The Radu Vodă Monastery

of Bucharest


A Brief History



he monastery was founded by the ruler Alexandru the Second Mircea  (1568-1577) and his lady, Ecaterina, to thank God for the victory in battle granted to him in this place against Vintilă-Vornicul and Dumbravă-Vornicul. The ruler built it with the intention of having it become the Metropolitan Church for the capital of Walachia.




t the time when it was built, it was called the Holy Trinity. During that troubled time, in 1595 the holy place fell in the hands of the Turks. After Mihai Viteazul’s victory at Calugareni, the famous Sinan Paşa, the enemy of Mihai, fortified it with palisades, earth walls and towers. The whole city was also fortified by the Turks. But this was to no avail: after the great ruler’s victory of October 1595, in Targoviste, Sinan was forced to withdraw from the path of the Christians’ victorious armies, but not before destroying all fortifications he had created and demolish the Monastery of the Holy Trinity to the ground.



The Radu Voda Monastery, in 1897  -


he times were terrible: the city was robbed alternatively by the Turks, by the armies of the Christian rulers and by the Tatars. Fires and looting never stopped. The monks abandoned the Holy Trinity and took refuge to the Mihai-Voda Monastery. For several decades, troubles and frequent changes of rulers on Walachia’s throne never gave them the time to rebuild the great monastery.



The Radu Vodă Monastery, after a watercolour painting of the time -


t wasn’t until 1614 that the voivod Radu Mihnea (1601-1602, 1611-1616, 1620-1623) started to rebuild it, keeping the original plans and elevation. The church has been known ever since with the name of the builder. His son and successor, Alexandru Coconul (1623-1627) cares to the painting of the church. During the Fanariote times, the great monastery Radu-Vodă, on of the richest in Bucharest, is ruled by Greek abbots, good merchants but poor administrators of the monastery buildings; for a long time, the monastery kept accumulating riches, land, houses and shops in Bucharest, but the possession of such great riches was never reflected in improvements to the buildings.



The Radu Vodă Monastery in the 18th century  -



he plan and architectural shape of the Radu-Vodă church are inspired by the church of Curtea de Argeş, with the difference that the building material used was not stone, but brick. The plane is triconic, with a tower on the nave, the narthex expanded, covered with three towers, of which the main one rests on twelve columns, symbolising the twelve apostles, as in the model of Curtea de Argeş.





he facades, divided into two sections of unequal height with a belt, are decorated in a simple fashion, with grooves alternating pleasantly with the white-plastered areas. The current appearance of the church is owed to the last restoration, conducted by architect Stefan Bals between 1967 and 1974 (after which the church was repainted).





he restoration brought the edifice to its initial architectonical shape, as the higher part of the church had been ruined and rebuilt in the 19th century in the neogothic style, in fashion at that time. It was then when the porch was added, which is kept until today. Inside, the beautiful baroque iconostasis and the tombstones of the narthex are worth seeing: one of the oldest tombstones is that of Vlad Voievod, son of Mihnea Turcitul, dead at the end of the 16th century.





he builder’s tomb is found on the right side, in the alcove between the nave and narthex. On the stone laid by his son, a long inscription reminds of the glorious rules of “the one who was honoured and by Christ loved Christian ruler Radu Voivod who was the Ruler of Walachia and Moldavia and won many wars, and came from the Honoured Gate and was for the second time ruler of Walachia and left his flag to his son written above and then went to be Ruler of Moldavia; and there he passed away in the Harlau fortress on January the 13th and his body was brought with great honour and buried in February the 5th, on a Sunday. Here lie his bones, God forgive him in the Kingdom of True Heaven; year 7134” (1626).





orth of the church the bell tower still stands, the last vestige of the powerful fortifications that once stood here. Time has not been merciful with it (above the southern entrance, an inscription reminds that after the great earthquake of 1802 it was in a “pitiful state”), but restorations kept its appearance, so the way it looks today is probably rather close to what it looked like in the 16th century, when it was built by the ruler Alexandru the 2nd Mircea.




he buildings of the Theological Seminar, on the hill south of the church, date back in 1893 and were built by care of Ion Scorţeanu and his sister Maria Şchiopescu, as a Theological Boarding School. On 25 January 2002 the foundation stone was laid for the new seminar “Metropolitan Bishop Nifon”, a modern building, being built now to the highest standards. This is where tomorrow’s priests will be educated.