The Construction Of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral

Red bricks are the distinctive feature of this construction, next to the white rosette, a huge round window above the main portal: thereby, the reader has most certainly recognized the Archbishopric of Saint Joseph's Cathedral. It is one of the landmark buildings in Bucharest; what we have here is a remarkable chapter in culture and religion history. Canon Carl Auner was the most significant Catholic historian ever fathered by Bucharest. His father originally descendant from Sibiu (Hermannstadt), his mother an Austrian, the family arrived in Bucharest via Vienna. Both Carl Auner's career path and activity are entirely linked to the city and the Diocese of Bucharest. Also on the building history of Saint Joseph's Cathedral, he has produced the most authoritative study.Here we find ourselves in what used to be Mahalaua Stejarului, the Oak Suburbs, so often invoked in our reports on the Evangelic Church in Bucharest, that lies further along the road. We will start off our story with Ignatius Paoli of the Passionist Congregation; as early as 1870, he was vested the Roman-Catholic Bishop of Nikopolis and Bucharest, and in 1883 he was ordained the Archbishop of Bucharest. When he arrived in the Wallachian capital, his remarks were twofold – the Diocese was in need of a cathedral and of a theological seminary. He first had to purchase the grounds needed for the construction of the church and of the seminary. That occurred in 1872. An amount of the sum had been made available through the takeover of Franciscan properties, the so-called baratzii, that were placed at the Bishop's disposal. But already the two grounds had cost more. Amassing the needed pecuniary means for the construction remained one of the prior concerns for the good bishop. Paoli had previously erected churches in London, Paris and Belfast and had contributed to the organization of the Roman-Catholic Church on US territory. Dr. Friedrich Schmidt was one of the most famous Austrian architects; among others, he had built the Vienna City Hall. On one of his trips to Vienna, Ignatius Paoli was able to win him over for the drafting of Saint Joseph's Cathedral. The architect would only include his working expenses and hand the plans over in due time. As early as 1873, preliminary construction works had started, namely, at the front end, i.e. the choir. [...] In the beginning, in order to save money, the erection of the building was overseen internally. The bishop undertook countless trips to Germany, France, Austria, Spain, to collect donations for the construction of the church. The domestic parish also gladly made their contribution. For a good number of years, the money collected in the Catholic communities flowed primarily into the construction of the Bucharest cathedral. Several times, a lottery was mounted to this purpose, whereby some money would come out – oftentimes, less than expected. Even after the completion of the building, there were still outstanding debts to clear.In 1880 architect Carol Benisch had taken over the construction works, so that everything would take a more expeditious course, under strict supervision of constructors and strict keeping of the books. This happened after a three-year hiatus, brought about by the 1877 War.A Latin inscription on the right-hand side of the main altar records the laying of the foundation stone. (The English version reads:) "To Our Great and Most Merciful Lord. To honor Saint Joseph, Betrothed to Our Blessed Virgin Mary, the most righteous, most honorable Ignatius Paoli, Our Roman-Catholic Bishop of Bucharest, has dedicated and laid this founding stone, on the 19th of September 1875."The main altar was created in Rome, from white Carrara marble, based on the sketches of the same architect, Friedrich Schmitt. In Bucharest, the altar was put together by a Roman expert, Nicolo Orsi. There are two side altars: The Altar of The Holy Heart and The Altar of The Holy Virgin Mary. They were manufactured and installed by the Italian sculptor Franzoni in 1888. To this day, the cathedral exerts an uncanny spatial effect. There is a unity of the altar, the main aisle and the side aisles, marked apart only by columns. The whole building is built in Romanesque style with Gothic elements. The proportions are as follows: the church is 40 m in length, 20 m in width and 22 m in height. What one has here is a symmetrical plan, where everything stands in relation to the main axis. The dedication of Saint Joseph's Cathedral took place on the 15th of February 1884, in a generally observed feast mass. The founder, Ignatius Paoli, died in 1885 in Vienna, at age 67. The stained glass windows gracing the cathedral today, of an outstanding artistic value, were designed by architects Natalia and Ion Brodeala and manufactured between 1970 and 1980. The original windows, delivered by the firm Mayer in Munich, had been destroyed in a bomb raid in 1944. Still preserved to this day, one may notice some original frescoes from the firm Mayer in Munich, at the rear lateral sides of the altar. The inner wall paintings along the main aisle were originally made by Georg Roder of Munich. The canopy frescoes along the side aisles were created by Fritz Elsner; his home, the walls of which he had decorated in Art Nouveau style, can still be seen on Grivitza Street. […]Today, a Wegenstein organ stands in Saint Joseph's Cathedral. It was set in 1930 by Wegenstein and Son, a Timisoara-based firm. The instrument has remained one of the best concert organs in Bucharest; it was inaugurated by Professor Franz Xaver Dressler, a renowned organ player and builder in Sibiu, who, on that occasion, performed two concerts. The organ is run by an electric and pneumatic system with 3 manuals, 3375 pipes, 54 main and 36 secondary registers.There was an original organ in 1892, installed by the Merklin firm in Paris. It had always failed to meet the cathedral's standards. There were several well-known organ players at Saint Joseph's Cathedral. One of them is Joseph Gerstenengst. Born 1920 in Chakova (he died in 1992), he graduated from secondary school in Timisoara, in 1939, and concluded his theological studies in 1945. In the same year, he made his debut as an organist. He had pursued in-depth studies with Franz Xaver Dressler in Sibiu. In the beginning, Gerstenhengst was a vicar and an organist at Reshitza, then, in 1958, he stroke roots in Bucharest. He was not only a church musician touched by the Grace of God – what is more, an entire chapter of national organ history is linked to his name. […] A construction of this type [a cathedral] needs constant looking after. The most recent consolidation works brought to the bearing structure of the cathedral between 1991-1996, were carried out under supervision of Prof. Engineer Alexandru Cismigiu. At that time, a cathedral crypt chapel was created, following a project by architect Peter Derer and others; the chapel was officially inaugurated by Archbishop Ioan Robu in December 1995. from Deutsche in Bukarest (Germans in Bucharest), ADZ Translated from German by Andreea Călugăriţă

by Hans Liebhardt