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.

Church royal chair featuring King Ferdinand’s cypher

Church royal chair with King Ferdinand’s cypher, Mantuleasa church, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

A number of Romanian orthodox rite historic churches in Bucharest and other places of importance throughout Romania contain ceremonial chairs, named “thrones”, dating mostly from the period of the Hohenzollern – Sigmaringen dynasty (1866-1947) destined for the use of the metropolitan/ patriarch and of the chief of state who at one time or another visited, consecrated or re-consecrated that building. The chair destined for the sovereign (there were two chairs if he was accompanied by his spouse) usually displays the cypher of the crowned head who first visited the building, assisted or gave his blessing to those important ceremonies, sometimes also containing other hallmarks of Romanian royalty, such as the crown or coat of arms. A royal or princely cypher is a monogram of the reigning ruler, formally approved and used on official documents or displayed on public buildings and other objects of public use or owned by the state, such as postal boxes or military vehicles, etc.

The image above shows an interesting example of a royal chair from Mantuleasa church in Bucharest (a beautiful Brancovan style monument, restored in 1924 – ’30, in the reign of King Ferdinand and his descendant, King Carol II), photographed during a recent Historic Houses of Romania tour in that area. The chair displays Ferdinand’s cypher, a stylised back-to-back double “F”, as he was the monarch who officially inaugurated the restoration works. On top of chair’s back there is also an interesting representation of Romania’s state crown, the famous steel crown made from the melted metal of a canon captured in the 1877 Independence War. The whole assembly is rendered in the mature phase Neo-Romanian style, with ethnographic solar discs and acanthus/ vine leave carvings, constituting an interesting ceremonial furniture example expressed in the national design style. King Ferdinand’s cypher is a rare sight nowadays, the chair presented here bringing back memories of this remarkable sovereign, who strove all his life to keep a reserved and dignified public profile.

Church royal chair featuring King Ferdinand’s cypher

Church royal chair with King Ferdinand’s cypher, Mantuleasa church, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

A number of Romanian orthodox rite historic churches in Bucharest and other places of importance throughout Romania contain ceremonial chairs, named “thrones”, dating mostly from the period of the Hohenzollern – Sigmaringen dynasty (1866-1947) destined for the use of the metropolitan/ patriarch and of the chief of state who at one time or another visited, consecrated or re-consecrated that building. The chair destined for the sovereign (there were two chairs if he was accompanied by his spouse) usually displays the cypher of the crowned head who first visited the building, assisted or gave his blessing to those important ceremonies, sometimes also containing other hallmarks of Romanian royalty, such as the crown or coat of arms. A royal or princely cypher is a monogram of the reigning ruler, formally approved and used on official documents or displayed on public buildings and other objects of public use or owned by the state, such as postal boxes or military vehicles, etc.

The image above shows an interesting example of a royal chair from Mantuleasa church in Bucharest (a beautiful Brancovan style monument, restored in 1924 – ’30, in the reign of King Ferdinand and his descendant, King Carol II), photographed during a recent Historic Houses of Romania tour in that area. The chair displays Ferdinand’s cypher, a stylised back-to-back double “F”, as he was the monarch who officially inaugurated the restoration works. On top of chair’s back there is also an interesting representation of Romania’s state crown, the famous steel crown made from the melted metal of a canon captured in the 1877 Independence War. The whole assembly is rendered in the mature phase Neo-Romanian style, with ethnographic solar discs and acanthus/ vine leave carvings, constituting an interesting ceremonial furniture example expressed in the national design style. King Ferdinand’s cypher is a rare sight nowadays, the chair presented here bringing back memories of this remarkable sovereign, who strove all his life to keep a reserved and dignified public profile.

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony

I found this small and exquisite Art Deco detail during one of my architectural history tours in Patriarchy Hill area of Bucharest. It forms part of the rooftop veranda of a house built in the late ’30s, on an ocean liner theme. In fact the shape of the balcony and the veranda fence are clearly inspired from a nautical theme, similar with the semi-cylindrical observation post/ cage on top of the bow of the big liners of that era. Bellow this more unusual balcony is presented in six different image processing sequences and filters, which I hope would better convey its nice proportions and architectural context.

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Deco semi-cylindrical balcony, late 1930s house, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style jardinières

Neo-Romanian style jardinières, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One of the tenets of the Neo-Romanian style‘s philosophy is integration of the architectural design within the natural environment of the country, envisaged as a sort of biblical Garden of Eden, similar with how the c18th Brancovan churches, from which the style draws a great deal of its inspiration, were seen as fragments of paradise on earth in this war torn region of Europe dominated for centuries by the Ottomans. That Arcadia like atmosphere of a family home is conveyed in the Neo-Romanian architecture through the use of a rich panoply of specific decorative elements. The jardinières are in that respect some of the most effective means to achieve that serendipity effect. They come in a wide diversity of shapes and decorations, positioned in high visibility spots in and around the house, such as on window sills, documented in previous articles on this blog. For this post I gathered a few illustrations of bowl type jardinières from the great multitude that adorn inter-war Neo-Romanian style houses. They are installed on doorway balustrades, atop street fence poles, flanking balconies, or in other prominent locations. The flowery and ornamental plants that grow in them, as seen in images presented here, transmit something from the pleasantness that characterised Bucharest of eight and nine decades ago, when most of those jardinières were put in place.

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iPhone photo of the day

Actually I shot the picture  yesterday with my new iPhone 4S. I am an admirer of Steve Jobs, who is among my pantheon of worthies, and his business philosophy of creating products that are at the intersection between technology and humanities. The blog “Historic Houses of Romania”, my architectural history online videos and other projects involving the internet are endeavours of putting the Romanian period architecture within the coordinates of that vision. The present iPhone handset is the first piece of Apple technology which I was able to afford, taking advantage of a good offer from my mobile phone carrier. It is just sheer delight to use this technological and aesthetic marvel in my hands and imaginatively operate it to spreading the word about the historic houses of Romania. That is even more significant for me as the iPhone 4S was among the last creations completed under the overseeing and intellectual input of the late Steve Jobs.

The picture shows the front of Romania’s chief school of architecture, the University of Architecture “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest,a grand Neo-Romanian style facade, the most flamboyant in existence, and an open encyclopaedia of that architectural design peculiar to Romania and its adjacent regions.

University of architecture Ion Mincu, Bucharest, Valentin Mandache

Brief consideration on the Brancovan style architecture

The Brancovan architectural forms, which unfurled in the period between the mid-c17th and first decades of the c18th, epitomised a sublime relation between symbols representing the way of life of that period and the belief system peculiar to the place in which they took shape, namely the Principality of Wallachia. The arhictecture of those edifices mirrored the spiritual universe and psychology of those who erected them and the communities for whom they were built. That is the reason why the symbolism of those monuments contains the answer to the question why the architecture, especially the ecclesiastical design, has acquired a unique language during the Brancovan epoch, leading to the emergence of what we call today the Brancovan style, intrinsic to that principality and pivotal to the underpinning,  in the modern era, of the Neo-Romanian style.

The conceptual tools employed in analysing the architectural phenomenon of that age in central and western Europe are, in my opinion, not wholesomely adequate in examining the stylistic complexity of the Brancovan style buildings, where a more feasible means of investigation would be that used in interpreting the Christian and especially the Islamic architecture of the Ottoman Empire, a realm within which Wallachia was then an integral part.

What we permanently need to take into account is that the Christian message of following the salvation call and example of Jesus, in the conditions of being a subordinated religion to the Muslim one, the supreme faith and also ideology of the Ottoman caliphate, generated an entirely different dynamics of artistic and implicitly architectural expression within the Christian millet that included the then Principality of Wallachia, distinct from what was taking place in countries where Christianity was the uncontested supreme religion and ideology as in Russia or Austria. The Brancovan architecture became thus expressed through coordinates specific to the cultural environment of the Ottoman dominion, searching for the harmony and universality of the mankind within the reality of the political, economic and cultural primacy of the Musslim world. The architecture became in that way a privileged province of free and sophisticated artistic expression, of spiritual travail toward the attainment of the ideals symbolised by the deeds and life of Jesus, which fascinated not only the high minded princes Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brancoveanu, during whose reigns what we now call the Brancovan style  took shape and content, but also the Wallachian population, which preserved and insured the continuity of the style after the Phanariot regime was later imposed upon them.

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

The cupola turret of Mantuleasa church in bucharest, built in 1734 in late Brancovan style. It is probably an inter-war restoration, in close respect of the the original structure (©Valentin Mandache)

Gravestone slabs, mid-c17th, from the beginnings of the Brancovan style, Stelea Monastery, Targoviste (©Valentin Mandache)

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photo tour

Mosilor area: images from last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (©Valentin Mandache)

The tour which I organised last Sunday, 7 August ’11, the tenth such end of the week cultural excursion :), in Mosilor area of Bucharest has been very popular, attended by professionals and students alike, in majority Romanians, as well as people from Ireland or the US, settled or working here. Mosilor is one of the most picturesque and evocative quarters of old Bucharest, being a mostly residential district with a strong identity expressed in its people’s sense of community and delightful historic architecture. The quarter grew around the famous Mosilor fair, which since the c18th, when was first mentioned in documents, took place outside the walls of the old city, on the road that went to Moldova, also known as “Drumul Mare” (the Highway). The fair and quarter around it grew spectacularly once the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova got united, forming Romania, in the aftermath of the Crimea War. Mosilor area, as a consequence, has a relatively high density of exquisite late c19th houses rendered in the “Little Paris style” architecture, what I name the French and other western historicist styles of that period interpreted in a provincial manner in Romania. Another well represented architectural style is the Neo-Romanian, ranging from early examples dating from the last years of the c19th, to hybrids with the Art Deco, erected in the 1930s. There is also a multitude of other styles from different periods- from a late c18th Balkan Ottoman dwelling, to Beaux Arts, Art Deco and Modernist edifices dotting the quaint and leafy streets of Mosilor. I thus trust that the participants enjoyed a good cultural Sunday morning out, full of discoveries and revelations about one of the most loved and enchanting quarters of old Bucharest. :)

Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)

Mosilor area: participants and guide during the last Sunday’s architectural history and photography tour (photo: Ioana Novac)

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!!! The next Sunday (14 August ’11, 9am-12.00) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Domenii hisoric quarter - Casa Scanteii building, north-west-central Bucharest (see a map at this link); meeting point: in the Arch of Triumph square at the Herastrau park entrance in front of the big black public clock. I look forward to seeing you there !!!

Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses

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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.

***********************************************

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.

Vlach identity

There are sizable communities of Vlachs settled in and around Bucharest. The photograph bellow shows a Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, around the time of the Balkan Wars, displaying the name “Villa Cutika”, where Cutika is a Vlach feminine gender name.

Vlach is a collective term applied usually to peoples speaking Romance languages, others than Romanian, in the Balkan Peninsula. As you are familiar with the Romance speaking peoples of Western Europe, such as Spaniards, French or Italians, the same is the case in Eastern Europe, where there are smaller population peoples speaking Romance languages, descendants of the Roman colonists and Romanised natives from the time when the Roman Empire ruled the area two millenia ago. The Romanian language is the largest represented in terms of population Eastern Romance idiom, followed by a number of Vlach languages, such as Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian or Istro-Romanian. The nationalist movements that have affected the Balkan Peninsula in the last two centuries have often brought tragedies, such as discrimination and ethnic cleansing, upon the Vlach communities, who were allways a minority living in the midst of ethically different majority peoples then emerging as modern nations, such as the Greeks, Bulgarians or Serbians. The Romanian national state, in its turn, considered its duty to protect and give refuge to its etnic kin, the Vlachs, often wrongly regarded by the Romanian officials, historians and linguists as just speakers of mere Romanian dialects.

The house that hosts the tablet shown in the photography bellow was built by such a Vlach refugee family in Romania, perhaps around the time of the Balkan Wars, on a plot of land granted by the government. The style of the house is Neo-Romanian, being a fitting patriotic statement in architectural terms made by the proprietors to their adoptive country, also stating clearly the Vlach identity through the name tablet. The house is on Rumeoara Street, which sounds Vlach to me and it may well be the name of the region in the Balkans (Greece, etc.) from where the families settled on that street originate.

“Villa Cutika”- Vlach name tablet on Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, Fire Watchtower area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

***********************************************

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.

Vlach identity

There are sizable communities of Vlachs settled in and around Bucharest. The photograph bellow shows a Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, around the time of the Balkan Wars, displaying the name “Villa Cutika”, where Cutika is a Vlach feminine gender name.

Vlach is a collective term applied usually to peoples speaking Romance languages, others than Romanian, in the Balkan Peninsula. As you are familiar with the Romance speaking peoples of Western Europe, such as Spaniards, French or Italians, the same is the case in Eastern Europe, where there are smaller population peoples speaking Romance languages, descendants of the Roman colonists and Romanised natives from the time when the Roman Empire ruled the area two millenia ago. The Romanian language is the largest represented in terms of population Eastern Romance idiom, followed by a number of Vlach languages, such as Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian or Istro-Romanian. The nationalist movements that have affected the Balkan Peninsula in the last two centuries have often brought tragedies, such as discrimination and ethnic cleansing, upon the Vlach communities, who were allways a minority living in the midst of ethically different majority peoples then emerging as modern nations, such as the Greeks, Bulgarians or Serbians. The Romanian national state, in its turn, considered its duty to protect and give refuge to its etnic kin, the Vlachs, often wrongly regarded by the Romanian officials, historians and linguists as just speakers of mere Romanian dialects.

The house that hosts the tablet shown in the photography bellow was built by such a Vlach refugee family in Romania, perhaps around the time of the Balkan Wars, on a plot of land granted by the government. The style of the house is Neo-Romanian, being a fitting patriotic statement in architectural terms made by the proprietors to their adoptive country, also stating clearly the Vlach identity through the name tablet. The house is on Rumeoara Street, which sounds Vlach to me and it may well be the name of the region in the Balkans (Greece, etc.) from where the families settled on that street originate.

“Villa Cutika”- Vlach name tablet on Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, Fire Watchtower area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

***********************************************

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.

***********************************************

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.

Neo-Romanian style book cover

Neo-Romanian style book cover, early 1920s (photo ©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style, one of the many national-romantic artistic experiments that emerged in the later part of the c19th in Europe and elsewhere, was expressed not only in architectural creations, but also had interesting manifestations in other visual arts fields, such as sculpture, painting and graphic design. A telling example is the exquisite book cover presented above, embellishing a volume that gathers together writings by Nicolae Balcescu, one of the most prominent leaders of the the 1848 nationalist revolution that swept the Romanian principalities of that era. The publishing house is “Scrisul Romanesc” (The Romanian Letters/ Writing”), based in Craiova, in south western Romania. This Neo-Romanian graphic design, inspired from architectural shapes and motifs, is therefore more fittingly appropriate for a book containing that type of writings, published by a house with that name, in an epoch of intense national pride following Romania’s Great War suffering and achievements. The architectural theme depicted on the book cover originates from the Neo-Romanian decorative register, that in its turn recycles late medieval Wallachian (also known as Brancovan) church architectural elements such as the rope motif represented on the column shafts or encircling the whole design field in an abstract rectangular-like configuration. The Byzantine type arch spanning the columns is decorated by an intricate latticework motif that is a medieval Armenian and Georgian influence in Romanian arts, also adopted within the decorative register of the Neo-Romanian style. I very much like the blue colour used by the graphic designer, which is specific for church and peasant house decoration in north-eastern Romania, in the province of Moldavia and adjacent areas of Wallachia, also found in Ukraine and further afield in Russia, thus also making the design a fascinating assembly of motifs found throughout the region where Romania is located.

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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.

***********************************************

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.

Potlogi Palace: on the borderland between restoration and imagination

The Neo-Romanian architectural style is based on a multiplicity of sources from throughout the regions of Romania, chiefly among them churches and palaces built during a period centred on the reign of the Wallachian prince Constantin Brancoveanu (1688 – 1714). The architecture developed throughout that era is usually termed as Brancovan (other terms are Wallachian or Romanian Renaissance), representing a very peculiar, flamboyant mix of southern Romanian and Ottoman Islamic motifs together with European Renaissance (northern Italian) and baroque elements. Unfortunately, not many of those extraordinary buildings are still around, due to wars, frequent invasions by armies of the neighbouring empires, earthquakes or devastating great fires. Also an important proportion of the remaining edifices were in the course of time heavily altered.

The relative scarcity of such archetype structures, was something about which even Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, complained about at the end of the c19th. Consequently many of the old Brancovan buildings had to be reconstructed in the modern era on the basis of disparate surviving fragments, using a a great deal of imagination in putting them together.

A case in point is that of Potlogi Palace, presented in images bellow, built by the prince Constantin Brancoveanu at the height of his power and during the flourishing of the Brancovan style in Wallachian arts and architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The edifice, completed in 1698 – ’99, was destroyed by an invading Ottoman force just a decade and a half later, in 1714, as part of the reprisals for prince’s supposed collaboration with Peter the Great of Russia, and left in a ruinous state for the next two and a half centuries. The Palace, for the next two and a half centuries, became a shadow of its former glory, having a multitude of circumstantial uses, and in the end left in ruin (see the above photograph).

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania

The restoration of Potlogi Palace was undertaken only in 1955, during the communist regime, and closely followed the Brancovan models developed at the Mogosoaia Palace, another great edifice from that period, restored in the 1920s by the great Romanian architect George Matei Cantacuzino. He also initially faced a ruin there and had to copiously use his imagination in the restoration work, taking clues from the architecture of the Brancovan period monasteries of Vacaresti (in its turn destroyed in the 1980s by the dictator Ceausescu), Hurezi, Stavropoleos and Doamnei church.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

A brief and insightful account of the restoration works is given in the publication “Studii si Cercetari de Istoria Artei”, vol. 1, 1960 (Romanian Academy).

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania, photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The way how the palace looks today is obviously a creation based on many suppositions, disparate remains, and, as I mentioned, imagination. The resulting majestic outlines, nevertheless manage to convey a good impression of how the great Brancovan era edifices were and the originality of that architecture.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania, photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The veranda decorations and architectural details, in the image above, are a close rendering of those from the Mogosoaia Palace, which in their turn were designed by the arch. GM Cantacuzino, inspired, in this case, mainly by elements encountered at the Hurezi and Vacaresti monasteries.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania. Inauguration inscription by its founder, prince Constantin Brancoveanu; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The dedicatory inscription, shown above, one of the few surviving elements from the original palace, is in the Cyrillic script, used in Wallachia and Moldova until the alphabet reform of the mid-18th and mentions in initials on its corners the name and title of Potlogi Palace founder: “Io [I], K [Constantin], B [Brancoveanu], V [Voivode/ Prince]“.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; the palace cellars, photo taken in 2007. (©Valentin Mandache)

The structure of the palace is sustained in great part by a single massive central pillar in the underground, pictured above.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007 (©Valentin Mandache)

The image above presents the Byzantine double headed eagle, part of prince Brancoveanu’s coat of arms as a member of the old Cantacuzene imperial family of Byzantium; 1950s reconstruction.

Potlogi Palace, late c17th, southern Romania; photo taken in 2007. (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph shows part of the interior stucco decoration with Persian and Ottoman motifs in the genre of the c17th Wallachian palaces, modelled after similar type decoration found at Doamnei church and other Brancovan era buildings.

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

***********************************************

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.

Two grand Neo-Romanian style pediments

Bellow are presented two interesting examples of ample Neo-Romanian style pediments chronicling two phases of evolution of this architecture. Both designs display the grape vine motif in intricate symmetrical patterns placed above a three-arched veranda. The first one, seen in the photograph just bellow the text, dates from the mid-1920s and is a close transposition of patterns and schemes found on late medieval Wallachian churches and Ottoman-Balkan tradition edifices (i.e. the expansive curvature of the roof edge, the horizontal metal bars closing the veranda arches, etc.) The second photograph presents a pediment dating from the mid-1930s, showing a more angular and boiled down design, a tell-tale sign of the appreciable influence exercised in those days by the Art Deco current on the Neo-Romanian style. The designs, although only about a decade apart, show a fast pace stylistic change, typical of those artistically effervescent years in Romania, trying to catch up with new ideas, fashions and adapt to the rapid progress of the construction techniques of that era.

1920s Neo-Romanian style pediment, Bvd Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

1930s Neo-Romanian style pediment, Polona area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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

***********************************************

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 Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian style columns

Neo-Romanian style columns adorning 1920s and '30s houses, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One year ago I published on this blog a photomontage of gracious Neo-Romanian style colums that embellish private and public buildings throughout Bucharest. The new collage presented above contains again just a small sample from the great diversity of such artefacts that I found during a simple architectural photography outing last Sunday in the Dorobanti quarter of Bucharest. Often the Neo-Romanian columns are short and quite chunky, reflecting their origin in the Byzantine and Ottoman church architecture, at which is added a hint of Baroque influences, found in late medieval examples of ecclesiastical edifices in Wallachia (a combination of traits called the Brancovan style or Romanian Renaissance in specialist literature). That is the typology reflected by the columns in the above example with the exception of the upper right one, which is an interesting composition that leans toward what I usually call the Inter-war Venetian style version of the Neo-Romanian order, displaying an exuberance of grapevine motifs from leaves to grape fruit arranged together in three delicate design registers on the shaft and capital.

***********************************************

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 history and heritage.

***********************************************

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.