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 (Hungarian via Transylvania) and Ottoman traditions. One can see there 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.

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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.

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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.

Broadcasting from the Church of the Rabid People

A brief presentation of the old church now located within the village cemetery in Silistea Snagovului, 30 miles north of Bucharest. Initially, in the Middle Ages, the church was at the heart of a nuns’ community specialised in treating people affected by rabies, hence its name “The Church of the Rabid People”. It represents a very interesting example of transition of architectural styles from the wooden type of church to a brick one, from the Serbian-Bulgarian style to the incipient Wallachian, aka Brancovan style, indigenous to the Principality of Wallachia. The church is in this form since the mid 16th century.

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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.

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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.

From the island where Vlad the Impaler is buried

A short broadcast from the bridge linking the mainland with the island where Vlad the Impaler is probably buried- the historical geography of the area and the historic and cultural context of this place, and how is affected by the contemporary urban development of the area, and the uncouth attitudes of the corrupt moneyed people of post-communist Romania, who are infesting the banks of the lake next to the island where this historic personage is said to be buried.

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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.

At the grave of Vlad the Impaler

Thoughts at the probably grave of the fabled prince of Wallachia, Vlad the Impaler, at Snagov Monastery Church, about 20 miles north of Bucharest, on an island within a lake. Vlad the Impaler, the model for Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel with that name, lived a tumultuous and cruel life in the 15th century, fighting for the independence of his principality against the mighty Ottoman Empire and the powerful medieval Hungarian Kingdom. The grave is set in a very peaceful context, in front of the altar of the church, in the middle of an island, located at the centre of the Lower Danube Prairie.

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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.

Istrita stone stairs

This is a pleading to those undertaking restoration and renovation works of Romania’s historic buildings to start using again the wonderful Istrtita stone, a local building material that was quarried for centuries by peasants from the villages dotting the the Istrita Hill in Buzau county, eastern Wallachia. It is a greyish brown limestone, resulted over the geological ages from cemented together fossil shells. The stone is found in the structure and decorative elements of many peasant and period town houses or historic public edifices from the region of Buzau, as are the picturesque stairs presented in the photographs bellow that embellish a late 1890s Little Paris style house in Buzau city centre. The Istrita stone was also extensively used in farther away places from Bucharest, Braila or Ploiesti. Its most interesting use is, in my opinion, as material for making traditional peasant crosses, which embellish old village cemeteries in south-eastern Romania. The Istrita stone is now practically forgotten, despite its high significance for the local architectural identity and excellent potential as building material. It has fallen out of grace once the industrially produced concrete became widely available in the 1960s and also because in the last two decades the market has been flooded with cheap imported construction materials, a large proportion of which comes from as far away as China or India.

Istrita stone stairs, Buzau; house from the 1890s (©Valentin Mandache)
Istrita stone stairs, Buzau (©Valentin Mandache)

Istrita Hill, Buzau county, Romania (Google Earth)

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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.

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

Fin de Siècle building in Buzau

The building presented bellow is a good example of a Fin de Siècle (1899 according to the inscription on the pediment) merchant house from the town of  Buzau in south east Romania. Today the edifice hosts a state kindergarten. Its façade is quite well preserved and denotes a picturesque provincially interpreted French c19th historicist style, in this case inspired from rococo and classical motifs crammed together on a relatively limited space. This is what I term as “the Little Paris style” architecture that was very popular in Romania of that time. I like especially the well preserved cast zinc acroterion that crowns the top of the arched pediment. The edifice as a whole looks like a wedding cake, reflecting the quite frivolous tastes of many well-to-do Romanians of that era who made their fortune in large part from grain exports and associated activities. That was in a way the equivalent of the Gilded Age for this country, a sort of peculiar aspirational interpretation of the then western manners and tastes in a region at the margins of Europe of deep Ottoman-Balkan traditions and mentalities. The edifice has unfortunately lost in the recent years its original resplendent wood frame doorway and windows, replaced now by modern plastic frame double glazing. The irony is that the finances  that paid for that kind of destructive renovation often originate from EU structural and integration funds intended for modernising the country to European standards, which in the case of Romania’s built heritage cause more damage than save.

Fin de Siècle provincial historicist style building; former merchant house from Buzau, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)
Fin de Siècle provincial historicist style building; former merchant house from Buzau, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this daily series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Neo-Romanian roof finials shaped as steam train smoke stacks

The finials adorning the roofs ends of the Neo-Romanian style house are some of the most spectacular elements of this architectural style. They come in a diversity of shapes from those resembling hay stacks to medieval weapons or ethnographic totemic poles. During a visits last year to Sinaia, I found the very unusual finial examples presented in the photographs bellow, which adorn the monumental Neo-Romanian style train station of this famous Romanian mountain resort from the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps. Their shape resemble that of the steam train smoke stack, a very usual sight in the late 1920s when the main section of the railway station has been built (I believe the architect is Paul Smarandescu, but some of my readers may know better about that and look forward for their opinion)

Neo-Romanian style roof finial shaped as steam train smoke stack, Sinaia train station (©Valentin Mandache)

Neo-Romanian style roof finials shaped as steam train smoke stack, Sinaia train station (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this daily series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.

Neo-Romanian style columns

Neo-Romanian style columns adorning 1920s and '30s houses, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

One year ago I published on this blog a photomontage of gracious Neo-Romanian style colums that embellish private and public buildings throughout Bucharest. The new collage presented above contains again just a small sample from the great diversity of such artefacts that I found during a simple architectural photography outing last Sunday in the Dorobanti quarter of Bucharest. Often the Neo-Romanian columns are short and quite chunky, reflecting their origin in the Byzantine and Ottoman church architecture, at which is added a hint of Baroque influences, found in late medieval examples of ecclesiastical edifices in Wallachia (a combination of traits called the Brancovan style or Romanian Renaissance in specialist literature). That is the typology reflected by the columns in the above example with the exception of the upper right one, which is an interesting composition that leans toward what I usually call the Inter-war Venetian style version of the Neo-Romanian order, displaying an exuberance of grapevine motifs from leaves to grape fruit arranged together in three delicate design registers on the shaft and capital.

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

I endeavor through this daily series of daily 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 a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing 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.