Guest writer Paul Wood visits some of Bucharest’s famous orthodox churches.
Last week-end I took advantage of the extremely good weather – the thermometer read 21°C – and went looking round Orthodox churches in Bucharest.
When I was a boy, looking at a beautiful church was the present I most wanted for birthdays and it still is. The highlight of our Bucharest tour was the church of Sfintii Apostoli, the Mihai Voda (Sapientei St., - opening picture), one of the few Bucharest churches that I have visited fairly often. It’s a ten minute stroll from my flat in the Old Town. It was moved on rollers by the Communists and hidden behind apartment blocks. Thank God a clever engineer had the idea of the rollers and thereby saved a number of fine churches! But it was the highlight as it hosts St Nicholas’ mummified hand. It is not in a very prominent place and I had previously not noticed it.
Mihai, our cicerone, who once told me that he is not particularly religious, is quite certain that this is indeed St. Nicholas’ hand and that someone tried to steal the relic from the church and died in prison on December 6, St. Nicholas’ day. I very much doubted if it really was the saint’s hand as just as many towns claimed the honor of producing Homer, so relics of St Nicholas are widely distributed – more details here.
Schitul Darvari (3, Schitul Darvari St.) is an oasis of calm. It was rebuilt 1933, and it has beautiful frescoes from that period.
It was my idea to go to the wonderful Radu Voda church (24 Radu Voda St, in the Unirii area). In dreams, unfamiliar buildings turn up in familiar landscapes and I, like many people, quite often dream of churches. It was dreamlike when Mihai took me last year to the wonderful church of Radu Voda, as large, old and beautiful as the Patriarchal Cathedral and yet a church whose existence I had never suspected. I had even seen it a number of times from afar and convinced myself it was the cathedral.
The Bucur church (33, Radu Voda St.) has oldest church foundation in Bucharest but is not the oldest church. When we visited, a christening was going on – of a girl, which meant the congregation crowded at the door making entrance impossible. With boys the immersion takes place near the sanctuary.
The Church of the Holy Apostles, (1, Sfintii Apostoli St.) founded by Matei Basarab in 1636, was unfortunately closed for renovation, a word that always strikes fear. The doorway is from 1636.
For a list of orthodox churches in Bucharest, check out City Compass’ online guide here.
By Paul Wood, Guest Writer