Architecture & Heritage
From the architectural point of view, Colţea Church, a representative monument of Brancoveanu era, puts on display original elements inspired by the Western art of the time. The harmonious artistic synthesis that characterizes the architecture will betray the refined taste and vision of the founder, a cultivated person with a Western education in arts. The building is a triconch with enlarged narthex, thick brick walls of over a meter and overall dimensions of 27.5 x 8.5 & 11.50 meters.
It has two towers, the one on the narthex being a bell tower. Also an open porch with five front arches and two side ones. Their multilobed archivolts are supported by ten slender columns provided with capitels, between which beautiful stone feurons from the ancient Colţea Tower are inserted.
The decoration of the facades uses eighteenth-century architectural elements, such as the two multilobed arched niches separated by a belt of plaster shaped as a twisted rope. The windows have three-lobed stone frames, ornated with floral motifs, and at the bottom, there is an angel head with outstretched wings. Fragments of the original plaster, displaying vegetal motifs painted in fresco can effortlessly be observed outside, on the southern wall. The entrance of the church is made through a most interesting stone portal, richly decorated, combining the Italian Baroque with Oriental and indigenous elements, which preserves on the frontispiece, above the scraped inscription, supported by two griffins, the Cantacuzinos’ heraldry: the double-headed eagle.
The wooden door, dating from the church founder’s times, divided into six panels, gives the impression of two opening leaves, adorned with oriental zoomorphic and floral motifs. Its discrete entanglement testifies once more the refined decoration of that era.
The narthex of the church is separated from the nave by an elegant architectural ensemble, consisting of three arches supported by four slender columns, with stone spiral grooves, placed on pedestals. At the base, the pillars are surrounded by stylized acanthus leaves whilst their capitels, of neo-Corinthic inspiration present floral and zoomorphic motifs.
The original iconostasis of the church, a masterpiece of Brancoveanu art, a priceless patrimony, made of gilded wood, is richly laced with various geometric and plant motifs. Across its carved network, the stalks, the flowers or the leaves, the rich bunches of grapes, the chrysanthemums and the stylized oak leaves are sheer delight to the eye. The Iconostasis icons, of heritage value, date back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the oldest of them are set in the first register.
The iconostasis which dates back to the founder’s times, along with the furniture with rich ornamentations and intricate carvings -the bishop’s throne, the royal seat, the two tetrapods for psaltis and eight pews, adorn the church. The original fresco, attributed to Parvu Mutu is still preserved on the porch vaults in the first register of the nave tower, where from the painting of the latest restoration is added. The church will mostly conserve George Tattarescu’s neoclassical oil painting, which includes six iconographic paintings, filled with decorations that imitate the marble.
On the west wall of the narthex are two impressive votive paintings which portray the church’s founders: Mihail Cantacuzino and his wife, Mary (Marga). In a carved canopy, Colţea Church houses some holy relics of the Holy Great Martyr Catherine of Sinai, received as a gift from the Romanian Orthodox Parish “St. Demetrius” Genoa – Italy in 2012, courtesy to parisher P.C.Pr. Sorin Filip.
Along with icons of the iconostasis, several other icons of heritage value are displayed for worshipping, among which there are: the miracle making icon of Virgin Mary – recently placed in a canopy on the left nave, carved in wood, in Byzantine style, the icon is wrapped in gilded silver, showing iconographic hand made chiseled scenes, a royal coat of arms, and an inscription of 1788). One can also admire the icon of Saints Doctors Cosmas and Damian (best known under the name – Unmercenaries) , attributed to Parvu Mutu, located to the right of the iconostasis, and an interesting icon of the Holy Paraskeva made in various registers. Both last pieces were created by Russian School artists.
1. Manucu – Adameşteanu, George, “Archaeological Research Report, Three Hierarchs Church Colţea” in „Chronicle of Archaeological Research in Romania”, campaign 2006, Bucharest, CIMEC – Institute of Cultural Memory, Bucharest, 2007;
2. STOICA, Lucia Ionescu – GHINEA, Neculai, ” Encyclopedia of places of worship in Bucharest “, Volume I, Universalia Publishing, Bucharest, 2005;
3. STOICESCU, Nicholas, “Bibliographical Repertoire of Medieval Monuments in Bucharest”, RPR Academy Press, Bucharest, 1960.