Brief considerations on the Brancovan style

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)


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 Contact page of this weblog.


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