Saint Anthony & The Annunciation Church
Or the Old Princely Court’s Church as it was known in the past, the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of Saint Antony, is the oldest church in Bucharest which preserved its original form. The construction of this church dedicated to the Annunciation was begun during the reign of Mircea the Shepherd (1545-1554; 1558-1559), and finished by his sons. The church was conceived in the Wallachian architectural style of the 16th century and reflects its harmony and balance of proportions. It has got a three-cusped design, it is 25 m long and 8 m wide on the outwards, and its narthex is covered by a semicircular vault. Its nave has a belfry. The decoration of its façades is made of face brick stripes alternating with plaster stripes. At cornices, a series of small decorated niches and buttreses which support the outer walls remind one of the Moldavian style of architecture. An older edifice was found on its site, the remains of which were discovered in Saint Anthony Square, and its existence was mentioned in a document from the late 15th century, entitled “The Life of Nicodim” (the founder of the Vodiţa and Tismana monasteries).
The most significant transformations of the church occurred during the short reign of Ştefan Cantacuzino who, as is written on the commemorative inscription preserved to this day, “decorated it on the inside, with beautiful icons and ornaments, as well as on the outside, as we can see … completing it in 7223 (1715) August 20th”. The beautiful gate, carved from stone, also dates since then. The portal of the church, well-proportioned, and beautifully carved in brancovan style, though probably too adorned as compared to the simplicity of the edifice’s façades, has been added also by Brâncoveanu‘s successor to Wallachia’s throne, Stefan Cantacuzino, in 1715. In the church, on the left hand side of the portal, facing the apse, there are murals of the church’s founders Mircea Ciobanul (whose tombstone is within the church) and his wife, Lady Chiajna. On the right hand side of the portal are to be seen ruling prince Stefan Cantacuzino and his wife, Lady Pauna. The altar screen has wrought carvings covered with golden small leaf, the iconostasis is decorated with symbols taken from the Old Testament, whereas the apse holds original frescoes dating back to the 16th century.
Saint Antony’s miracle working icon holds place of pride among the large silver icons of the church. It draws together many people, especially on Tuesday mornings, when the church often becomes too narrow to hold them all. Antony is a popular, benevolent saint, who, seemingly, has never failed to make a believer’s wish come true.
The church of the Old Princely Court was the coronation place of Wallachia’s ruling princes for almost three centuries (between the 2nd half of the 16th century and the 1st half of the 19th century). In this Romanian “Westminster Abbey”, Wallachian princes used to be “unctioned”, and receive God’s blessing during a solemn ceremony doubled by a popular feast. After the divine service and after having been entrusted with the princely crown, cloack, belt, handjar and sword, on their way out of the church, the newly assigned princely rulers would have to step on the fresh blood of two rams, which, according to an old tradition, would grant them courage and strength.
The carved stone portal is a piece of art in itself. On top are Cyrillic inscriptions, usual in a Romanian orthodox church, since the Latin alphabet had been imposed only in 1866 by a decree from the Romanian Academy, as everyday alphabet. Above the portal is a representation of the annunciation, which gave its name to the church.
The church has been through many incarnations. In 1847 it was affected by the great fire, but, was renovated after five years, also taking the neighboring church’s dedication day, Saint Anthony. The original architecture was restored during 1928 and 1935.
Biserica Sfântul Anton – Buna Vestire
Sau biserica Curtii Vechi cum mai era cunoscuta in trecut, Biserica Buna Vestire si Biserica Sfantului Anton, este cea mai veche biserica din Bucuresti care si-a pastrat forma originala. Constructia acestei biserici dedicate Bunei Vestiri a fost inceputa in timpul domniei lui Mircea Ciobanul (1545-1554; 1558-1559), si finalizata de fii acestuia. Biserica a fost conceputa in stilul arhitectural al Valahiei din secolul 16 si reflecta armonia sa si echilibrul proportiilor. Are un design trilobat, are 25 m lungime si 8 m latime la exterior, iar narthex-ul este acoperit de o bolta semicirculara. Nava are o cupola. Decoratia fatadelor este realizata din brauri de caramida care alterneaza cu fasii de tencuiala. La cornise, o serie de nise mici decorate si sustinute de peretii exteriori amintesc de stilul moldovenesc al arhitecturii. Un edificiu mai vechi a existat in acest loc, ruinele acestuia fiind descoperite in Piata Sfantului Anton, si a carui existenta a fost mentionata intr-un document de la sfarsitul sec. 15, intitulat “Viata lui Nicodim” (intemeietorul manastirilor Vodiţa si Tismana).
Cele mai importante transformari ale bisericii au avut loc in timpul scurtei domnii a lui Ştefan Cantacuzino care, dupa cum e scris in inscriptia comemorativa pastrata pana in prezent, “a decorat-o in interior, cu icoane frumoase si ornamente, precum si la exterior, si dupa cum se poate vedea … fiind finalizata in 7223 (1715) la 20 August”. Superba usa de la intrare, sculptata in piatra, de asemenea dateaza din acea perioada. Portalul bisericii, bine proportionat, si frumos sculptat in stil brancovenesc, este probabil prea decorat in compartie cu simplicitatea fatadelor edificiului, si a fost adaugat de asemenea de succesorul lui Brâncoveanu pe tronul Valahiei, Stefan Cantacuzino, in 1715. In biserica, pe partea stanga a portalului, in fata absidei, sunt zugraviti intemeietorii bisericii Mircea Ciobanul (al carui mormant este in biserica) si sotia sa, Doamna Chiajna. Pe partea dreapta a portalului se pot vedea principele Stefan Cantacuzino si sotia sa, Doamna Pauna. Altarul contine sculpturi diverse acoperite cu frunzulite aurite, iconostasul este decorat cu simboluri din Vechiul Testament, iar absida are fresce originale datind din secolul 16.
Icoana facatoare de minuni a Sfantului Anton isi are locul de onoare printre marile icoane de argint ale bisericii. Aceasta icoana atrage aici multi oameni, in special marti dimineata, cand deseori biserica devine neincapatoare. Sfantul Anton este popular, binevoitor, si se pare ca, nu a dat gres niciodata in indeplinirea dorintelor credinciosilor.
Biserica Curtii Vechi a fost si locul de incoronare al principilor Valahiei pentru aproape trei secole (intre a doua jumatate a secolului 16 si prima jumatate a secolului 19). In acest “Westminster Abbey” romanesc, principii Valahiei erau “unsi”, si primeau binecuvantarea divina in timpul unei ceremonii solemne urmata de o sarbatoare populara. Dupa serviciul religios si dupa depunera juramantului si incoronare cu coroana voievodala, mantia, centura, hangerul si sabia, la iesirea din biserica, noii voievozi unsi trebuiau sa paseasca pe sangele proaspat a doi miei, care, potrivit unei vechi traditii, le asigura curaj si putere.
Portalul sculptat in piatra reprezinta o piesa de arta in sine. Deasupra usii se afla inscriptii Chirilice, uzuale in bisericile ortodoxe romanesti, deoarece alfabetul latin a fost adoptat deabia in 1866 printr-un decret al Academiei Romane, ca alfabet de zi cu zi. Deasupra portalului este o reprezentare a bunei vestiri, care a dat numele bisericii.
Biserica a suferit multe transformari de-a lungul timpului. In 1847 a fost afectata de marele incendiu, insa, a fost renovata dupa cinci ani, preluand de asemenea si hramul bisericii care se afla in apropiere, Sfantul Anton. Arhitectura originala a fost restaurata intre 1928 si 1935.