Convergences between the 17th c architectures of Spain and the Balkans

There is amazement among participants at my architectural tours who come from Spain or Portugal of how familiar the architecture of 17th and 18th centuries of Bucharest, the Brancovan or Wallachian style, look to them, similar with designs from the same period in their countries. This video puts forward the most likely explanation for this intersting convergence of architectural forms between the Southwestern and Southwestern corners of Europe.

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

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 advise 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.

My first viral photo – documents architectural vandalism

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

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 advise 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.

Brancovan vs. Neoromanian

There is a great confusion between two of the main architectural styles peculiar to the territory of Romania, Brancovan and Neoromanian. This video brings the necessary basic tools to equip you into making an informed distinction between the two, using historic and architectural aesthetics elements characterising these architecture designs and artistic currents imprinting the identity of the built landscape of this country in Southeastern Europe.

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 Read more

Potlogi Palace: imagination & restoration

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 Read more

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 Read more

Rare Arabic inscription on church pediment

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 Read more

Wallachian Identity

The Wallachian Eagle, New 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 Read more