From July 3, 2020



The Bucharest Municipality Museum invites the public to discover a new thematic exhibition at Suțu Palace (2 Ion C. Brătianu Blvd) – „Medieval Bucharest of the Mavrocordat family” ‒ which opens on Friday, July 3, 2020, 11:00.

“The age of the Phanariot rulers, blamed by historians especially for the oppressing of the lower classes, entered the national consciousness as a dark age in the country’s past. This happened without taking into account the cultural and artistic benefits brought by the former Greek translators (dragomani) of the Sublime Gate who became temporary princes (bey) in the Romanian Lands: building churches or repairing pre-existing ones, building hospitals, bringing of teachers and the organization of higher education, the encouragement of chronicles and translations from foreign languages (especially French), the printing of fiction books in Romanian, the inauguration of Romanian theater performances, in a word, the intellectual emancipation of the Principalities. The Phanariot boyars, who came to the Principalities following the chariots with the baggage of the Phanariot prince, amazed by the luxury of the earthly boyars and eager to maintain the rank given to them by the prince, want to compete and surpass even the earthly boyars. Byzantium had collapsed for almost 300 years, but these princes, Orthodox Christians, considered themselves the heirs of the basileis and, according to the powers, wealth and education of each family, continued the traditions of aulic splendor adopted at the court of Palaeologus and Comnenus.

A city of faith, adorned with countless churches that amaze visitors, but also a city of worldly delights, Bucharest of the Phanariot rulers (humble slaves of the sultan in Istanbul, but omnipotent sovereigns in Wallachia) becomes a light of Christianity in the Ottoman Empire. The city of Bucur appears to foreign travelers as a city of churches and monasteries whose presence greets them at every step, offering a varied picture and a captivating view that aroused the imagination, looking like a Persian city with its towers, domes and minarets that rose above gardens, according to Sir Robert Ker Porter. Like many other travelers in these lands at the Gates of the Orient, he said that the churches are so many in Bucharest „that it is said that they would be more than the days of a year.”

Bucharest, the undisputed capital of Wallachia in the Phanariot era, devastated by wars and periodic calamities, manages to regenerate several times from its own ashes, acquiring an eclectic and cosmopolitan aspect, both Eastern and Western. The Christian faith continues, in the Phanariot age, to be one of the most important landmarks of Bucharest, regardless of the social environment. The founders of Bucharest churches belong to all social classes, they were even craftsmen and merchants, clergymen, but also gentlemen. Despite their growing financial obligations to the High Gate and the relatively short duration of their reign, many of the early Phanariots wanted to link their name to at least one foundation. The first Phanariot prince in Wallachia, Nicolae Mavrocordat (1716, 1719-1730) built at Văcărești the largest monastic ensemble that Wallachia has ever known. He also rebuilt the Chapel of the Metropolitan Church of Bucharest, while his son, Constantin Mavrocordat (1730, 1731-1733, 1735-1741, 1744-1748, 1756-1758, 1761-1763) built the Old St. Spiridon Monastery in 1747, repaired and expanded the Church of the Annunciation at the Royal Court.

The tradition of building a princely house in the great monastic complexes was also continued by Nicolae Mavrocordat at Văcărești. In addition to these house, Nicolae Mavrocordat will soon build another residence, on a plot of land belonging to the Radu Vodă Monastery, to offer him moments of peace in the middle of an inviting natural setting. This will be called ”The Summerhouse” (”Casa de la Foișor”). As the prince has not endowed the princely house with a chapel, as was customary, his lady, Smaranda (Smaragda) will build a church in 1745, the „Church near the Summerhouse” („Biserica de lângă Casa de Priveală”), which retained the name Foișor Church.

The Bucharest Municipality Museum is the keeper of the vestiges from the Văcărești Monastery, which had the terrible fate of being demolished in December 1984. Frescoes from the whole monument honor with their presence the exhibition halls of the Suțu Palace, a place where the story of Bucharest during the reign of the Văcărești monastic ensemble founder may be completed.

Lithographs with places of worship erected in Bucharest in the first half of the 18th century recompose the city image of churches and monasteries. The exhibition realized around the frescoes from Văcărești revives convincingly the image of the Capital in a fascinating epoch which prepared the transition to the Romanian modernity.

We can also imagine the urban space where the clothes, the luxury, but also the color were displayed, through this short incursion in the space between the royal walls. Icons and objects of worship, 18th century coins, pieces of medieval archeology, period clothing and accessories, engravings, documents, lithographs, decorative art objects, all coming from the collections of the Bucharest Municipality Museum, offer us, in an exhibition design situated in the hall with frescoes from the Suțu Palace, an image of the Wallachian-Phanariot Bucharest during the reign of the Văcărești Monastery founder, Nicolae Mavrocordat, an image of the Christian life, with elements from everyday life.”

Dr Maria-Camelia Ene