Inns, Churches, Parks And Avenues

Bucharest became the capital of Wallachia in the middle of the sixteenth century in preference to the earlier sub‑Carpathian capitals of Câmpulung, Curtea de Argeş and Târgovişte. It became the capital of the united Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia after their union in 1859, and has been the capital of Greater Romania, so called because of the addition of Transylvania and Bessarabia, since the end of the First World War in 1918. (1) From its beginnings in the early part of the fourteenth century to the mid 1980s Bucharest developed gradually, without undergoing any sudden or dramatic change. It is true that it had suffered destruction repeatedly, whether by fire, earthquake or the sword, and that its population had been decimated often enough by the plague, but it recovered from these disasters time and again. Despite the considerable increase in the rate of change and the modernization which took place after the Union and again after World War I, when it suddenly found itself the capital of a country more than twice its former size, it remained recognizably one city. Today Bucharest consists of two distinct cities. This change was brought about in his last years of power and in the most brutal manner possible by Nicolae Ceauşescu, dictator and tyrant, General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1965 until 1974 and President of Romania from 1974 until 1989, when he was deposed and executed. Ceauşescu's two‑fold ambition was to restructure Bucharest by providing services worthy of a modern capital, and to immortalize the 'Golden Age' of his rule in the construction of a monumental civic center. Unfortun­ately he pursued the latter at the expense of the former. Only the Metro was built: water and electric power supplies, sewerage and roads were neglected, so that at the time of his fall Bucharest looked like a third‑world city. While there is no denying that Ceauşescu continued the comprehensive planning policy of earlier Communist governments (they called it 'systematization'), which resulted in the construction of vast industrial complexes like Berceni (South of the city), satellites with populations of 150,000 or more like Titan‑Balta Albă (south‑east of the city), and centers for sport and culture comprising stadiums and theatres like the 23 August Park (east of the city), the peripheral location of such developments meant that they made little or no impact on the city itself. Ceauşescu's center, on the other hand, to which he devoted all his energy in the last decade of his rule, introduced a new component which was alien in both scale and character to the larger urban whole. A severe earthquake struck Bucharest on 4 March 1977 leaving over 1500 dead and destroying or damaging a great many buildings. The area selected for the new development, however, was part of Bucharest's historic center: the Uranus quarter and parts of the adjoining Antim and Rahova quarter located in the hilly area south of the Dâmboviţa River, where the buildings had barely been affected by the earthquake thanks to this area's natural anti‑seismic properties. Ceauşescu therefore could not make the poor structural conditions of the buildings an excuse for demolition but he no doubt appreciated the fact that the anti‑seismic properties of the area would also benefit the new center. Still under construction when Ceauşescu met his end and unfinished even today, the new center consists of a 120m-wide boulevard (one meter wider than the Champs Elysées) three kilometers long and lined along its western half with ten‑story apartment buildings. The boulevard runs east‑west and leads nowhere, cutting across at least five old‑established north-­south routes, one of which, Calea Rahovei, one of the five main radial arteries of old Bucharest, is totally cut off. At its western end stands the Casa Republicii, 84 meters high and covering more than 265,000 square meters, the second-largest building in the world (after the Pentagon), since 1996 housing both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and renamed of Palace of Parliament. It stands isolated from the city it is meant to serve by acres of wasteland, intended no doubt to be landscaped, but now awaiting a decision following the international architectural competition 'Bucharest 2000', held in 1996, which required competitors to weaken the new center's symbolic properties by, for example, building closely around the Palace and so absorbing it into the city. The Boulevard opens out with sweeping crescents of government buildings facing the Palace across a vast square. The Palace appears overpoweringly dominant on its gentle acclivity, which is all that is left of a large hill on which stood at the river end until 1984 the Monastery of Mihai Vodă, founded in 1589 by Michael the Brave, the reigning prince of Wallachia who in 1600 briefly succeeded in uniting all three Principalities under his rule. The monastic buildings and the prince's residence, rebuilt at the beginning of the twentieth century to house the state archives, were demolished, but Ceauşescu gave his consent to the relocation of the church and eastern gateway, and these can now be seen in a back yard off Sapienţei Street between the Boulevard and the river, overshadowed by tall buildings. They were moved bodily, first by being lowered vertically down a shaft to the level of the new site and then horizontally on rails. On the larger southern part of the hill, called Spirea after a famous eighteenth century doctor who lived there and built the Church of Spirea Veche (also demolished in 1984 to make way for the new center), stood the ruins of the New Court (Curtea Nouă), which was built in 1776 to replace the ruined Old Court on the other side of the river, and which served as the Phanariot Princes' residence until its destruction by fire in 1812, whereafter it came to be known as the Burnt Court (Curtea Arsă). The Boulevard extends eastwards across the old Piaţa Unirii and over the river on to the left bank, ending in another large square which Ceauşescu hoped would provide the setting for a monument to the Victory of Socialism, the Boulevard's full name having originally been 'of the Victory of Socialism' but having become 'of the Union'. Along this eastern section of the Boulevard, one of the buildings for which foundations were laid was a grandiose opera house which was intended to replace the charming and more than adequate opera house built as recently as 1945. To make way for the new center, most of the Uranus quarter and parts of the Antim and Rahova quarters had to be destroyed. Ten thousand dwellings were demolished and more than 40,000 people displaced. To prevent organized resistance little or no warning was given. With only a few hours' notice of the bulldozer's arrival people were unable to take with them all their belongings, barely having time to collect their most treasured possessions and flee to their new abode which was more often than not an unfinished block in a remote part of the city. The areas which were demolished had a special urban character typical of old Bucharest: streets meandering, capricious, sylvan, each house having its spacious courtyard with trees; a concentration of trees heralding a church, usually free‑standing or, if monastic, surrounded by walls – not a long perspective view but a sudden surprise effect as often as not. It is still possible to experience this character on the edge of the demolished areas, south of the Patriarchate Hill or in the neighborhood of the Radu Vodă Monastery, for example. The houses which have been lost ranged from nineteenth‑century Neo‑Classical, through early twentieth‑century National-Romantic, to the Art Deco and Modernist style of the thirties. But the interest of the area lay not so much in its individual houses as in the total effect, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The widespread practice of designating special conservation areas, which did not of course extend to Ceauşescu's Romania, reflects an awareness of the value of groups of buildings as well as the importance of spaces around and between buildings and, more generally, the integrity of whole quarters. Underlying this policy is the belief that the integrity and character of an area are worth protecting and enhancing without necessarily preserving everything or discouraging new building. This approach has been carried into effect successfully at Covent Garden in London and the Marais district in Paris, both areas which have been rejuvenated by a sensible balance of conservation, re‑use and redevelop­ment. Such a policy, which is not incompatible with improving the infrastructure and services, was never given the consideration it deserved by the authorities in Bucharest. Unbelievably the demolition required to provide a tabula rasa for the new center caused the loss of fourteen churches and two monasteries, one of which, as has already been observed, was the famous Mihai Vodă Monastery. It caused the loss of a number of nineteenth‑century public buildings like the Brâncoveanu Hospital, the George Călinescu Institute of Literature and the Bellio House, first home of the Romanian Academy. The demolition also caused four churches to be moved to new sites, such a move inevitably causing damage to a masonry church and invariably changing the setting of the church for the worse. Some of these churches have been moved to sites which are so inappropriate that it will tax the ingenuity of the very best architects to provide them with a worthy setting. The architectural competition, 'Bucharest 2000' barely touched on this problem. Competitors were more concerned with the main objective of the competition, that of urban re‑integration, of making two cities again into one. The competition conditions required competitors to show how they would heal the fractures caused by wholesale destruction and how they would at best blur the new center's overwhelming totalitarian image, for it was a re­quirement that both Boulevard and Palace be retained. This meant in effect denying the Palace its singularity and isolation, and finding a way of reducing the powerful axial effect of the Boulevard and Palace together. It meant building up the shattered area around the edge and somehow tying the old to the new by a gradual change of scale in both street pattern and buildings. It meant, above all, validating the old urban structure where it survives by using it to provide the genesis for that transitional zone without which the new center will always remain divorced from the rest of the city. The difficulty of integrating the new center is compounded by the uniformity of its architectural style whereas the architecture of the old city is infinitely variable. Add this uniformity to the fact that the units of building in the new center are far fewer and larger, and the shock experienced when entering the new center becomes understandable. With regard to town‑planning and urban design Ceauşescu is known to have been interested in the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, rebuilt after the Korean War in the image of Kim Il Sung's particular brand of tyranny, which was if anything more extreme than Ceauşescu's. With regard to architecture Ceauşescu admired the Classical style favored by the pre‑war Fascist dictatorships, Albert Speer's architecture for Hitler or Piacentini's for Mussolini. He also admired the Stalinist architecture of Moscow with which he would have been more familiar as a result of his stay in Moscow when he was attending the Frunze Academy in the early fifties. It so happened that when he was building the new center in Bucharest thirty years later, architects in western Europe and America were toying with so‑called Post‑Modernist styles and, in order to do so, were re‑examining both Speer's and Stalin's architecture. It is one of the ironies of history that the architecture of Ceauşescu's new center should have been built in what was perceived by many westerners as the latest and most fashionable Post‑Modernist style. Having described the new center – the city within a city – the damage and the problems it has caused Bucharest as a whole, what of the other city, the old city? The art historian Dana Harhoiu, in her remarkable study of Bucharest (2) has identified a Byzantine inheritance post Byzantium within the present structure of the city. The first documentary evidence of Bucharest dates from 1459, six years after the fall of Constantinople, three years after the Siege of Belgrade and two years after the accession to the throne of Moldavia by Stephen the Great who fought valiantly throughout his long reign (1457‑1504) to check Ottoman expansion. Already in the early part of the century in Wallachia Mircea the Old (1386‑1418) whose capital was Târgovişte had rebuilt the fortress called Dâmboviţa after the river on which it stood, renaming it Fortress Bucharest and using it as a base from which he could quickly reach his castles on the Danube to confront the Ottoman armies. Vlad the Impaler, three times reigning prince of Wallachia (1448, 1456‑62, 1476) and owner of large estates in the Bucharest region, enlarged the fortress and it is in a document ordering some local boyars to fortify their houses, "written on 20 September in Fortress Bucharest, in the year 1459", that the city is first mentioned by name. If the main purpose of the larger fortress was to assist Stephen the Great in his wars against the Turks, its very presence attracted merchants and artisans so that a population of some 2,000 was soon gathered there. The main commercial artery was called Main Street (Uliţa cea Mare) and is the same street which since 1589 has been called Strada Lipscani because of its associa­tion with merchants who imported goods from Leipzig. The oldest arteries of the city, which are known to have been in existence at this time, are Main Road (Podul Uliţei Mari), today Strada Iuliu Maniu, which came right up to the fortress; and the External Market Road (Podul Târgului de Afară), today Calea Moşilor, which led north‑east to the Obor market place Both Stephen the Great and Vlad the Impaler set themselves up as heirs to Byzantium and last defenders of the Orthodox Christian faith against the infidel. In the first half of the sixteenth century the fight was continued against greater odds by Petru Rareş in Moldavia (1527‑38, 1541‑46) and Neagoe Basarab in Wallachia (1512‑21). In 1521 Solyman the Magnificent finally captured Belgrade; in 1526 at the Battle of Mohacs he defeated the Hungarians, setting up a Turkish 'vilayet' in the central part of Hungary with Buda as its capital; and in 1529 he un­successfully laid siege to Vienna. The transformation by the Turks of the Banat into a 'pashalik' with its capital at Timişoara and the creation of the autonomous principality of Transylvania under Turkish suzerainty followed in 1541. Unlike the countries south and west of the Danube, Wallachia and Moldavia were not made into 'pashaliks', but the Ottomans tightened their grip by establishing the right of the Porte to confirm or dismiss the reigning princes elected from among the native boyars and to raise heavy tribute in money or in kind, the principalities supplying the Ottoman Empire with, among other things, corn and cattle. The Porte in return acknowledged the principalities' frontiers and agreed not to interfere with their internal affairs, observing their laws and customs. As protectors, the Turks undertook to defend their frontiers while the principalities in their turn agreed to fight alongside the Ottoman army in Europe if the Porte requested it. A more sophisticated way of opposing the Turks, and perhaps more durable in its results than giving battle, was to support the Orthodox Church in the Balkan peninsula by founding monasteries and churches. Vlad the Impaler had built a monastery on an island in the Lake of Snagov north of Bucharest and, according to tradition, the Monastery of Comana south of Bucharest, rebuilt by Radu Şerban in 1588 (he was reigning prince from 1602 till 1611) and again in 1699 by a nephew of Şerban Cantacuzino who bore the same name and was cup-bearer (paharnic) to Constantin Brâncoveanu. Neagoe Basarab, who was the author of Instructions to his son Theodosius in which he set down, among much else, the Byzantine doctrine of absolute monarchy, rebuilt Snagov and founded the monasteries of Curtea de Argeş, and Caluiu. These monasteries were surrounded by high walls and watch towers, and formed, together with the fortresses of Bucharest and Târguşor, a line of outposts protecting the Princely residences at Târgovişte, Curtea de Argeş and Câmpulung. Later at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Turks had taken control of the Danubian fortifications, the line of defense moved into the Wallachian plain, and we find Matei Basarab, an officer under Michael the Brave and later reigning prince (1632‑54) founding the monasteries of Maxineni, Slobozia, Negoieşti, Sadova and, closer to Bucharest, Căldăruşani, Plumbuita and Plătăreşti. Bucharest in the sixteenth century was one of the few towns in Wallachia which continued to grow apace, spreading on to the right bank of the Dâmboviţa and taking in that section of Calea Rahovei which Ceauşescu's new center succeeded in cutting off. To the west it reached the marshy area of Cişmigiu and to the east it extended to the intersection of Calea Moşilor and Strada Hristo Botev. It is not surprising, therefore, that the first known delimitation of the city dates from the reign of Mircea the Shepherd (1545‑54, 1556‑59). A charter states that the territory of the city was deemed to consist of the property belonging to its citizens and the area lived in, and that one of its limits was where it met the territory belonging to the villagers of Văcăreşti. Mircea the Shepherd also built the princely residence, the Old Court (Curtea Veche) as it came to be called much later after the Phanariot princes had moved to the New Court on Spirea Hill (1776). The Old Court, which replaced Mircea the Old's fortress, occupied a quadrilateral de­fined by the streets Iuliu Maniu, Şelari and Bărăţiei and by Calea Moşilor. It comprised residence, chancellery, guard‑house, stables, pleasure pavilion, garden and church which, with the exception of the vaulted cellar of the residence revealed in recent archaeological ex­cavations, is the only building which has survived. The whole was surrounded by high walls on three sides and protected by the river on the fourth side. The new princely court attracted merchants and artisans so that during the second half of the century the population of Bucharest rose to ten thousand and the number of guilds to 40. The court also attracted circulation which gave rise to a network of radial roads converging on to the court. At the same time the buildings of the merchants and artisans – shops, workshops, living quarters – grouped themselves tightly around the Court in narrow streets which took the name of the trades practiced in them: furriers, ironmongers, cobblers, milliners, saddlers – all street names which survive to this day in the Old Court quarter. By this time the majority of towns had become permanent centers of ex­change where the produce from the boyars' estates was sold at better prices. So the boyars, who until the sixteenth century had had only indirect links with the towns, their agents coming regularly to town to sell the estate produce and buy goods brought by merchants from abroad, started buying land in towns with princely courts like Bucharest and developing it not only with houses for themselves but with churches and monasteries, and with their own shops in the commercial center and around the market places. One of Mircea the Shepherd's boyars, Governor Bălăceanu, built in 1562 on a site off Calea Moşilor, St. George's Church, which came to be known as Old St. George's when Constantin Brâncoveanu founded in 1707 New St. George's in its vast caravanserai. The Radu Vodă Monastery was built on a hill situated in a bend on the right bank of the river during Alexandru Mircea's reign (1568‑77) and fortified by the Turkish Commander, Sinan Pasha, in 1595 in anticipation of an attack by Michael the Brave which never materialized. Before withdrawing from Bucharest the Turkish army dynamited the monastery which remained in ruins until 1614 when Radu Mihnea began restoring it. On another hill on the right bank of the river, a mile or so upstream, on the site of an earlier wooden church, Michael the Brave founded in 1589, when he was Governor of Craiova, the imposing Mihai Vodă Monastery which, as has already been noted, was demolished in 1984, the hill on which it stood razed and the church and gate‑tower moved to a new site. Until about 1600, when the battles with Michael the Brave determined the Turks to forbid it, Wallachian towns were fortified, but with palisades of tree trunks and a deep ditch (3), not with stone walls and watch towers or bastions, like Transylvanian towns. The French lawyer, Pierre Lescalopier, who visited Bucharest in 1574, saw the palisade erected by Mircea the Shepherd in 1545 and described it as "made of large tree trunks, driven into the earth tightly one against the other, and held together by cross‑beams fixed to the trunks with long, large dowels." (4). Some eight years later Paul of Aleppo (5) visited Târgovişte, which had clearly ignored the Turkish edict (the Turks in fact ordered the Metropolitan Palace to be demolished only in 1659), finding the city "as large as Aleppo and Damascus, very spread‑out, crossed by a number of streams and surrounded by a palisade and deep ditch." (6) Until 1827 when stone paving was introduced, the main streets of the city were paved with wooden planks, which prompted the remark that Bucharest was "a city totally devoid of stone and surrounded by unlimited forests." Sir Robert Ainslie, who visited Bucharest in the first years of the nineteenth century, described the streets as a "continued bridge, (8) being floored from side to side with massy planks of ten or twelve yards long, and as many inches thick, which are continued through a considerable part of the town, for some miles in extent." (9) With the principal roads and some of the churches and monasteries in place, it becomes possible to identify the Byzantine inheritance in the city's structure. For a long time it has been assumed too readily that, unlike Roman or European medieval towns, Bucharest had no structure but developed as a loose aggregate of monasteries, churches and markets, separated from each other by wide open spaces, with an organic road pattern and irregularly grouped houses with extensive gardens and orchard giving the city as a whole the look of a large village. Dana Harhoiu's analysis (10) begins with the complementary effect of people's movement against natural feature – commercial and political routes against the tortuous Dâmboviţa river valley with its corniches and hills. Of particular importance was the trade route between the German cities and the Ottoman south, passing through Lvov, Moldavia and Bucharest, which developed when the Ottoman conquests of the Genoese cities on the north coast of the Black Sea blocked the route via these cities. This Moldavian road, none other than Calea Moşilor, formed a right‑angle with the river, its axis when projected south‑west cutting through the hill on which in 1655 the Patriarchate Church was erected. Another route, parallel to the axis of the river, had provided connections since the fourteenth century between the princely courts of the sub‑Carpathian zone and the fortifications on the Danube. Bucharest's development in the seventeenth century and its de­finitive choice as capital of Wallachia around 1660 (it had competed with Târgovişte for the best part of a century) should also be re­lated to a new road along the Prahova valley to Braşov which served the large estates of the rich and powerful Cantacuzino family and, around 1700, Constantin Brâncoveanu's Palace of Mogoşoaia. Laying out cities and ordering urban space have possessed since the earliest times an all‑important sacred and religious dimension. It is therefore not surprising that the urban structure of Bucharest should incorporate such a dimension. Hills and similar prominences may have had a strategic role to play, but they were regarded above all as holy places on which only temples or churches should be built. Churches and mosques are the only buildings, the orientation of which is sacred. The use of astrology and astronomy in the siting and orientation of buildings, and in the way they relate to one another, places the city and its creation within a larger cosmic framework. The structure of Bucharest is concentric and radial, with the axis mundi, the road to Moldavia, passing through the center of the circle, Old St. George's, and through the Patriarchate Church on the hill. The circle is divided by six radii, two of which (north-­east and south‑west) form the axis mundi, and another two (south and north‑west) pass respectively through the hill monasteries of Radu Vodă and Mihai Vodă. The circle consists of a series of concentric rings representing the growth of the city through its churches. Thus the first ring contains the sixteenth-century churches of the Old Court, Old St. George and Răzvan Stelea: the second and third ring contain the early seventeenth-century St. Nicolae Jicniţă, St. Dumitru and Ghiormea Banul, later to be known as the Church of the Greeks, and the fourth ring, which in turn generated the development of the Phanariot city, contains the Patriarchate Church (1654‑58), Batiştei (1660), Oţetari (1681) and the Armenian Church (1685). The central importance accorded to Old St. George's by such a diagram is in no way compatible with the church standing on the site today, which dates from 1880 and which replaces a church built in 1724 and destroyed in the great fire of 1747. Its importance lies in the fact that the original church of 1562 functioned as the Patriarchate Church until Constantin Şerban built his church on the Patriarchate Hill nearly a century later; that here stood also the first Princely Academy and subsequently Şerban Cantacuzino's Slavonic Academy, and that the Parish of St. George had by far the highest density, with twice the number of houses of any of the other parishes. The concept of sacred space and the quest for a celestial geometry in city planning faded during the eighteenth century in the face of in­creasing pressure from a growing population and a great expansion in commercial activity brought about by the many Greeks who came to the Principalities during the Phanariot rule. While the memory of Byzantium was preserved, as Dana Harhoiu has remarked (11) in the sacred space of its churches, Bucharest in the eighteenth century became, also under the influence of Constantinople, a city of the urban caravanserai. A decline of the sacred and religious in all aspects of life, moreover, was inevitable with the influence of the Enlightenment filtering through, this time ­from the West, its rational approach to social and political problems undermining the authority of Church and State as well as the belief in such concepts as absolute monarchy. A survey carried out at the beginning of the nineteenth century identified forty‑three caravanserais, which in Romanian are called han. Fifteen of these were large and seven had a church in the middle of their courtyard, just like a monastery. There were three kinds of han: simple rectangular two‑story structures with between twenty and forty merchants' setts, of which no examples survive. A larger kind consisted of a courtyard surrounded by ranges on three sides, like the early nineteenth-century Red Han (Hanul Roşu) which still stands near the intersection of the streets Şelari and Iuliu Maniu on land formerly occupied by the princely residence; or the nearby Hanul cu Tei (lime-tree), built in 1833, which is reached through the Pasaj Blănari (Furriers Passage). The third type of caravanserai was very large and monastic in plan, with a single gated entrance, sometimes in the form of a tower. The only example of this kind which survives is the Han of Manuc in Iuliu Maniu Street. One of the oldest and largest of this type was the Han Şerban Vodă, built between 1683 and 1686 in the reign of Şerban Cantacuzino after whom it was named. It stood on the site of the present National Bank (1883‑85, architects Cassien Bernard and Albert Galleron). In 1670 the same Şerban Cantacuzino, when he was prefect of the city, began the construction of the largest of all Bucharest caravanserais, the Han of St. George, which was only completed thirty years later in the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu. It consisted of a vast courtyard with the grand New St. George's Church in the middle, surrounded on all four sides by two‑story ranges which accommodated some two hundred merchants' setts. For a century and a half this han played host to all the leading merchants with most expensive and desirable goods coming from Leipzig, Constantinople and Galaţi. Both the han and the church suffered greatly in the 1847 fire and the demolition of the han followed. The church was restored immediately after the fire by the Catalan architect Xavier Villacrosse in the Neo‑Romanesque style but on the old ground plan. Destroyed a second time in the 1940 earthquake, it was restored to its original form in 1988‑92 by Stefan Balş. There was a concentration of caravanserais in the area of Lipscani and Stavropoleos Street which provides an idea of the character of commercial Bucharest in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. ­Walking down the last section of the Calea Victoriei between its intersection with the Boulevard Regina Elisabeta and the river we can imagine both sides of the street, lined with the high and largely blank walls of caravanserais for almost the whole length between the junctions of Lipscani and Iuliu Maniu Street. On the west side where the imposing Neo-Baroque Savings Bank (1896-1900 architect Paul Gottereau) now stands was the large Han of St. John while on the opposite side of the street, on either side of the Stavropoleos Street junction, stood the Zlătari and Constantin Vodă hans. There were massive han walls on both sides of Stavropoleos Street for most of its length: the Zlătari Han and the Han of the Greeks on the north side, and the Constantin Vodă and Stavropoleos hans on the south side. Extending well into the south side of Lipscani Street, the Han of the Greeks faced the Şerban Vodă Han on the north side of the street. Continuing east along Lipscani Street and crossing both Smârdan and Şelari (Saddlers) Street we find two examples of surviving hans: on the north side at nos. 63‑65, Hanul cu Tei (lime‑tree), built in 1833, whose long and narrow courtyard extends to Blănari (Furriers) Street: and on the south side, at no. 86, the sixteenth-century Han Gabroveni which extends to Gabroveni St.. If we continue further east along Lipscani Street, crossing the modern Brătianu Boulevard, we find New St. George's Church which, with its wide open spaces around it, is easily imagined standing in the very large courtyard of the former Constantin Vodă Han. Finally, by descending the Brătianu Boulevard, we may reach via Şepcari (Milliners) Street the Han of Manuc, the Church and ruins of the Old Court (Curtea Veche) and Hanul Roşu (the Red Han), all in Iuliu Maniu Street. The only one of its kind to survive and so unable to bear any comparison, the Han of Manuc, must have ranked highly, even when it had grander rivals, on account of its consistent and unified design, all four sides of the courtyard consisting of a masonry plinth supporting two floors of open timber galleries with three‑cusped arches spanning between elegantly carved columns and over continuous balustrading which every so often cascades down in a staircase. Built in 1808, the han played host four years later at the end of the six‑year Russo‑Turkish War to the delegation drawing up the Peace Treaty of Bucharest which, among other things, ceded Bessarabia to Russia. Around 1865 the han was converted into an hotel which it has remained to this day, though not without a further major conversion and restoration in 1969‑70 (architect Constantin Joia) which revealed that the han had incorporated two earlier buildings of the Old Court. By the end of the seventeenth century Bucharest had become the most important city of Wallachia and one of the principal urban centers of south‑east Europe. To the Lower Market (Târgul de Jos) around the Old Court were added first the Upper Market (Târgul de Sus) and then the Cuckoo Market (Târgul Cucului) around New St. George's Church. In the course of the century the number of guilds had doubled to eighty. Antonio del Chiaro, the Italian secretary of Constantin Brâncoveanu, described Bucharest as having "an almost circular form, with a very large circumference." (12) Although the inhabitants numbered some 50,000 according to a contemporary census, the city had a large spread and a low density, its houses being "isolated one from the other like islands each with courtyard, kitchen block, stables and orchard, lending the place a very agreeable aspect and plenty of life." (13) Thomas Thornton at the beginning of the nineteenth century found Jassy and Bucharest to be "more like large villages than what they are meant to be, that is seats of government. In one as in the other the most representative buildings are the churches and monasteries. As for the boyars' palaces, surrounded by courts and large gardens, they provide a painful contrast with the dwellings of the common people, which have a miserable appearance." (14) In addition to the princely court, the three market areas and the grand boyars' houses, Bucharest contained many monasteries and churches, caravanserais, public baths and water mills along the river. Because the Turks forbade the construction of city fortifications, defensive features in the form of high surrounding walls and watch towers were the privilege of the prince's palace, monasteries and caravanserais. Starting in the seventeenth century a series of engravings of Bucharest, generally seen from the Spirea Hill south of the city, show a large river in the middle distance and the city on the far bank depicted in a fanciful manner, which tells us more about the way a medieval city was perceived than about the city itself. A seventeenth century engraving entitled 'Prospekt der Stadt Bukarest in der Wallachey' shows a compact city of buildings with high‑pitched roofs, out of which spring a multitude of tall slender towers with conical roofs, like some northern San Gimignano. A more dominant and denser mass of buildings, with a square tower reminiscent of the Campanile of St. Mark's in Venice, indicates the princely court, while a very tall octagonal watch tower, part of the defensive system of ramparts and bastions which surrounds the city, suggests that the greatest and most persistent threat lay with the Turks in the south and, sure enough, we find in the foreground of the engraving a Turkish army encampment. Most fictitious of all is the background landscape north of the city, which is depicted as a range of barren mountains where there is in fact a second river valley. Another early eighteenth-century engraving shows the city entirely circumscribed by castellated walls and towers, crowded with buildings, of which rows of gable‑ended houses, three‑ to four‑stories high, and minaret‑like towers crowned with the Islamic half‑moon symbol are the most persistent. More credible are the two approach roads quite close to one another, each one crossing the river by means of a simple wooden bridge and leading to a city gate. There were in fact two main approaches from the south, Calea Rahovei leading to the Old Court, and Calea Şerban Vodă leading to Old St. George's Church, the latter always being used by the Phanariot rulers and by the Sultan's emissaries arriving in Bucharest from Constantinople. Until Calea Victoriei came into existence, Calea Şerban Vodă was the most important street and one of the five principal arteries of old Bucharest. Still to be seen along the first section of this road are two churches of historical rather than artistic importance. St. Catherine (Sfânta Ecaterina) stands on the site of a sixteenth-century monastery near the place where in 1631 Aga Matei from Brâncoveni defeated the boyars of the reigning prince, Leon Tomşa, and assumed the throne as Matei Basarab. The present church was built in 1774 by the reigning prince Alexandru Ipsilante's wife Ecaterina and restored after the Great Fire of 1847. Nearby on the east side of the street, set back among trees, is one of the largest churches in Bucharest, New St. Spiridon (Sfântul Spiridon Nou), built between 1852 and 1858 in the Neo‑Romanesque style. It stands on the site of an earlier church built by the reigning princes Scarlat Chica (1758‑61 and 1765‑66) and his son Alexandu Ghica (1766‑68). Scarlat Chica and three other Phanariot princes are buried in the church: Nicolae Mavrogheni (1786‑90), Constantin Hangerli (1797‑99), both put to death on orders from Constantinople, and the last Phanariot reigning prince, Alexandru Suţu (1818‑21). The typical reign of a Phanariot prince was generally too short for him to have carried out a substantial building program. The shining exception is Nicolae Mavrocordato (1715‑16 and 1719‑30) who built the Monastery of Văcăreşti some five kilometers south of the city, and in whose reign were constructed the Creţulescu Church (1720‑22) in Calea Victoriei and the Stavropoleos Church (1724) in Stavropoleos Street. Văcăreşti Monastery, which was demolished in 1985 on the orders of Ceauşescu under the pretext of wanting the site for a new 'law courts' building, has been described as the greatest eighteenth-century monastic complex in south‑east Europe. It was built in two stages because of the 1716‑18 Austro‑Turkish war. Begun in 1716, work was interrupted for three years when the Austrian army under General Stainville marched into Bucharest and carried off Mavrocordato to prison in Sibiu. Reinstated in 1719, Mavrocordato continued the work for another three years and in 1722 completed the monastery which consisted of an immense courtyard surrounded by ranges of monastic and secular buildings, including a residence for the prince in the north‑east corner. The monastery's dominant axis originated at the entrance gate situated in the western range, passed through the free‑standing church in the middle of the courtyard, and extended to the chapel in the eastern range. Although in use as a prison for over a hundred years, the monastery buildings had been restored before the final demolition order was given. Before Nicolae Mavrocordato, the Cantacuzino family and Constantin Brâncoveanu, whose mother was a Cantacuzino, had been great builders. Şerban Cantacuzino, the reigning prince, built himself a palace in 1678, the year of his accession, on land which he owned in the Upper Market around Doamnei Street and Calea Victoriei. As his favorite residence, it was in constant use throughout his ten-year reign, but soon fell into disrepair after his death. Restored and transformed many years later, it became the Russian Legation after the War of Independence and once again the scene of glamorous political and social events. Abandoned at the Russian Revolution, it was eventually sold by the USSR and finally demolished in 1935 to allow for the extension of Doamnei Street. Of more lasting value was Şerban Cantacuzino's reorganization of the hundred‑year old Slavonic Academy at Old St. George's, making it into one of the most important centers of learning in the Balkans, and his revival and patronage of the capital's printing presses, the most important result of which was the publication in 1688 of the first bible in the Romanian language. The re‑animated Slavonic Academy was soon to be overtaken by Constantin Brâncoveanu's Greek School at St. Sava's Monastery situated on the present University Square. The monastery, which was rebuilt by Brâncoveanu on the site of a sixteenth-century foundation named after the monastery near Jerusalem to which it was dedicated, became famous because of the school which was attached to it and in which it was possible to study, in Greek, rhetoric, philosophy, logic, the physical sciences, astronomy, geology and foreign languages. The school, which did not acquire a Romanian language course until 1818 despite Alexander Ipsilanti's 1776 reorganization in the spirit of the Enlightenment, was finally demolished in 1855 to make way for the University building (architect Alexandru Orăscu) and the projected boulevard and square. Şerban Cantacuzino's greatest foundation, begun in 1679, was undoubtedly the Monastery of Cotroceni, situated on a hill forming part of the south corniche of the River Dâmboviţa, some three kilometers west of the city center in what were at the end of the seventeenth century still forests covering most of the right bank of the river. Today it is called the Palace of Cotroceni, having become, since the Union, the summer residence, and in more recent times the permanent residence of the heads of state. From the very beginning the monastery incorporated a princely residence whither the reigning princes and their retinue would halt for rest or refuge, or because the princely courts in the city center were no longer habitable. Both Alexandru Cuza (1859‑66), the first prince since Michael the Brave to reign over the United Principalities, and Carol I of Hohenzollern‑Sigmaringen, (1866‑1914) until the completion in 1880 of Peleş Castle at Sinaia, used Cotroceni as a summer palace. After 1888 the monastery became the permanent home of Crown Prince Ferdinand, and it is for him and his wife, the future Queen Maria of Romania, that the old princely residence was demolished and replaced with a grander building, designed in a Venetian Classical style by the French architect Paul Gottereau. A few years later the Romanian architect Grigore Cerchez remodeled the north wing in the National Romantic style, adding a large hall with a terrace on top and two delightful colonnaded belvederes one of which was a replica of the famous belvedere at Hurez Monastery, Brâncoveanu's great foundation in the County of Vâlcea. Until 1984, in the second courtyard of Cotroceni Monastery, stood the church which, together with some of the surrounding buildings incorporating the old kitchen and a range of vaulted cells, was all that was left of the old monastery. The plan of the church combined a trefoiled nave sur­mounted by a central domed tower with a spacious rectangular pronaos, within which twelve ornately carved stone columns supported a second lower tower. An arcaded porch extending the full width of the pronaos formed the entrance to the church. Orders went out for the demolition of the church on 25 April 1984. No explanation was given but it was known that Cotroceni was one of Ceauşescu's palaces and that he disliked churches. Fortunately there was an architect in charge who dismantled the church with the greatest care, numbering and storing all the stone­work, so that it could be rebuilt and still retain a fair degree of authenticity. In 1683, the year of the Siege of Vienna, Şerban Cantacuzino's wife, Maria, founded the Princess's Church (Biserica Doamnei) which survives to this day