irresistible, gratuity, and the experiment that manifests in art via orchestral harmony.

(36) The human spirit needs symmetry. He expresses itself via the complex symmetry of polarities, complementariness, equivalent ideas, maintaining balance and observing the truth at all times.

(37) From the theme of the Kantharos Tree, the type of flower-trees or candelabra trees derive, so often encountered in the art of traditional Romanian carpets that suggest the idea of divine nature in the solar light.

(38) The letters of the Armenian alphabet are used in popular art as decorative motives bearing Christian message content.

(39) According to the prophecy "A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24, 17) the two natures of Messiah can be seen. The star is a hint to Jesus's divinity and the sceptre, a hint to God's human nature.

Author Contributions

The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


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Mihail Gheatau, MA; Hieromonk of The "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery of Iasi, Romania;

Caption: Church of the "Three Holy Hierarchs" Monastery. Aerial view

Caption: View of the Southern facade

Caption: Details of the facade bas-reliefs

Caption: Portal of the South entrance and engraving

Caption: Church plan (detail), with emphasis on the "golden section" ratio

Caption: Tree of life in the Flower Pot variant or Kantharos Tree

Caption: A variant of the Tree of Life, depicted as a buddy and leafy cross

Caption: Rosettes with geometric and floral motifs

Caption: The torsade belt

Caption: View of the altar apse
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Title Annotation:Iasi, Romania
Author:Gheatau, Mihail
Publication:Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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