3 must visit Bucharest churches
Some of you might get surprised but my first time in Romania was only back in 2015. And now it might sound even more surprising but in 3 years I revisited Romania another 3 times. Yes, from 2015 to 2018 I’ve been to Romania 4 times. There’s very few countries in the world I’ve returned to that many times in such a short period of time, which says it all… I love Romania, its people, how unexpected it can be (in a good way), Bucharest churches and even local vegan meals I can get there… It’s usually just polenta, zacusca bread spread, grilled veggies and mushrooms, tomatoes and cucumber but yes, I am always looking forward to my next vegan Romanian meal.
However, this article won’t be about mouth-watering food, but feel free to eat while reading it 🙂
I guess, not so many of you know that I am not just a beach lover, but I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist. One thing I regularly do on my crazy trips around the world is visiting churches. Paradox is that I am not a religious person at all. I was baptized into the Orthodox faith but I do not believe in 1 certain God. Yes, I believe in higher energy, in the energy of Universe…
Despite of not being religious, I get mesmerized by visiting churches and temples of different religions. For some reason, they always calm me down.
3 must visit Bucharest churches
1. Stavropoleos monastery
Stavropoleos monastery, sometimes also called Stavropoleos church is one of the oldest churches in Bucharest. Its name means ”The City of the Cross”. Nowadays the house next to the church is Eastern Orthodox monastery for nuns. Would you ever believe that nuns there speak English? One of them gave us some information about the monastery.
In 1724 a Greek monk first built an inn/hotel in that area and then next to it a church. Post-Brancovan style in which the church was built with both wood and stone, was influenced by architecture from the Wallachia region. Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel are the patrons of this Orthodox church. The building next to the church was built in the 20th century but in the similar style to the 18th century church. Most of the church icons date back to the 18th century. The Stavropoleos church is important in the Bucharest history also thanks to mixture of Baroque (flowers) and Renessaince elements, together with rococo style.
The Stavropoleos monastery does look very beautiful from the outside, but when you go in, you will get amazed by the very colorful frescoes. I can honestly say it’s even nicer to see from the inside. So elaborated! Just once you enter, you can spot paintings of two monks (brothers) and then further inside there are paintings of saints, flowers and different veggie elements.
The church is surrounded by nice garden with funeral tomb stones and crosses. The tomb stones are from the Communist Ceausescu era or from other Romanian churches that were demolished. The museum in the house building shows you Royal door, Royal icons, protectors of the church, old throne of a Romanian ruler, old Easter eggs made by peasants etc. The oldest icons found in the museum are dating back to the 17th century.
The monastery’s library has more than 8,000 books. We saw a few of them, e.g. an old Byzantine music book written by hand. It’s not the normal music notation we are used to nowadays, but a very different one and with Romanian letters under it. The nuns have to know how to read that book even though it’s difficult. There’s hundreds of similar music books in the Stavropoleos museum but only one nun knows how to restore them so it’s taking her a lot of time.
There’s also different old Bibles and other collections of Romanian, Greek and Slavonic texts, mostly written in Cyrillic.
Did you know that Cyrillic alphabet was used to write Romanian language until the 16th century? The first texts written in Romanian Latin alphabet were found in late 16th century.
2. Saint Anthony’s church
Saint Anthony’s church next to the Old court is the oldest church in Bucharest built in 1559. Thanks to its location right in the city center, it might be the most visited church in Bucharest. Three churches stood at the same place before until they were transformed into the present one. As many people wanted to destroy this church in the past, it was modified many times during the years until its current appearance. The courtyard around Saint Anthony’s church was the most attacked part of Bucharest because rulers would always gather all their important things in this church. So the enemies were attacking the church to steal from there.
Nowadays there’s not that many documents from that era because they were or stolen or destroyed by earthquakes. In 1715 the largest transformation was made in the church. Until then Biserica Sfantul Anton, as it is called in Romanian, was very small so the church was made bigger. In 1847 big part of the church was transformed again.
There’s also Old Court Parochial Museum inside an early 20th century building next to the church. The building was connected to the King’s Palace via an archade where you can see the old palace wall next to the new one. The King could pass through there from his palace directly to the church. Until 2010 this building was not possible to become a museum even though it was designed as one. But finallly in 2010 it was inaugurated as Museum. The oldest original painting found there dates back to 1715.
The church is sometimes also spelled as Saint Anton church, instead of Saint Anthony’s church. Since 1847 its new Patron has been St. Anthony because the only thing that did not burn in the big fire that year inside the church was St. Anthony’s silver icon. The church is a place of pilgrimage for people from around the world.
3. Patriarchal Cathedral
Roman Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral, also known as the Metropolitan church, is the main cathedral in Bucharest. It’s not as big as cathedrals usually are as it was originally built as a monastery. In 1925 it became Patriarchate and the “real” cathedral only in 2007. Its Protectors are St. Constantine and Helen.
Did you know that in Orthodox religion the main Protector of the church is always the first icon on the right side of the iconostasis found inside the church?
The icon paintings are from 1933 and they were donated to the church for free. These were the last icons the paintor painted after many previous ones so his great technique can be visible. We can find 4 graves inside the cathedral. The Orthodox tradition says all the bishops should be buried inside the Cathedral but the 3rd one was not buried there so it’s just 4 out of 5 Romanian bishops.
The neo-classical Patriarchal Cathedral is not the only building located on the Hill of Joy. The Patriarchate house, Palace of the Chamber of Deputies, was built from 1906 to 1916 by a Romanian architect who studied in France. It was the seat of the Romanian Parliament for a while. Patriarchate house was renovated from 2014 to 2016. In the past there was another building on the hill where the Little Union took place. The entrance is free.
We were lucky to enter the old Parliament hall which reminded us of opera house because its architect was in love with French opera house. What makes it also unique is that very few out of all the Bucharest earthquakes can be felt in there. There’s 900 seats inside the hall. Since the Parliament was moved to the new building, many different events take place in there in the present.
TIP: If you are visiting the Romanian capital, check my article about 12 things that surprised me about Bucharest. It’s better to be prepared and know what to expect there, right? 🙂
TIP 2: Still not sure if to visit Romania? Maybe my article about 10 reasons to visit Romania will convince you 😉
If you are looking for a hotel in Bucharest, I recommend Radisson Blu Bucharest. I stayed there twice already. They have really great breakfast (I found lot of healthy options too), good swimming pool and fitness centre and the hotel is just a walking distance from the historic city centre.
Thanks to Experience Bucharest and AMPT for my trip to Bucharest. I really enjoyed the city again 🙂
During my last trip to Romania, I found many beautiful churches, but the best ones indeed were in Bucharest. Great city btw!
Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Yes, Bucharest has some stunning churchs but I also saw many others in other parts of Romania 🙂