I am pleased to report that the architectural tour, which took place last Saturday, in Bellu Cemetery, considered in many aspects as the National Pantheon of Romania, was well attended, despite the sleety weather that we had to face that afternoon. That followed a stormy night, which caused mayhem in Bucharest. In fact we encountered, within the cemetery itself, torn away tree branches blocking the alleys and even an uprooted old tree that has fallen over some of the gravestone, fortunately without causing much damage, facts that all concurred to producing, of what one might say, a perfect cemetery visit atmosphere. The place is really vast, over 28 ha, if we just take into account its main Christian Orthodox denomination section. We were thus able to encounter a multitude of fine architecture monuments hosting the earthly remains of important personalities of this country. The funerary structures display in general the three main historical styles that characterise the local urban architecture from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist designs. There are also monuments in ethnographic and composite styles. An important objective of the tour was the viewing and examination of monuments designed by the architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912), the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, which are among the finest in the entire cemetery, for example the sepulchers of G. Gr. Cantacuzino, M. Ghica, or the Gheorghieff brothers. I also brought the participants to Mincu’s grave, where the photograph presented above was taken. To our astonishment, the grave was without a cross or other more apparent funerary monument, except a name plate on a small pedestal outside the grave area itself, a sure sign of neglect from the public and authorities regarding the memory of this important figure in the history of Romanian visual arts. The parcel was in the past embellished with a beautiful Romanian peasant wooden cross, as can be seen in a photograph from the 1920s, in the image bellow, depicting a remembrance gathering of Mincu’s students at his burial place. It is amazing and shocking that now, in 2012, when we commemorate one hundred years since the great man’s death, that there is nothing put in place to properly mark his grave, not even by the Architecture University “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, which bears his name, and is the chief higher education institution in that field of this country. I just hope that something is in the making, now at the centenary of his death, by the university or other institution, to right that tragic anomaly!
As the year is drawing to a close, I would like to invite you to a nocturnal architectural end-of-year tour in the area of Lipscani in Bucharest, the historic urban core of Romania’s capital and also its oldest market, open to all of you who would like to accompany me, the author of the Historic Houses of Romania blog, for two hours, between 18.00h – 20.00h, on Friday 30 December ’11!
Bucharest, which is now the sixth largest city of the European Union, has its urban beginnings in the area of Lipscani, located now in the very centre of the large metropolis that it has became over more than five centuries of documented existence. Here in the Middle Ages traders from the Byzantium and later the Ottoman Empire changed goods with those who came from Central and Western Europe. In fact the name Lipscani is a Romanian appellative for the inhabitants of the German town of Leipzig, whose traders were prominent on the Bucharest market in those early times. The architecture of the quarter is one of the most picturesque and exquisite in the entire city and has undergone a thorough restoration and renovation in the last couple of years, which is still ongoing, when many cafés, pubs and restaurants opened in large numbers to welcome visitors. The earliest examples of Little Paris style buildings are present in Lipscani, as well as some well restored edifices from the Ottoman times, such as Manuc’s Inn, the last great caravanserai of Ottoman dominated Europe. Lipscani also contains imposing Art Deco, Neo-Romanian, Neoclassical and Beaux Arts style buildings. The area is brimful with history, architectural details and character, waiting for you to be discovered!
The meeting point is on the entrance staircase of the National Bank of Romania building on Lipscani Street, see the map bellow, at 17.45h – 18.00h, after which we will proceed for two hours to discover and admire, in the special atmosphere of the evening hours at the end of the year, what constitutes the historic and architectural essence of Bucharest. The streets of Lipscani are some of the best illuminated in Bucharest, therefore we will not have any problem in visualising its architecture at that particular time. The tour will end, for those who wish, at a Lipscani café or pub, where we can continue to exchange views and ideas over a coffee or beer.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses (tel: 0040 (0)728323272)
You are kindly invited to this coming week end’s tours: Saturday 17 Dec. ’11 – “The Late Neo-Romanian Architectural Style” (13.00h – 15.00h) and Sunday 18 Dec. ’11: “The Cismigiu Quarter’s Architecture” (10.30h – 13.30h). I will post detailed announcements in the next couple of days.
Valentin Mandache, expert in Romania’s historic houses
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.