The worship places have always had an important role in the development of urban centers. Bucharest, however, has always had a more complicated relationship with its churches, largely because of the communist dictatorship. Thus, many of these were frantically demolished, moved, hidden, rebuilt.
In Bucharest, the sight of a monastery surrounded by communist blocks is still a shocking image, and it tells a story that impresses you every time you hear it.
The current Boulevard of the Union (formerly Victory of Socialism), was made with the aim of giving birth to the new Civic Center. The boulevard is guarded by two rows of blocks and leads to the megalomaniacal building of the People's House. Behind these blocks, another story is hidden:
Church of the Mothers' Hermitage
The monastic ensemble of the Mothers' Hermitage was built in the 18th century, at the foot of Spirii Hill, on the current site of the Parliament Palace. In 1982, to save it from demolition, the church was moved 289 meters to the east, behind some blocks, built later. It was the first place of worship subjected to the translation operation, a building of 9000 tons.
Antim Monastery also dates from the 18th century. Between 1984-1986, the cells in the northwest corner are demolished, and the Synodal Palace is moved a few tens of meters to the west, to make way for the construction of mammoth blocks. The monastery can still be seen today, an oasis in a sea of blocks.
Church of Saint Ilie Rahova
Also built in the 18th century, the Church of St. Ilie - Rahova is a historical monument, whose painting was executed by the painter Gheorghe Tattarescu. The church was moved in 1984, also between the blocks, and was closed until 1990.
Domnita Balasa Church
The Domnita Balasa Church is a neo-Romanesque and neo-Byzantine style building, large in size, dating from the 19th century. Unlike the churches listed above, it was not moved, but was hidden on three sides, between the blocks built on the site of the Brancovenesc Hospital.
Saint Stephen's Church - Stork's Nest
Named so because the storks used to make their nests on the shingle roof of the church, the church can still be found today at the intersection of Berzei and Styrbei Voda, being a true oasis of peace surrounded by concrete walls. It was built in 1760, and during the 1977 earthquake it was damaged and consolidated. It is interesting that after the completion of the restoration works, it was proposed for demolition. In 1987, the church, weighing 1650 tons, was also saved by translation by Eng. Iordachescu and moved to the south at a distance of 16 meters, today it can be found in the inner courtyard of a ten-story block, being invisible from Stirbey Voda and Berzei streets.
Find out more about the fascinating story of the hidden churches in Bucharest with this walking tour, from May 6, 2023.