Rabid People’s Church – an architectural history

The Rabid People’s Church (“Schitul Turbati” in Romanian) in Silistea Snagovului, 30 miles north of Bucharest, is a little known architectural gem, in which the evolution of architecture in the Principality of Wallachia, in nowadays southern Romania, can be traced for the last eight centuries, when the church was probably first built during the Latin Empire of Constantinople in the aftermath of the 4th Crusade. In this presentation I expound how the church came to encompass local traditions forged in wooden church architecture, together with Byzantine, Bulgarian – Serbian, Western (Hungarians via Transylvania) and Ottoman traditions. One can see here the green shoots of the Wallachian, aka Brancovan, style, which emerged in the 16th c, and is a principal fountain of inspiration for the Neo-Romanian, the national style of modern Romania.

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

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.

Briefing at the Anglican Church in Bucharest

A short review of the history and architecture of Bucharest’s Anglican Church, an Edwardian era building designed by a Romanian architect, Victor Stephanescu, which during the communist times was the only official Anglican worshiping place behind the Iron Curtain.

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

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.

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.

Great War era US Army soldier’s gravestone in Bellu Cemetery, Bucharest

US army soldier’s gravestone in Bellu Cemetery, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I organised last Sunday (24 June ’12) a thematic architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery, also known as the national pantheon of Romania. We visited the Christian Orthodox section of this huge necropolis, which is in its turn is divided in a civilian part, the largest, and a smaller military one. I found there a headstone marking the grave of an US Army soldier and relief worker from the Great War era: “Edward Newell Ware, Illinois, Pvt. I Cl., Ambulance Service, US Army, American Relief Mission, May 7. 1919”. That is a rare find in Romania as the US Army was not directly involved in war operations on the Romanian front, where the largest number of casualties among allies came from the Russian Imperial Army, followed by the French Army. The British had fewer casualties, especially among the Navy, involved on the Danube operations. In any case, the American soldier interred at Bellu was, as the inscriptions mentions, member of a relief mission in the aftermath of the great conflagration.

The war graves are often well documented on the internet and was not a surprise to find multiple references about this American hero. I cite here just a couple of those sites that mention him in some detail: Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France or Find a Grave.

I was profoundly touched by the fact he came to Romania to aid the country in its effort to recover from the dramatic consequences of a devastating war, volunteering his services for the  Hoover Food Commission, considering his involvement with the typical gallantry of that era as a “very minor sort of role in the economic reconstruction of a romantic story book country, poor Roumania.” Edward Newell Ware tragically became one of the countless victims of the epidemics that affected the great multitude of those among whom he nobly came to help, dying of smallpox on 7 May 1919. The American is part of a line of remarkable foreigners who found their life mission in Romania, among whom I would cite the well known case of the Canadian colonel Joe Boyle. He was “interested in books, architecture, art, and music”- I wonder what he would have thought about the architecture of Romania that he encountered during his mission?

Edward Newell Ware, Jr (1892 – 1919)

St. Catherine’s Church, Bucharest

St. Catherine Church, Patriarchy Hill area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This is St. Catherine’s Church (Biserica Sfanta Ecaterina) in Bucharest’s Patriarchy Hill area (I organised an architectural tour a couple of weeks ago there), which as a place of worship dates from the c16th, but the actual building is from the early 1850s. It is in a provincial neo-baroque style, a quite sporadic design for a church of Byzantine rite, epitomizing the process of modernisation and Europeanisation of the Romanian society of that era, following the national revolutions of 1848 and drive toward modern nation building and independence from the Ottoman Empire, the erstwhile oriental overlord of this region. The iPhone photo has been perspective corrected in Lightroom and cross-processed in Picassa, giving it this interesting vintage postcard aspect. That impression is charmingly enhanced by the exposed brick facade produced by the current restoration works.

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery

Bucharest’s Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery is located on Boulevard Ion Michalache, in the north west area of the city. It is named “Philanthropy” (“Filantropia” in Romanian) and among the many personalities buried there are Mihail Sebastian, one of my favourite writers of inter-war Bucharest, who wrote the novel “It’s Been 2000 Years…” in which he magisterially documents the rise of anti-Semitism and fascism in this country, or Iosif Sava, the best Romanian classical music commentator. The cemetery also contains a monument dedicated to Romanian heroes of Jewish ethnicity fallen in the Great War.

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery (©Valentin Mandache)

The gate of this solemn place is of a remarkable monumental Art Deco – Modernist style, which in Bucharest is a rare sight for structures associated with religious and funerary functions. The ironwork of the gate is an interesting combination of Jewish (the star of David, menorah) and universalist (the radiating sun) symbols rendered in an Art Deco framework.

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery (©Valentin Mandache)

The assembly also has the outlines of a classical antiquity temple, with its concrete pilasters flanking the entrances and the suggestion of crossing under the massive lintel of an ancient city gate (entering the city of the dead from the city of the living in this particular instance).

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery (©Valentin Mandache)

I like the geometric way in which the menorah, the seven-branched Jewish ritual lampstand, is rendered on the side gate presented in the photograph above, of a quite unusual shape, different from the semicircular branches seen on the Arch of Titus or the coat of arms of the State of Israel.

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery (©Valentin Mandache)

In the above image the rule of three of the Art Deco style is obvious in the three stepped wall framing of the window, crowned by a large pediment embellished with the star of David.

The Art Deco style gate of a Bucharest Jewish cemetery (©Valentin Mandache)

The cemetery’s synagogue is of a c19th architecture, derived from the Jewish central European baroque and dates probably from the first decades of functioning of this burial ground. The star of David is noticeable about the top of each dome covering its hall and side towers.

The Art Deco – Modernist style of the gate of this cemetery signifies, in my opinion, the spirit in step with the times of this once dynamic and creative community, dwindled by the events of Second World War and Romania’s national-communist policies of the second part of the c20th.