A merchant town par excellence, Bucharest also made a name for itself throughout history thanks to the great number of churches it has
A merchant town par
excellence, Bucharest also made a name for itself throughout history thanks
to the great number of churches it has, some of which being closely linked to
its status as a merchant city. Traders and craftsmen's guilds, once they became
affluent, would erect a church in their neighborhood on the street most of
their trade was being made. So it was around such worship sites that small communities
evolved, which made one of Bucharest's points of specificity. Foreign travelers
to Romanian principalities also made special note of that specific trait of
Bucharest. Beginning with the 18th century, once the city had seen
its progress the number of shops and stalls also increased.
Speaking about that
here is Cristina Cojocaru, with the George Oprescu Art History Institute in
"In the 18th century, some sort of democratization of the founding
undertaking occurred and quite a few of the merchants and craftsmen could thus
have such churches built. If in the past only high-ranking boyars or ruling
princes were entitled to having the honor of erecting a church, in time,
because of the changes that occurred in the 18th century, in
Bucharest, merchants and craftsmen would arrive in droves from the Balkans,
actually from south of the Danube. "
historical city center still bears the hallmark of those merchants who
practically built the city. Glaring evidence for all that is provided by the
names of the streets in the Old City center, Blanari, Selari, Sepcari...Skinners,
Saddlers, Cap makers in English. There were streets that were purposefully
consecrated to a craft or trade. Looming large over some of those streets was a
church. Part of those churches have been preserved to this day, and today, some
of them have an altered aspect. Their importance has remained unchanged,
With details on that, here is Cristina Cojocaru again.
"The oldest church erected by a Bucharest guild and preserved unaltered to this
day is the Scaune/Chairs Church, lying behind the Coltea Hospital in Bucharest
city center. Its name comes from the large wooden stubs where butchers did
their job, that is trenching the meat. So traditionally, the church was
considered the butchers' church in the capital city. Its architecture is
typical for the 18th century, with a porch supported by pillars with
stone-carved plat-bands. Fortunately, the initial painting of the Scaune church
has been preserved to this day, it is very beautiful yet it needs restoring.
Another church, which has remained interesting for the guilds in Bucharest but
also for the entire history of the city from a broader perspective is the
Negustori,/Merchants church. It was erected around 1725-1726 by the merchants'
guild in Bucharest, a very affluent guild, which was able to afford a big
construction that followed the same pattern that had been used for the
Scaune/Chairs Church. Its painting is even more interesting, and even more
beautiful, and more skillfully fore grounded by recent restoration works. About
the painting itself, rumor has it that it had been made by one of Parvu Mutu's
apprentices, actually it belonged to the school of Parvu Mutu, one of the
leading painters of the Brancoveanu style."
church, on the street of the same name, is close to the historic center. There
are several other churches erected by guilds, right in the heart of the
historic center, known as Lipscani, the name of the most widely known street in
the area. For instance, Selari, the church erected by the guild of
saddlemakers, and Zlatari, the church of the jewelers' guild.
Here is Cristina
Cojocaru back at the microphone:
"They are linked
by a common denominator: the fact that they were restored in the 19th
century. During that era, there was nothing improper in demolishing a church
and rebuilding it in a new style. This is what happened to the two churches,
Selari and Zlatari. These were old churches, built in the 18th century,
and restored in 1850. They were decorated with new paintings, made by Gh.
Tattarescu. The paintings in Zlatari Church are among the first he did in
Bucharest. Considering the fact that it was the church of the jewelers' guild
who were very rich, they could afford an altar screen that is valuable both
financially and aesthetically. It was in the Neo-Gothic style, designed by
architect Xavier Villacrosse, gilded and decorated by icons painted by a Greek
painter in 1853."
These churches can
still be visited today, and their ancient demeanor adds flavor to today's