Chronicle of the architectural tour in Bellu Cemetery

Case de Epoca - Historic Houses of Romania blog author at the grave of architect Ion Mincu (1852 - 1912); photo - 7 Jan. '12

I am pleased to report that the architectural tour, which took place last Saturday, in Bellu Cemetery, considered in many aspects as the National Pantheon of Romania, was well attended, despite the sleety weather that we had to face that afternoon. That followed a stormy night, which caused mayhem in Bucharest. In fact we encountered, within the cemetery itself, torn away tree branches blocking the alleys and even an uprooted old tree that has fallen over some of the gravestone, fortunately without causing much damage, facts that all concurred to producing, of what one might say, a perfect cemetery visit atmosphere. The place is really vast, over 28 ha, if we just take into account its main Christian Orthodox denomination section. We were thus able to encounter a multitude of fine architecture monuments hosting the earthly remains of important personalities of this country. The funerary structures display in general the three main historical styles that characterise the local urban architecture from Little Paris, Neo-Romanian to Art Deco and Modernist designs. There are also monuments in ethnographic and composite styles. An important objective of the tour was the viewing and examination of monuments designed by the architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912), the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, which are among the finest in the entire cemetery, for example the sepulchers of G. Gr. Cantacuzino, M. Ghica, or the Gheorghieff brothers. I also brought the participants to Mincu’s grave, where the photograph presented above was taken. To our astonishment, the grave was without a cross or other more apparent funerary monument, except a name plate on a small pedestal outside the grave area itself, a sure sign of neglect from the public and authorities regarding the memory of this important figure in the history of Romanian visual arts. The parcel was in the past embellished with a beautiful Romanian peasant wooden cross, as can be seen in a photograph from the 1920s, in the image bellow, depicting a remembrance gathering of Mincu’s students at his burial place. It is amazing and shocking that now, in 2012, when we commemorate one hundred years since the great man’s death, that there is nothing put in place to properly mark his grave, not even by the Architecture University “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, which bears his name, and is the chief higher education institution in that field of this country. I just hope that something is in the making, now at the centenary of his death, by the university or other institution, to right that tragic anomaly!

Former students of architect Ion Mincu at his grave in Bellu Cemetery in the early 1920s (photo in "Ioan Mincu" by N. Petrascu, Cultura Nationala, Bucharest 1928)

Fin de siècle villa in Campulung Arges: architect identification controversy – Video-analysis

In this video I analyse whether or not the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, is the designer of Villa Mirea in the town of Campulung Arges, southern Romania. I discuss the characteristics of Mincu’s architectural design by analysing two of his most important creations- Lahovary House and the Causeway Buffet in Bucharest and conclude that Mincu could in fact be the designer of anther edifice in Campulung, namely Villa Apostol Mirea (notice the similarities between the names of the two buildings, a fact which possibly led to the actual confusion in identifying the architect). The photograph is by Daniel Bobe, a native of Campulung; the old postcards- private collection.

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I endeavor through this daily series of 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 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.

Magnificent Wallachian Church Floral Motifs

A photomontage of resplendent c18th Byzantine style floral motifs, Stavropoles church, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small c18th Stavropoleos church in Bucharest is perhaps one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the entire eastern church world. The building has been a main inspiration source for the architect Ion Micu when he initiated in late c19th the Neo-Romanian style, the only original architectural order created in Romania. Mincu lovingly restored the church between 1904 – ’10, toward the end of his life, when he also added a well designed cloister and outbuildings (see here an article and also a video on that subject). I am always most impressed, when visiting this church, by the flamboyant, colourful and full of life floral motifs decorating its exterior walls and cloister. That spurred me to put together the photo-montage above and thus try to make better known to the outside world this wonderful floral panoply, which resides at the heart of Bucharest. The cloister decoration was created by Mincu and contains a beautiful rendering, with an excellent spatial impression, of two floral motifs from the church register (seen here on the top-centre and right-hand-corner sectors of the above collage).

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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.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Quaint Early Neo-Romanian Style House

An ealy type of Neo-Romanian style house, with discernible Art Nouveau outlines, dating from the turn of the 19th to 20th century, inspired from the first and more elegant buildings created in this style by the architect Ion Mincu. Maria Rosetti area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

The Central School for Girls: Woes of An Architectural Landmark in Post-Communist Romania

The architectural heritage of a country is an essential part of its cultural identity, defining the local communities, making them recognisable to the outside world and generating civic pride among the locals. The Neo-Romanian style is the only original architectural order that had emerged in Romania and as a consequence is a vital part of the national heritage and modern cultural identity.

The style has been initiated by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu (1852 – 1912) with the construction of the Lahovary House (1886) in Bucharest, followed by a number of outstanding designs and finished buildings. Unfortunately Mincu’s output was very small when compared with other seminal architects in Europe and elsewhere that put the basis of new styles or other architectural innovations. That was because of the fairly poor economy of Romania in that period, a newly independent country that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, not a very propitious environment for the development of innovative architecture, and a still crystallizing modern Romanian cultural identity that was more concerned with following Western models, perceived as more prestigious, than developing its own heritage. Micu has thus planted the first seeds in the field of national architecture, which grew into the vigorous Neo-Romanian current that then developed effervescently throughout the country for following five decades until the WWII.

Architect Ion Mincu, title page of his biography book by Mihail Caffé, published in 1960, Editura Stiintifica, Bucharest.

This is why the first Neo-Romanian style buildings created by Ion Mincu are monuments of architecture of extraordinary importance for the national heritage, listed on the heritage registry and in theory protected by strict laws and regulations. The largest and in my opinion the most innovative Neo-Romanian style building designed by Mincu is the Central School for Girls in Bucharest (works started in 1890), a boarding school open to deserving girls from all social classes, emulating the Victorian modernising and democratising principles that permeated Romania at that time. I have here an old postcard, from the early 1930s, showing an aerial image of the building, which gives a good idea about its size and proficient layout, in many aspects ahead of its times.

The Central School for Girls, Bucharest, aerial photograph from early 1930s (old postcard, Valentin and Diana Mandache collection)

The Central School for Girls, together with the city around it, has withstood many vicissitudes in the century and a score since its first foundation stone was laid: the Great War and the enemy occupation of Bucharest, the World War II with bombing air raids by both Allied and German forces, followed by Soviet troops that swept through the city, nearly five decades of harsh communist regime, a bloody anticommunist revolution in 1989 and finally twenty years of chaotic and rapacious transition to a market economy. The sad irony is that the school and the architectural heritage of Bucharest have suffered most in the last Read more

The Cloister of Stavropoleos Church

The cloister of Stavropoles church, a creation of the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, exuding a soothing and serene atmosphere in the middle of a bustling Bucharest city centre. (©Valentin Mandache)

The small Stavropoleos church in the centre of Bucharest has been restored between 1904-10 by the remarkable architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style (he is the equivalent of Pugin in this country, if I am allowed to illustrate somehow crudely his status and fame regarding the revival of local architecture). Mincu designed the church cloister, shown in the photograph above, a wonderful architectural achievement within the very limited space available, in which he brought together many of his concepts and ideas pertaining to the Neo-Romanian order developed by him starting with the 1880s.  From Ion Mincu’s initial designs, the Neo-Romanian architectural style had a fascinating evolution in distinct phases and on several directions until its decline in the 1940s. The cloister of Stavropoles church is thus an wonderful textbook for anyone interested in studying or just admiring the initial stage of this style.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.