Short visit to Antim Monastery, Bucharest

The main church of Antim Monastery (1710s), Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I just had a short visit to the beautiful Antim Monastery in the very centre of Bucharest. It is a superb building gathering many motifs and styles from the Ottoman world of the c17th and c18th that I need to thoroughly investigate, analyse and meditate upon.

iPhone photo of the day: St. Catherine’s Church, Bucharest

St. Catherine Church, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is St. Catherine’s Church (Biserica Sfanta Ecaterina) in Bucharest’s Patriarchy Hill area (I organised an architectural tour a couple of weeks ago there), which as a place of worship dates from the c16th, but the actual building is from the early 1850s. It is in a provincial neo-baroque style, a quite sporadic design for a church of Byzantine rite, epitomizing the process of modernisation and Europeanisation of the Romanian society of that era, following the national revolutions of 1848 and drive toward modern nation building and independence from the Ottoman Empire, the erstwhile oriental overlord of this region. The iPhone photo has been perspective corrected in Lightroom and cross-processed in Picassa, giving it this interesting vintage postcard aspect. That impression is charmingly enhanced by the exposed brick facade produced by the current restoration works.

Sibiu orthodox cathedral – universalist message in architecture

Sibiu orthodox cathedral, old postcard (1900s), Valentin Mandache collection

The city of Sibiu (Hermannstadt in German, Nagyszeben in Hungarian) is the second largest urban centre of historic Saxon Transylvania. It is, as its varying names show, a multi-ethnic city. The main faith of Sibiu’s ethnic Romanian population is Christian orthodox, with its centre of worship at the majestic cathedral depicted in the old postcard pictured above, inaugurated in 1904 and designed by the Hungarian architects Josef Kamner and Vergilius Nagy. The postcard was published by the Sibiu archdiocese in the period immediately after its inauguration. The crisp drawing and lively hand applied colours convey, in many ways better than a photograph, the architectural message and the monumental proportions of this remarkable ecclesiastical building. The cathedral is modelled after Saint Sophia in Constantinople, embracing also elements of local Trasylvanian architecture and baroque, the style ubiquitous throughout the Habsburg empire, whence Sibiu was then a frontier city in the vicinity of the old Kingdom of Romania. I like the universalist message of its architecture, making references to the church of the first millennium of the Common Era, before the Great Schism and the Reformation, which had its centre in Byzantium. That obvious integrative symbolism was so much in contrast with the ethnic tensions prevalent throughout the Habsburg Empire in its last decades of existence, when the cathedral was conceived and built, a situation that ultimately led to the demise of that once great polity.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Wallachian history and identity in a Cyrillic inscription

Romanian language inscription rendered in Cyrillic dating from 1842, located on the southern wall of Domnita Balasa church in Bucharest - click the photograph for a more detailed view (©Valentin Mandache)

I am always enthralled when reading old inscriptions in Romanian that use the Cyrillic script. They have for me a profound identity appeal, speaking from the depths of time when versions of this script, adapted for the sounds and needs of the Romanian idioms, were used to render the language since at least the early c16th until the mid c19th, when it was replaced by the Latin script. The first monumental literature work in Romanian, the Bible of Bucharest, produced in 1688,  the equivalent of King James Bible in terms of richness of expression and language standard settings in this part of the world, was printed in a beautiful Cyrillic type, itself a great work of art. The Neo-Romanian architectural style has in large part conserved the enchanting aesthetics of the Cyrillic letters thorugh its architectural rendering of the Latin types in coordinates that remind of the old alphabet. A beautiful example of such old Romanian language (in the Wallachian dialect) inscription is the commemorative plaque dating from 1842, presented in the image above, which is affixed on the exterior of the southern wall of Domnita Balasa church in central Bucharest. The content of the inscription is an extraordinary chronicle of Wallachian history and identity, the principality of which Bucharest has been the capital, before the official emergence of the state of Romania through the union of this princedom with Moldova, one of the geopolitical consequences of the Crimea war. I have transcribed bellow that text in Latin letters, keeping as much as I could from the way the old Romanian language words were rendered, amid a general lack of punctuation typical of the writings of that period:

Acest sfant si dumnezeiesc lacas in care se praznuieste cea intru marire innaltare dela pamant la ceruri a mantuitorului nostru s-au radicat din temelie la anul 1751 de raposata Domnita Balasa, fiica lui Constantin Voevod Basaraba Brancoveanul cu toate incaperile dupanprejur oranduindule spre locuinta saracilor celor fara adapostire la care au inchinat toata starea sa si a sotului sau banul Manolache Lambrino = Dar vremea ce toate le-invecheste aducand la darapanare toate incaperile, stranepotasau banul Grigore Basaraba Brancoveanul, odrasla cea din urma in care sau sfarsit acest slavit si vechiu neam al Basarabilor, si al Brancovenilor, leau preinnoint adaogandule la anul 1831 iar la anul 1838 Ghenar intamplanduse infricosat cutremur care darapanand si sfanta biserica, dumneaei baneasa Safta Brancoveanca nascuta Bals, sotia raposatului ban, ce au zidit spitalul brancovenesc silau inzestrat din casa sotului dumisale ca o stapana si efora iconomisind din veniturile acestei sfinte biserici si jertfind si din ale dumneaei, au ridicato din temelie in locul cei vechi marindo si frumutando, spre pomenire vesnica care sa savarsit prin osardnca staruire a epitropilor numitului spital ce sint si a sfintei biserici, caminarul Manuil Serghia si stolnicul Ioan Nadaianu la anul mantuirii : 1842 :

[approximate translation of the above Wallachian dialect text] This holly and godly place in which is celebrated that great ascension from earth to heavens of our redeemer, has been built from the ground up in the year 1751 by her who passed away, Domnita [Princess] Balasa, the daughter of Prince Constantin Basaraba Brancoveanu, with all its rooms and dependencies given to the poor homeless people to whom she and her husband, the governor Manolache Lambrino, have bequeathed all of their possessions = Nevertheless, as the time that passes away and weathers everything, those rooms crumbled away too, and her grandson, the governor Grigore Basaraba Brancoveanul, the last scion in whom the glorious and venerable Basarab dynasty, and the Brancovans, have ended, has rebuilt and extended them in the year 1831; in the meanwhile in the year 1838, a great and terrifying earthquake has occurred damaging the holly church; then she the governess Safta Brancoveanca nee Bals, the wife of the late governor, who has built the Brancovan hospital with her husband’s funds, to which she was fully entitled, and as a trustee, with saving from the revenues of this holly church and also her own funds, has completely rebuilt the church from the ground in the place of the old one, extending and embellishing it, deeds that will forever be remembered, and finished through the unwavering diligence of the administrators of the named hospital, Manuil Serghia and Ioan Nadaianu in the year of the redemption : 1842 :

What is impressive in that text, apart from the bewitching resonance of the Romanian language spoken more than one and a half century ago, is the profound veneration for both the Basarab princely dynasty that created and led Wallachia in the Middle Ages until the beginning of the c18th, and for the prominent aristocratic Brancoveanu family, reflecting the deep Wallachian national identity of the inhabitants of Bucharest and the principality of that era. Wallachia was at that time a proper state, functioning as a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, with a half millennium of tumultuous history intrinsically linked with those princely families. The unionist current that sought the creation  of a Romanian state through the union of the Romanian speaking principalities of Moldova and Wallachia and other such territories, was not so overwhelming or popular as the Romanian nationalist histories written after the creation of Romania in 1859 would let us believe. The text in the inscription also refers to the fact that a catastrophic earthquake took place in Bucharest in 1838 and about the extraordinary charitable work of the last Basarab and Brancoveanu scions, vividly illustrating an enchanting picture of Wallachia of 170 years ago.

The old Cyrillic inscriptions in Romanian are easily readable for those who have a minimum knowledge of that script, coupled with some basic cognition of Greek and Russian. It is deplorable that the secondary or high school curriculum in Romania does not include at least a few lessons of old Romanian language rendered in the Cyrillic alphabet, thus to open to as many people as possible an immense chapter of their cultural and linguistic identity that lays hidden behind the nationalist political smokescreen of the last century and a half when the Slavonic heritage of Romania has been actively suppressed or in many cases destroyed.

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I endeavour through this series of periodic articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Rare Arabic Votive Inscription on Romanian Church Doorway

Arabic votive inscription on Romanian church doorway, dating from 1747, Old St Spiridon Church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Most of what is now Romania has been for centuries a part of the Ottoman Empire. The principalities of Wallachia and Moldova, and also at a later date Transylvania, where the only autonomous Christian protectorates of this empire, governed by Christian princes, where permanent places of Muslim worship or settlement where not allowed, following special c15th autonomy treaties with the Porte. For about one hundred years, from the beginning of the c18th, Wallachia and Moldova where governed by princes from the great Istanbul Greek families, loyal subjects of the sultan, who lived in the Phanar quarter of the great city, hence the generic name of their rule in the Danubian principalities as the Phanariot regime. They opened this peripheral region, previously dominated by the Hungarian and Polish kingdoms, to the culture and economy of the rest of the realm of the Padishah. Bucharest thus became a city where one could encounter traders from as far as Damascus, as well as Tripoli or Cairo. Also representatives of diverse Christian sects and denominations from throughout the Ottoman Empire found in this city a welcoming home. One of them was the Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch, in Syria, a mainly Arabic speaking church, who resided in Bucharest during the fifth decade of the c18th, a period of bitter struggles within this church that led to its split into an Orthodox and a Greek Catholic branch, in communion with Rome. Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos, the ruler of Wallachia and a member of the the very prominent Ottoman Greek family of Mavrocordatos from Istanbul, that had a crucial role in the Greek Enlightenment, granted, in 1747, to the Patriarch of Antioch and his suite of Arabiac speaking monks, the Bucharest church of “Saint Spiridon of Trimutinda” (known today as “The Old St Spiridon Church“) and other revenue making properties in the city. The photomontage above and the slide show bellow the text show the impressive doorway of this church, decorated with a votive inscription in Romanian (rendered in Cyrillic characters), Greek and Arabic languages, containing Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos’ solemn statement granting the church to the Patriarch Sylvester of Antioch and his congregation. The Arabic text is a rarity for Bucharest and Romania in general, where Muslims, in conformity with the special Christian protectorate status of Wallachia and Moldova within the Ottoman realm, where not allowed to build places of worship. By contrast, Arabic speaking Christians, were responsible for one of the such rare old inscriptions of Bucharest. The votive inscription also contains a medallion with the symbols of Wallachia (an eagle) and Moldova (an auroch head) together, denoting the fact that Constantine Mavrocordatos was appointed by the Sultan to rule at one time or another in both principalities. I very much like the particular design of this doorway, a beautiful mingling of Ottoman Islamic and Byzantine shapes, that became the hallmark of the Romanian church architecture of the c18th and the c19th, from where the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style has found a rich source of inspiration. This inscription is a witness of an epoch when this land was part of a great empire that stretched from Budapest to Mecca, and how fashions and styles from far away lands blend and enrich each other, resulting in processes that can take centuries in new vitalist artistic expressions.

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I endeavor through this series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Wallachian Identity

The Wallachian Eagle, St. George's church, Bucharest (Valentin Mandache)

Wallachia is one of the three former principalities that together with Moldavia and Transylvania forms modern Romania. Indeed this former European state is the core of the country as it contains the city of Bucharest, the sixth largest EU metropolis (close to three million inhabitants). From an architectural point of view Wallachia is important because the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, the architect Ion Mincu and subsequent Romanian architects used prominently, in their Neo-Romanian designs, late medieval Wallachian church inspired motifs and decorations and also traditional Wallachian building types and representations. “Wallachian” is also one of the main Romanian regional identities, the equivalent of a Midlander, Yorkshireman or East Anglian in England. This regional identity acted and was seen as a national identity for over five hundred years while Wallachia functioned as a state, since its foundation in 1330, at first independent, then under Hungarian suzerainty and later as an Ottoman Christian protectorate that kept its indigenous administration and native aristocracy, until the formation of the modern Romanian state in 1859 when afterwards the principality was abolished. There is a surprising scarcity of correct and properly documented sources on the internet about Wallachia, in fact I was not able to find any worth recommending (beware of the Wikipedia entry for Wallachia which is sub-standard and highly inaccurate to say the least!). The best work which I would recommend to anyone interested in this quite enigmatic former European state, a sort of the principality of Navarre transplanted from the Pyrenees in the Carpathians, is that by the great French geographer Emmannuel de Martonne: “La Valachie. Essai de monographie geographique” (Colin, Paris 1902). I am a Wallachian myself, being born in Buzau county, in the eastern part of the old principality. The word “Wallachian” means “frontiersman” or “foreigner” and has the same etymology and linguistic root in old Germanic and Slavic languages as the word “Welsh” or “Walloon”. Wallachia is thus etymologically the same as the British country of Wales or the Belgian province of Walloonia. The most prominent Wallachian identity sign or marker that can still be encountered today as an ornament or decoration on old surviving aristocratic palaces or medieval churches, is the heraldic sign of that principality: a spread wings eagle holding a cross in its beak and sitting on a rock, flanked by a Moon crescent and Sun disc with human face features. That heraldic sign of Wallachia is displayed in the above photograph which I took at the St. Georges’ church (c17th) in Bucharest. In fact this particular ornament is a modern high quality restoration/ recreation in reinforced concrete of a former stone sculpted structure that was in that place prior to extensive restoration works on the church building in the 1930s.

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I endeavor through this daily series of daily articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Anglican Church & British Seamen’s Institute at the Mouths of the Danube

The first Anglican church on Romanian territory and the British Seamen's Institute in 1890s - 1900s Sulina, a port located at the mouths of the Danube. (old postcards, Valentin Mandache collection)

I am a Romanian born British citizen and feel very patriotic about my adoptive country, being always keen to bring to the fore old traces of British involvement in the region where Romania is located. These go back a very long time indeed, ever since the Roman conquest of Dacia in 106 CE when legions and auxiliaries from the British Isles were among the largest army ever assembled in Europe until the WWI (according to Julian Bennett the foremost expert on Emperor Trajan, the commander of this army), to conquer the kingdom of the ancient Dacians, the ancestors of today Romanians (situation similar with how the French relate to the ancient Gauls and their conquest by Caesar). Modern British involvement in the region became established in late 1840s once the Danube and the Black Sea straits were gradually open to international navigation from the control of the Ottoman Empire. Sailing ships flying the Union Jack were entering the Danube though Sulina from the Black Sea in order to upload, from the lower Danube ports upstream, the vast quantities of grains produced by the plains of Wallachia and Moldova and bring them to the masses of industrialised Britain and also for the relief of the Great Irish Famine, tragedy which was taking place at that time. As a result, the Romanian state and grain traders obtained important revenues from those exports in the second part of the c19th, a fact which made possible the emergence throughout the country of the the picturesque provincial architecture that I call the “Little Paris” style, inspired from the fashionable French styles of the time. Sulina grew rapidly in importance as a transit port, a fact which made feasible the establishment there of an Anglican church and in the later part of the c19th of a British Seamen’s Institute attached to the church in order to attend to the needs and troubles of the increasing number of sailors from Britain who transited this port. The Anglican church in Sulina is the oldest established on the Romanian territory; there is another one in Bucharest, which was the only official one functioning behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War (see my video about this particular building here). The montage above, formed by the two old postcard from my collection, shows in the upper image the church within the 1890s urban set up of Sulina (the red circled building), with sailing ships moored at the docks, while in the lower image is a close up of the church together with the building of the Institute, a postcard which probably dates from early 1900s. The architecture is typically late Victorian Gothic and one can also see a bit of mock Tudor half timbered gables on the Institute’s building. The British community and activity has now long gone from Sulina, but the church building and its British cemetery is still present. I am planning a trip to the location at the first available opportunity to investigate the situation of these edifices and other remnants for a future article on this blog.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

The Jewish Community Museum in Bucharest

The Jewish Community Museum in Bucharest, formerly the Tailor's Guild's Great Synagogue. (©Valentin Mandache)

This impressive and well designed synagogue, one of the largest in Romania, was founded in the early part of the c19th to serve as the worship place for the Tailors’ Guild’s community, which had many families located in that area of Bucharest (Unirea Square, Mamulari St.) The actual architecture dates from 1908 – ’10, designed by the architect Julius Grunfeld in a style similar to that of other Victorian era synagogues from Central and Eastern Europe, containing motifs ranging from classical, Byzantine to oriental elements, with a series of discrete details inspired from local Romanian architecture. The building suffered extensive damage in the early 1940s, perpetrated by Romanian fascist gangs (the murderous national-socialist paramilitary organisation called ‘Archangel Michael’s Legion’). A public role for this edifice was again established only a few decades later in late 1970s as the Jewish Community Museum (official name “The History Museum of the Romanian Jews – Chief Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosen”), an excellent place to visit and find out about this once lively and thriving local community. The Jewish community of Romania has a long history, dating from the times when these lands were part of the Roman Empire two millennia ago and has also hugely contributed to the Romanian economic and cultural life, including of course the field of architecture. One of most famous representatives was Marcel Janco, an architectural designer of extraordinary talent, pioneer of the International Modernist Style, and a founding member of the Dada movement that initiated the surrealist art in Europe. The community suffered incalculable loses and tragedy during the Holocaust at the hands of the local fascist war time government, a fact only recently officially recognized by post-communist Romania.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Magnificent Wallachian Church Floral Motifs

A photomontage of resplendent c18th Byzantine style floral motifs, Stavropoles church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small c18th Stavropoleos church in Bucharest is perhaps one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the entire eastern church world. The building has been a main inspiration source for the architect Ion Micu when he initiated in late c19th the Neo-Romanian style, the only original architectural order created in Romania. Mincu lovingly restored the church between 1904 – ’10, toward the end of his life, when he also added a well designed cloister and outbuildings (see here an article and also a video on that subject). I am always most impressed, when visiting this church, by the flamboyant, colourful and full of life floral motifs decorating its exterior walls and cloister. That spurred me to put together the photo-montage above and thus try to make better known to the outside world this wonderful floral panoply, which resides at the heart of Bucharest. The cloister decoration was created by Mincu and contains a beautiful rendering, with an excellent spatial impression, of two floral motifs from the church register (seen here on the top-centre and right-hand-corner sectors of the above collage).

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Daily Picture 6-Mar-10: Tatar Village Mosque from ‘Times of Yore’

Tatar village mosque, Dobrogea, Eastern Romania. (old postcard -1920s-Valentin Mandache collection)

There is something exuding timelessness in this beautiful 1920s postcard (which I found at an antique fair in Bloomsbury, London), depicting Tatar villagers from Romania’s Dobrogea region on the Black Sea coast, gathering for prayer at their poor, but exceedingly picturesque rural mosque. The imam voices his loud calls from the top of a pile of stone slabs resembling a basic minaret, surrounded by pious village elders. On the mosque rooftop a stork nestle calmly, ignoring the humans around her and their peaceful daily business. Under the roof eave, above the doorway, there is also a swallow nest, thus completing the idyllic atmosphere from this ‘times of yore’ village. The native Muslim population of Romania, composed mainly of ethnic Tatars and Turks, lives in Dobrogea/ Dobruja, a province on the western coast of the Black Sea that has been for more than half a millennium an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. Historic Dobrogea is a much larger region shared with neighbouring Bulgaria, adjacent to the Black Sea, and subject of intense controversy and disputes between the two countries. The Romanian province is about three quarters the size of Wales, endowed with a peculiar geography more akin to a Mediterranean rocky landscape (in fact it seems that the name Dobrogea/ Dobruja comes from an old Bulgarian word meaning “stony land”), in sharp contrast with the landscape of the lower Danube steppe that unfurls to its west. The Tatar and Turkish settlements with their Muslim culture have developed a distinctive and beautifully quaint rural architecture and habitat, which nowadays is fast disappearing as money and modern construction materials have become widely available in the region. The image above is a small sample of that old ‘Arcadia’, at peace with itself and its environment, which this region and its natives have enjoyed until recently. On the other hand, the Tatar and Turkish old houses that are now available on the market in the Dobrogea villages, would constitute some of the the cheapest and most rewarding renovation/ restoration projects for anyone willing to take up such at challenge at the eastern confines of the European Union.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Daily Picture 23-Jan-10: The Cloister of Stavropoleos Church

The cloister of Stavropoles church, a creation of the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, exuding a soothing and serene atmosphere in the middle of a bustling Bucharest city centre. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small Stavropoleos church in the centre of Bucharest has been restored between 1904-10 by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style (he is the equivalent of Pugin in this country, if I am allowed to illustrate somehow crudely his status and fame regarding the revival of local architecture). Mincu designed the church cloister, shown in the photograph above, a wonderful architectural achievement within the very limited space available, in which he brought together many of his concepts and ideas pertaining to the Neo-Romanian order developed by him starting with the 1880s.  From Ion Mincu’s initial designs, the Neo-Romanian architectural style had a fascinating evolution in distinct phases and on several directions until its decline in the 1940s. The cloister of Stavropoles church is thus an wonderful textbook for anyone interested in studying or just admiring the initial stage of this style.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Video-architecture: The Art Nouveau Style of Amzei Church

Romania was the scene of a very particular Art Nouveau style variety architecture in which traditional Byzantine, Ottoman and Romanian peasant vernacular – ethnographic motifs were brought together with wonderful results. Amzei Church in Bucharest is one such iconic example of Romanian Art Nouveau style. It was designed by the architect Alexandru Savulescu and inaugurated in 1901. The Neo-Romanian architectural style is also often expressed in an Art Nouveau matrix, especially in examples of buildings dating from 1900s – 1910s period and Amzei church design shows that evolution in its incipient stages.

Art Nouveau - Byzantine style votive painting by Marchetti Umberto (1901), Amzei church, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Western entrance of Amzei church, building designed by architect Alexandru Savulescu in the Art Nouveau - Byzantine style, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Video-architecture: Bucharest’s Anglican Church

This is my first weekly architectural video blogpost!

The Bucharest Anglican church with its standard issue late Victorian Gothic style, designed by the Romanian architect V. Stefanescu, is quite a singular architectural presence in Bucharest, a city endowed with a rich Byzantine church architecture and a very incongruous mix of civilian architectural styles from French inspired, native Neo-Romanian, Art Deco, modernist to communist brutalist. The church was built in 1914-’20, and during the Cold War has been the sole functioning official Anglican church behind the Iron Curtain.

I mentioned in the video Queen Marie of Romania as a ‘niece of Queen Victoria’. She was in fact the British Sovereign’s granddaughter. The inadvertence was generated by the fact that ‘niece’ and ‘nephew’ in Romance languages such as my native Romanian, cover both English ‘granddaughter’/ ‘nice’ and ‘grandson’/ ‘nephew’ terms.

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I endeavor through this weekly architectural history video series series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

Daily Picture 28-Dec-09: Neo-Romanian Style WWI Example

The small provincial church in the image is an excellent example of c17th-c18th Ottoman Balkan religious architecture, one of the main inspirational sources for the modern Neo-Romaian architectual style. (Old photograph ©Valentin and Diana Mandache collection)

The photograph is from the time of the Great War, presenting Queen Marie of Romania together with her  daughters, Princess Maria, future Queen of  Yugoslavia, and Princess Elisabeta, future Queen of Greece, among wounded soldiers recovering at a camp hospital within the grounds of a small monastery in unoccupied Eastern Moldavia in the summer of 1917, when most of the rest of the Romanian territory, including the capital, were overwhelmed by the Central Powers’ armies. What drew my attention from an architectural history point of view is the rich decoration and particular splendid Ottoman Balkan architecture of the church, which is one of the  main sources of inspiration for the modern Neo-Romanian architectural style, as conceived by its initiator, the remarkable architect Ion Mincu in the last decade of the c19th.

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.

Stravopoles Church Cloister. Short Video

I just made this short video featuring the cloister of the beautiful and architecturally significant c18th Stravopoles church in Bucharest: