Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest & the Wallachian style

Dear readers,

I would like to invite you to a walking tour on the subject of the unique to Romania, Wallachian architecture, also known as Brancovan, an enthralling artistic current of fusion between local Byzantine traditions, Islamic ones of the Ottoman Empire, together with European Renaissance and Baroque elements, an expression of this land being at the juncture of the European and the Oriental civilisations. It emerged in the Principality of Wallachia, chiefly in the 18th century, in an age of stability and prosperity for this frontier province of the Sublime Porte. Bucharest became firmly established as its capital in that period, and, as a result, is endowed with a great assembly of architectural monuments displaying this singular style.

The tour is scheduled to take place on Saturday 2 November 2019, between 11.30h – 13.30h. This cultural excursion could be of interest to any of you visiting Romania’s capital as a tourist or on business, looking to understand the character of this metropolis, through discovering its peculiar and fascinating old architecture, and the social and economic processes underlying it.

Although Bucharest is now a national capital within the European Union, linked primarily with Central and Western Europe, for most of its history, until the last quarter of the 19th century, the town was part of the Ottoman world, of the same mighty empire as Mecca, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo or Tunis. That will give you a perspective of the enormous influence of the Turkish sultanate in this corner of Europe. Add to those geopolitical and cultural coordinates, the remarkable situation of Wallachia, together with neighbouring Moldavia, as the only Christian protectorates of the Islamic empire of the Porte, with their own Christian princes and aristocracy, not colonised with Muslim populations. The mix constituted a civilisational Petri dish inside which the Wallachian (Brancovan) art and architecture got crystallised and evolved. Its European Renaissance and Baroque inputs came via the circuitous route of Istanbul too, through the absorption of Enlightenment ideas by the cosmopolitan Ottoman capital, fanned over to its provinces, and not how one would expect, from the next door Austrian Empire, present over the Carpathian mountains, in Transylvania, where their rugged crest was not only a geographical obstacle with Europe, but also a cultural barrier.

In essence the Wallachian architecture looks like the coalescence between a church and a mosque. To the fresh eye of the visitor, it resembles a puzzling kaleidoscope of Byzantine, Central Asian, Russian – Tatar, or Spanish Moorish facetes, a place where East meets West. The Wallachian style is thus a Christian artistic expression within the reality of the political, economic and cultural primacy of the Muslim dominion of the Ottoman realm. With its keel arches, sustained by Byzantine columns, mocarabes, rich floral decorations of Persian inspiration, Baroque pilasters and Renaissance window and doorway surrounds, the Wallachian design is an unique expression of artistic genius, which in the subsequent modern era of the national state became the main source of inspiration for the national architecture, the Neo-Romanian style, another vital component of the local built landscape.

The tour covers parts of Bucharest old town in Lipscani area, and adjacent stretches, where we will analyse the Wallachian architecture in the context of the contemporary town, in order to make sense of its message. The focus is on ecclesiastical edifices, like Coltea, Stavropoleos or the New Saint George’s churches, displaying most comprehensively and flamboyantly the elements of the Wallachian style. We will also examine and discuss some of the extant or reconstructed Ottoman buildings, providing us an image of the town as it was between the late 17th century and the early 19th century, when the Wallachian design emerged and thrived, such as the Lime Tree Grove Han (inn), Manuc Han, or remnants of the Old Princely Court. We will revisit the times of Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brancoveanu, princes of Wallachia, during whom the style has reached its zenith, and then chart its evolution amid the long 18th century, of the Phanariot regime, in this principality.

All of that alluring collection of quality Bucharest architectural heritage is awaiting for you to discover as part of this Historic Houses of Romania cultural experience.

Book by emailing v.mandache@gmail.com or using the comments section of this post. You will be informed of the meeting place after I receive the booking.

I look forward to seeing you at the tour,

Valentin Mandache, architectural historian, tel: 0040 (0)728323272

Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest and the Wallachian (Brancovan) architectural style
Tour: the Ottoman Bucharest and the Wallachian (Brancovan) architectural style

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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 advice 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.

Considerations on the Wallachian architectural style (aka Brancovan)

The Wallachian style, is a highly original architecture and decorative arts design, which developed within the confines of the Principality of Wallachia, a Christian protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, during the period of stability and prosperity of this great state between the late 17th c and throughout the 18th c. It is a synthesis between local Byzantine traditions, together with Islamic ones, at which is added European Baroque and Renaissance elements. The style is usually named Brancovan or Brancovenesc, which in my opinion is incorrect, not properly and precisely reflecting its geographical and civilisational locus in Wallachia. This video details for you this important chapter of the arts and architecture of the early modern southeast Europe, which has been crucial for the development of the the later Neo-Romanian style, the national style of Romania.

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My aim, through this series of blog articles, is to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and Southeast Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of world’s architectural history and heritage.

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If you have a historic house project in Romania or other country in Southeast Europe, I would be delighted to advise you in aspects pertaining to its architectural history and ways to preserve as much as possible from its period fabric and aesthetics in the course of restoration or renovation works, or to counsel you with specialist consultancy work related to that project. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this website.

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.

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

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.

Brief considerations on the Wallachian style

The Wallachian, also known as Brancovan, architectural forms, which unfurled in the period between the mid-c17th and the beginning of the c19th, epitomised a sublime relation between symbols representing the way of life of that period and the belief system peculiar to the place in which they took shape, namely the Principality of Wallachia. The architecture of those edifices mirrored the spiritual universe and psychology of those who erected them and the communities for whom they were built. That is the reason why the symbolism of those monuments contains the answer to the question why the architecture, especially the ecclesiastical design, has acquired a unique language during a period stretching from the end of the 17th c to the beginning of the 19th c (between the Second Vienna Siege, and the Napoleonic Wars), leading to the emergence of what we call today the Wallachian style, intrinsic to that principality and pivotal to the underpinning,  in the modern era, of the Neo-Romanian style.

The conceptual tools employed in analysing the architectural phenomenon of that age in central and western Europe are, in my opinion, not wholesomely adequate in examining the stylistic complexity of the Wallachian style buildings, where a more Read more