The story of the monastery’s building goes back a long way in remote, yet vivid legends. They have it that a lone priest lived here who had had advised ruler Lapusneanu to build a monastery on the place where a sycamore maple grew. Thus, the legend has it, was the way the first stone was set for the foundation of what we admire today as the monastery assembly from Slatina.
Uncertain are the dates about the blessing of the church. In a chronicle belonging to Grigorie Ureche 14 October 1558 is mentioned as that date, but the votive inscription placed by abbot Nil in 1572 says it had been built in 1561. The monastery is under the patronage of the “Lord’s Changing Face”, as attested by the Slavic inscription.
Patriarch Ioasaf of Constantinople participated to the impressive ceremony of setting the foundation stone beside ruler Lapusneanu.
Alexandru Lapusneanu was a very peculiar character – a very cult person and a great founder just like his father, Petru Rares. A lover of beautiful things, he insisted on bringing in the country good masters, sculptors and architects from Bistrita and from Transilvania, even painter Stamatello Kotronas from the Greek island Zante for the building and decorating of the monuments. The valuable monuments and ornaments – embroideries, silver ware – comparable as regards value and characteristics with those from Petru Rares’ time offer the best proof for the respect towards beauty.
The interior of the monastery has a rectangular, irregular form. The surrounding walls are made of river rocks, with merging rocks in the corners, with bulwarks and guarding alley. Bulwarks were also built in the four corners, showing that Slatina was meant for shelter, resistance and defense.
The entrance into the monastery is made through the passage of the eastern side, completely rebuilt between 1830- 1834 by bishop Filaret Beldiman. In the southeastern tower made of a nave and a little apse there is a rock-framed door where one can distinguish decorative elements Renaissance style, and with the northeastern bell-tower we can notice big windows with Gothic framing.
Two doors of the porch, one on the northern side and the other on the southern side, open the entrance inside the church. According to the tradition of the Moldavian architecture, but also of the Orthodox Church, the interior of a church is split into porch, pre-nave, tomb room, nave and altar.
The porch is covered by a semi-cylindrical vault and lighted by three windows with Gothic framing. In its turn, the pre-nave was split in two by a transversal arch, and the pavement is made of white – pink marble. The wall separating the tomb room was removed to increase the space. The spire is over the nave and it has the particularity to also have niches in the interior on one row under the windows. The spacious altar has niches on both sides.
The painting of the church is not the old one, but it has been very carefully restored. . the votive painting presents Alexandru Lapusneanu and his family and is placed on the northern wall of the pre-nave.
The tombs of Lapusneanu’s two daughters, Teofana and Teodora, Lady Ruxandra’s and the ruler’s are all in the church. They are evidence of the past and are beautifully adorned.
The founder made sure to establish a music school within the monastery where young people from Galitia were able to learn, and also a library with books and manuscripts. He brought here Monk Isaia, an erudite of the time that left behind him a true school of calligraphy and miniature. Thus, the monastery assembly from Slatina was attached a greater cultural importance. The annex buildings of the church making up the monastery assembly from Slatina are extremely important.
From an architectural point of view, it is notable that, with this monastery, more than with the others, the symmetry of the construction and the dimensions of the four spires are much more put into value. Since we cannot reconstitute the aspect of the attic tower, it is more than certain that they used to connect the two constructions occupying the whole eastern wing. These two constructions had only one way of access and were connected by a walking alley, while the northern construction was organised typically symmetrical in a group of three rooms: a lobby leading to two hermitages.
The centre of the courtyard kept its old utility (in fact it was Prince Alexandru Lapusneanu’s residence), a big building on a square plane with vaulted hermitages and a lobby with the ceiling supported by beams.
The whole architecture of Slatina proves that the monastery was built according to the rules of the Renaissance buildings, with a rigorous order, with a display of the details in a regulate rhythm and connected through symmetry axles.
Unfortunately, the splendour of the monastery, resembling a princely courtyard, suffered from numerous accidents which occurred soon after its founder’s death (or even before that). Since the end of the 17th century until the end of 1800, there were frequent wars (together with plundering, burning and destroying), and they kept on going until the end of the 18th century. For fourty years the monastery was deserted. At the beginning of the 19th century monastic life started again and the restoration of the monastery began. In 1821, Slatina became the refuge for Captain Iordache Olimpiotul, one of the leaders of the Greek movement named Eteria, together with his group of fighters. Undergoing a severe siege, the monastery was burnt and mostly demolished. The restoration work started in 1823. It was then that the roofs of the hermitages and of the spires (in the Russian baroque style) were rebuilt, and the princely residence suffered transformations.
In 1834, Archimandrite Filaret cuts off the tower of the interior, builds a chapel above the way of access and orders the façade to be made with pillars in Neo-classic style. Finally, Bishop Veniamin Costache adds a new construction above the hermitages on the eastern side and a beautiful porch with Neo-classic columns built in front of them, like the balconies on the northern side. At the end of the same century and again in Neo-classic style, the monastery was finished. Thus, the Slatina assembly was gradually built and, although including constructions in different styles and from different ages, is a constitutive part of our culture and civilisation
The relics of St. Gregory, returned to Slatina Monastery
At the intervention of the Holy Synod and Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the shrine with the relics of St. Gregory the Theologian (328-389) was returned 12 February 2001 at monastery “Transfiguration” – Slatina, Suceava County after more than 55 years during which he visited the National Art Museum in Bucharest. Before turning to Slatina coffin was found for ten days (February 2) in the monastery church “St. John “in Suceava, passing in front of it and thousands of believers worshiping in the county and beyond. The coffin was taken in procession to Slatina about 1,000 people, were headed by Î.P.S. Pimen Zainea, Archbishop of Suceava and Radauti, and many priests.
Relics – part of St. Gregory’s head – were brought to Moldova by the ruler Alexandru Lapusneanu (1552-1561, 1564-1568).