The Stavropoleos Church

The Stavropoleos Church in Bucharest was built by Archimandrite Ioanichie in 1724, during the second reign of Nicolae Mavrocordat (1719-1730) in Wallachia. Born in the village of Ostanitza in the eparchy of Pogoniana (Epirus), Ioanichie came to Wallachia from Gura, a dependent monastery of the Pogoniana Archbishopric. The present church was built by Ioanichie within the precincts of the two-storey inn he had established in Bucharest in 1720. The monastery he founded was sustained financially by the inn, a common arrangement during the epoch. In 1726, Abbot Ioanichie was elected Metropolitan of Stavropoleos and Exarch of the Karia region. At this time, the monastery which he had built was given the title Stavropoleos, after the name of the old metropolis (bishop’s see). Of the original monastery and inn buildings, only the church has been preserved. It represents one of the most outstanding examples of the Brâncoveanu style.

The old Church and the inn

Building work was completed on 30 October 1724, as shown by the founder’s inscription in Romanian and Greek above the entrance: “During the reign of Nicolae Mavrocordat and under the pastorate of the Metropolitan Daniil, at the entire expense of Archimandrite Ioanichios of Ostanitza”. Between the years 1730 and 1731, lateral apses were added to the church, the altar was enlarged, and a pilastered porch was built on the west side. On 8 November 1733 – as is inscribed in the diptych of the sanctuary niche – building work was completed, giving the church its present form. The murals and decorative stone carvings have largely been preserved down to the present day. As a result of the Law for the Secularisation of Monastic Estates, passed on 13 December 1863, monastic life ceased and the church was taken over by the Commission for Historic Monuments, which founded a workshop for the restoration of ecclesiastic objects here.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, on the site of the old monastery precincts, a belfry and new buildings were constructed, housing the abbot’s quarters, offices, monastic cells, a museum, library, and refectory. Between the years 1890 and 1940, the church was closed, but thanks to the care and efforts of Father Dumitru Iliescu Palanca and churchwarden Octavian Dobrin, it was re-consecrated in 1940, on the feast of St Nicholas. Since 1 November 1991, after more than a century, a hieromonk, Father Iustin Marchiş, once more officiates at Stavropoleos. He commenced restoration work on the precincts after the design to renovate Stavropoleos Monastery was awarded a prize by the European Cultural Commission in Brussels. The interior murals, iconostasis, and post-Brâncoveanu furniture have been restored, and work continues on the restoration of the exterior murals and decorative stone carvings. At the same time, liturgical and community life revived.

Stavropoleos is an important historic monument, and a church which officiates services according to tradition. The choir follow the old tradition of Byzantine chant: the Stavropoleos Group has recorded cassettes and CDs, and has given concerts in Romania and abroad. In the nave of the church, next to the iconostasis, there is a casket containing particles of the relics of saints venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Church: Ss Andrew and Peter the Apostles, St Ignatius Theophorus, St Basil the Great, Right-victorious Great-martyr St Pantaleon, St Theodorus Stratilatus, and Right-victorious Martyr St Haralambos.