Neoromanian style architectural lettering

Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering: examples dating from 1890s to 1940s, except the upper right hand corner panel Latin type derived from Old Church Cyrillic letters as seen in the c18th Bucharest church votive inscription from the upper left hand corner of this photomontage. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style architectural lettering is a Latin type rendering using peculiar letter shapes inspired from the Cyrillic script of the Old Church Slavonic texts. This distinctive rendering conveys a powerful identity message reflected in the use by the Romanian language speakers of both scripts throughout their history. The Romanian language is a Romance/ Latin origin idiom, sharing many similar traits with Portuguese and Sardinian, but with a strong Slavic influence over its vocabulary and grammar. That is the result of the historical cultural development of the Romanian communities in close contact with speakers of Slavic languages in South East Europe and as followers of a Christian Orthodox creed based for centuries on Old Church Slavonic liturgy. As a consequence, the influence extended to the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in rendering the Romanian language, until well into the c19th. The alphabet reform of mid c19th, a part of the then nation building process, saw the adoption of the Latin alphabet, perceived as more prestigious and proper for a Latin people, proud of its roots in the ancient Empire of Rome. However, the Romanians kept hankering back to the symbolism and messages of the Cyrillic script associated with the heroic medieval times of battles and resistance against the Catholic power of the Hungarian Kingdom or the Islam of the Ottoman Empire. That coincides with the identity messages of the Neo-Romanian order, that has its ideological roots in the c19th national romantic movement and glorification of the medieval past. As a consequence, the architectural lettering is a very important component of the Neo-Romanian decorative panoply. I collected in the photomontage above examples of this type of letter rendering from a multitude of sources: architect’s name tablets, proprietor’s name, school plaques, house name inscriptions, etc. dating from 1890s (see the Art Nouveau like shapes) to 1940s (see the discernible Art Deco patterns on the panel at the centre of the photomontage). There is also, for comparison, an old votive inscription in the Cyrillic script dating from 1715, that adornins the ‘Saint Apostles’ church in Bucharest, visible on the upper left hand corner of the photomontage. The panels are also displayed individually in the slide show bellow.

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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 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.


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