Domnita Balasa Church

The route continues on Union Blvd. (Bulevardul Unirii), across the street from the Mitropoly Hill Alley, towards the Palace of the Parliament (Romanian: Palatul Parlamentului), Ceauşescu’s colossal edifice, smaller only than the Pentagon in Washington. A few hundred meters away from Union Square, on the right of the alley which leads to Constitution Square, a narrow corridor heads towards the Holy Apostles Street (Romanian: strada Sfinţii Apostoli). One of the greatest inns in Bucharest had been situated on the location of the block through which this corridor passes. The inn had been named after great Ban (ruler, military governor) Radu Golescu (1746-1818); he had built it in the early XIX-th century. The inn – “ a large building, with a second floor, with numerous shops and lodgings”, according to historian George Potra– was set in the vicinity of the Golescu boyars houses’, in the Golescu neighborhood, where other noble boyars had built their houses: Ştirbei, Creţuleşcu, Manu, Fălcoianu, Cernovodeanu. It was a “variegated and lively” bazaar, where “ almost 50 merchants, representing almost every possible branch of industry and trade” had settled, according to German W. Derblich, in 1849. During the 1831 pest and cholera, this inn was quarters to the first Romanian Army infantry regiment. The inn later passed into the propriety of a certain Nierescher, who demolished it and replaced it with a new building with shops and stores, known for a long time as the  “Nierescher Passage”.

The beautiful Church of Princess Bălaşa (1693-1752) is situated on the right, as exiting the corridor into the Saint Apostles Street and facing the Palace of Justice. It is surrounded by tall poplars; on the left side there is a small park. Princess Bălaşa, the sixth daughter of Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu and Lady Marica had received this place,  – “the orchard on Dâmboviţa’s bank” – as an inheritance from her mother, during  the rule of Nicolae Mavrocordat. She had then returned to Wallachia, after years of hesitation spent in the Turkish Empire – where she had been tortured and thrown into the dungeons, exiled in the Caucausus. She withdrew in the peace and quiet of her “orchard” and built herself a house and a small chapel, then another house in which she founded a school, and finally a nursing home, to which she left her entire fortune, as she had no children. The church was built by skilled workers around 1751. Ban (= ruler, military governor) Grigore – last descendant of the Brâncoveanu family – discovers its foundation was damaged and eroded by water, when the church was close to collapsing. He thus rebuilds it, around 1831.  Destroyed by the 1838 earthquake, it is again rebuilt with great devotion by his wife Safta Brâncoveanu, which at the time lived as a nun in the former Văratic Monastery. This renovation didn’t last for long either, as in 1881 it was almost derelict, so the Bibescu family (Brâncoveanu family’s inheriters) rebuilt it, redesigned by architect Alexandru Orăscu, into its present appearance. In the same year, sculptor Karl Storck carved a beautiful statue depicting the Princess in Cararra marble, statue that adorns the churchyard.

On our left, there is the Saint Apostles Street. Its’ end belonged to the former Prundului neighborhood, where “in 1682 Teofan Schimonahul built a church; he received estates in order to build houses from Brâncoveanu, Ban (ruler, military governor) Cornea Brăiloiu.” The church referred to is Saint Nicholas Church of the riverbanks, which was located, until 1898, in the courtyard of the Brâncovenesc Hospital.

The first part of the street, which parts Princess Bălaşa Church from the Palace of Justice, was actually the beginning of Rahova Way  (Romanian: Calea Rahovei), the former Calicilor Bridge (= bridge of the poor), and, until 1878, Craiova Route (Romanian: Calea Craiovei).

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