Allegorical sculptures on the building of Romania’s National Bank

The National Bank of Romania is located in the Lipscani historic quarter of Bucharest in a large neoclassical complex of buildings built in two stages: 1st in the 1880s and 2nd in the 1930s. The 19th century sector is in my opinion the more interesting and attractive one, boasting a worthy of note neoclassical style adorned with beautiful statues, seemingly inspired from French 17th century palaces.

The construction of that building was finished in 1890 under the direction of architect Nicolae Cerkez. The old postcard bellow dating from the first decade of the 20th century shows the bank in a surround setting which has not changed very much since its inauguration.

National Bank of Romania, 1910 postcard (Valentin Mandache collection)
The National Bank of Romania building (right hand side), 1900s postcard (Valentin Mandache collection)

The façade of the building, which is oriented to the south, is embellished with a series of allegorical sculptures inspired from the classical pantheon, symbolising the society and economy of Romania. Amazingly the sculptures still retain their initial freshness and sharpness after a century and two decades since they were affixed on the wall. That is because Bucharest has been much less affected by acid rains and corrosive pollution than other European capitals, as a result of the lower degree of industrialisation which the communist regime was able to achieve in Romania. The stone used for the façade and sculptures also seems of very good quality- a type of yellowish calcareous stone, which according to Romania’s National Bank website was brought from the area of Rustchuk, today Ruse in Bulgaria.

The top centre of the building is formed by a panoply composed by a coat of arms and clock flanked on the western side by a female deity symbolising Wisdom and the Sciences, represented measuring a globe with a compass and sitting on a stack of books. The usual goddess with these attributes is Pallas Athena, but it could well be another goddess from the Greek – Roman pantheon with similar attributes:

Allegory for Sciences, possibly goddess Pallas Athena. National Bank of Romania building (©Valentin Mandache)

On the eastern flank of the panoply is a male figure, again sitting on a stack of books, with a papyri scroll in his hands.

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Bucharest Inter-war Modernism

Modernist inter-war architecture, Boulevard Magheru. Bucharest (Valentin Mandache collection)
Modernist inter-war architecture, Magheru Boulevard. Bucharest (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)


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.


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.