The history of Saint Cross and Saint Basil the Great Church on Victoria Avenue (Calea Victoriei)

The first church was built here, probably of wood, in the eighteenth century or even earlier, in an area of forests and swamps, in a suburb named St. Basil, by the Mogosoaia Bridge way. Nowadays it is called Victoria Avenue, recalling the entry into town, and passing by the church, of the victorious Romanian armies returning from the War of independance of 1877 and various stages of the two World Wars.

It is known that a church of bricks existed on January 9, 1804, appearing in the census of Bucharest made that year , and the census of 1810. A little later, in 1813 a census of the St. Basil church on the Mogosoaia bridge was made, in which was included, in an inventory objects of worship and heritage of the church. This census is written in Cyrillic and can be found in archives of the Romanian Academy, in the Romanian Manuscript 661, page 52. On 7 November 1815, St. Basil's Church was held by Marcuta Monastery. On March 14, 1816, the holding was reinforced by the ruler of the United Principalities (domn). From 1815 there is the silver and gilded metal clothing of an old icon of the Mother of God, considered to be miraculous. If there was a wooden church since the eighteenth century on land surrounded by water and marshes, meaning less populated, suitable for an old hermitage around Vlasia forest, as Nicolae Stoicescu and Nicolae Iorga have mentioned, it even may have been a monastery of monks on the outskirts of Bucharest. It would have had links with Holy Mount Athos, or would have been endowed by a nobleman or a ruler of the United Principalities with Holy relics. There is, as a testimony, a cover of the Gospel with Greek inscriptions and workmanship of silver, in the spirit of the Holy Mountain tradition, most likely from the seventeenth century, which houses six particles of six Saints and a holy life-giving piece of wood from the Holy Cross.

From 1828, there is a letter of the priest Trandafir's daughter, to the Plenipotentiary President of Wallachia and Moldavia's crown council, claiming the two shops situated in front of the church, according to the information found by Father Dumitru Valcu, former pastor of the church, after 1959. The cartography of Bucharest, of 1838, page 324, speaks of the suburb "Saint Basil". This shows the importance of the holy worship place, as the center of urban existence in the area, which gave the name of the place, because of an earlier historical existence, sown in the tradition . The same cartography shows that in that area lived: Confessor Paraschiv on Mogosoaia Bridge Lane, page 326, Popa Petre - priest - Mogosoaia Lane, page 336 no. 2152, Diaconu Pana - Mogosoaia Bridge Lane, page 347 no. 2218.

In the Commission Report of the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Romanian Orthodox Church, for setting the urban and rural parishes, Bucharest 1888, Religious books Typography, on page 2 - 'Plasa de sus' is mentioned at no. 5 Parish Amza, with branches: St. Basil Church, St. Nicholas (Tabacu) and St. Ion Moldovan Chapel. So, at that time, the church was no longer held by Marcuta monastery, but was a parish church, this may have occured from its rebuilding in the final form, by Toma Balta (1847), or later, after the secularization of monastery estates , in 1860, in the time of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, or an administrative church reform.

The second church was destroyed by the earthquake of 1838 and rebuilt in bricks in 1847, in a new form, as we have the inscription, written in Cyrillic and located on the right wall of the narthex.

"This holy and divine church, where is commemorated the patron of hierarch Basil the Great bishop of Cappadocia, was built again, with most of the expenditure, by tax colector Toma, after his legacy as replacement of the other church, in the days of the great ruler of the United Principalities Gheorghe, Dimitrie Bibescu, when was Neofit the second, the great bishop - since the year of salvation of the world 1847, September. "

By 1874, in the backyard of the church, accommodation for a few parish priests and the sexton, at the expense of Mrs. Elena Filipescu one of the Filipecu family were built. That devout Christian who came from a boyar family that lived on Mogosoaia Bridge, also left, under a will, an annual donation to St. Basil's church, of 800 lei, of which 100 were given to the parish priest and the rest used to repair and maintain the church.

From 1902, the State Archives keep an inventory of goods in the form of a manuscript, which presents movable and immovable properties at that time, belonging to the church of St. Basil-Victoria.

The Yearbook published by the Archdiocese of Bucharest in 1909, shows Marian Vasile serving as parish priest of St. Basil and the parish was numbered 171 families, totaling 600 people.

Thanks to Helen and Al. Filipescu's donation, a period of time allowed priests to maintain and repair the church on several occasions, and the exercise of stock in 1941, under the Archdiocese of Bucharest Yearbook, was as follows: 45.083 lei -surpluse from previous years, 6,500 lei inalienable fund of donations from family Filipescu and 3800 effects. At that time, the library counted 115 volumes and the parish priest was Fr Zamfir St. Popescu, a former deacon of the Patriarchal Cathedral and director of the chancellery of the Holy Synod, and parish consisted of 200 families and about 800 souls. The existence of the church in time, can be seen in subsequent inventories: one in 1959, found in the archives of the Holy Synod, and the larger inventory in 1969 of the second district of Capital.

The church was repaired in 1889, 1897, then "In September 1911 this holy church was radically repaired. Trustees were: priests V. Marian, Teodor Grigoriu, Constantin Tomescu, with the aid of parishioners and the City Hall" as the inscription, on the left side of the church entrance, tells us. Among the founders of the church who supported it, we mention Toma, Elena, Luxandra, Neca, Dumitru, Voica, Tudora - names that are found on the marble inscription located at the Proskomediar in the Holy Altar. The maintenance repairs continued in 1922, 1925 - there was a major repair, 1930, 1938, 1959, 1960 and more recently, from 2001, through generous support of the faithful and at the initiative of priest Petru Andreana, the paintwork was washed, the iconostasis was restored, tiles were put on the floor of the church, a heating and cooling system were installed, the horos candelabrum was mounted, a new steeple was built and a few other maintenance and renewals were completed.

Since 2008, priest Dr. Cristian Trandafir has started a new wave of renewal and restoration works of the church property, by coming here, as parish priest. So, at the initiative of the parish priest, a brick support for wax candles was built, designed by architect Cornelia Alexandru, in the architectural style of the church, most of the icons of heritage were restored, aided by many believers, in the project "Make a Saint your friend! Adopt an icon." Also, through the support of its benefactors, a special place in the church (pangar) was arranged for the needs of believers to acquire some objects of worship or religious books, two new iconostases were built, carved with gold foil for the worship and adoretion of two of the most valuable icons of the church. The painting and clothing of an old iconostasis and an miracle-working icon of The Mother of God, were restored. A silver reliquary was constructed to honor the life-giving wood of the Holy Cross and the holy relics found in the cover of the Gospel, carved in painted wood, dressed in polished silver and beaten with precious stones. A wooden baldachin was built, carved and decorated with gold foil in order to put the Holy reliquary here, for worship; also, at the initiative of Father Cristian and with the blessing of Father Patriarch Daniel, the church received the second patron: the Ascension of the Holy Cross celebrated on 13 and 14 September, due to the existence of a particle of wood from the Holy Cross, and the establishment of an annual pilgrimage on September 13, after the vigil service, with the Wood of Holy Cross to Nicolae Iorga park, in which was mounted a Cross from a single piece of stone from Wratza, approx. 3m in height, and consecrated on 13 September 2011 by His Grace Varsanufie, Bishop Vicar of the Archdiocese of Bucharest. The Stone Cross, in Nicolae Iorga park, has a triple significance: 1-witness the existence of a particle of wood from the Holy Cross in St. Basil the Great church, in the neighbourhood , and where the procession will stop every year on 13 September; 2 - it is dedicated to the great historian Nicolae Iorga, who suffered a tragic death; 3 - recalls the sacrifice of Romanian soldiers in the war of independence in 1877 and the two World Wars, due to the entry of national heroes, on this artery, in the Capital. Linked to the Holy Cross, a wooden crucifix was erected in the church's front yard, following the discovery of another stone cross with Cyrillic letters ( eighteenth - nineteenth centuries ), during restoration and the extension of sewerage to the parish house. The wooden crucifix was erected through the donation of trustee Petru Gabriel and his family and it has a triple meaning: 1- witness the existence of the Holy wooden Cross in the church, honoring the saving Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 - is raised to the memory of Romanian soldiers who came to Bucharest from the front, along the road, from which the name of Victoria Avenue arose, 3 - is built in remembrance of all those who were buried around the church, faithful, charitable or servants and those whose graves are no longer known. Also through the support of the trustee, the Cross, a nineteenth century heritage object, from the Holy Altar, was restored, and many other works in the church have been fulfilled .

One important thing was preparation and implementation of proprietary documents of the church, as a result of serious research in archives and papers, which have lasted three years, and submitted to the court through the support of Mrs. Luiza Maria Popescu. She also took care of the establishment of a stone cross in Nicolae Iorga park.

Other renewal works were be done in the Holy Altar, which represents the beginning of an extensive restoration work to the church with regard to changing the metal roof, renovating the facade, installing a rain water drainage system ,etc.

This work will be undertaken in the near future, to restore and beautify the House of God, which has to shine around the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ.

Elements of art and heritage

In terms of architectural appearance, the church belongs to the mountainous style, with a triconc plan(29.4 x 12.2 meters), with three apses. The Altar exterior apse is polygonal and oval in the interior and the exterior lateral apses are rectangular, with a shallow-oval interior. The church has a small porch. This has an arcade with a gable supported by twinned columns and is closed with masonry, only at the sides. Above the porch are three glass rosettes which are reminiscent of western architecture. The nave and narthex of the church form a single vessel. Above the narthex, at the entrance, a wooden balcony was built, supported by columns. A small pulpit is located on the northern wall of the nave, decorated in the same manner as the Altar screen (Rood screen) in golden white. The interior was painted in 1889 by the artist Anton Serafim (1838-1911). Anton Serafim was a monk at the Monastery Caldarusani and was a graduate of the School of Art in the monastery, where 10 years earlier, in his youth, Nicolae Grigorescu was painting. Moreover, the manner of his painting is the same and is a feature of the time, but does not reach the great sensitivity and accuracy of Grigorescu. In the ranks of famous artists, who left the school of painting of Caldarusani, Anton Serafim ranks third. In our church, there are other works by Anton Serafim, including paintings on wood among which the Holy Three Hierarchs icon is an original, painted in 1897 and restored in 2011 with the help of the faithful and with the care of professor Dorin Handrea. Also by Anton Serafim is a small-sized icon, restored in 2011. Other works are also found in the Caldarusani monastery museum. Various believers participated financially, such as Eugene and Nora Vintila and their daughter Felicia, donating money to complete the painting of the scene of the Lord Jesus as Judge, in the pew, on the right; the family Mihail Mircea and others gave a donation to achieve Archangel St. Michael's icon. The painting was washed and restored in 1981 and was redone in 2001. The neoclassical style of the interior painting, with western influences, replaces the traditional Byzantine style fresco, under the influence of the era, reminiscent of the style of Gheorghe Tatarescu.

Entering the church building, the eye of the worshiper is caught by the special and unique construction of an Altar screen, with three registers positioned vertically instead of horizontally, recalling the freedom expressed in Altar screens of Russian churches, with basic shades of white ennobled with broken or curved golden lines. The three vertical registers also recall the influence of Gothic lines. Moreover, rosette windows, located on the west wall are also Gothic.

The large royal icons of the Altar screen were bordered in silver, between 1912-1915, at the expense of wealthy families of Bucharest of the time: The icons of Christ the Savior, of Mother of God dressed by A.E. Gradisteano, the icon of St. Nicholas, on the right, dressed by General Mihail Boteanu and his family, Zoe and Misulica in 1913, the icon of St. Constantin and Elena, dressed by Dr. Constantin C. Tomescu and Paulina on 8 September 1914, the St. John the Baptist icon dressed by Ioan and Maria Blanita on August 15 1912, etc.

If we look at the top of the Altar screen, we see that the three registers are positioned vertically and not horizontally as they are on traditional Altar screens, however, all icons together represent (erminia) the Byzantine style.

But their arrangement is the most interesting and original. While the Trinity icon, governing and protecting(pronie) the whole history of salvation, is in the upper part of the central register, in the bottom, the icon of the Last Supper is present, surrounded by Old Testament prophets, whose prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, reminiscent of the Eucharistic Lamb. On the other two registers placed on both vertical sides of the central one, which is a little bigger, we find the festal icons showing the knowledge and miracles, that were performed and fulfilled in the promised land of our Savior Jesus Christ. However, in these registers we don't find the Holy Apostles in individual icons, but only out of registers in ogive icons scattered on the Altar screen. And although widespread, occurring in pairs, recalling the Saviour's words: "Go and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit". So, the original hand of the master shows the universality of faith and fulfillment of the work of the Holy Spirit, beyond the Holy Land. Through a unique location of icons on the Altar screen we can see the entire history of the missionary work of our salvation, gathered and carried over the millennia.

A very precious gem kept in the nave, on the left of the Holy Altar, the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God, which was bordered in silver in 1815 with a Cyrillic inscription on the metal workmanship: "This holy icon, was dressed with help from servants of God: Lucsandra, Ecaterina, Gheorghe, Kostada in 1815"; this icon is much older and probably belonged to the second church together, with two or three bigger icons restored in 2011. Raising the third church in 1847, the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God was renovated, so the clothing was gilded gold in 1852. In 2011, beacause of the sacrifice of a few faithful, Mrs. Mira Lefter, Rodica Maria, Adriana Vasilache, Fam. Dumitrescu Romulus and Magdalena and others, the icon of the Mother of God was restored at the initiative of Fr. Cristian Trandafir, parish priest, both in terms of painting, and in terms of restoration and the gilding of metal clothing, but also the restoration and renewal of the iconostasis. What is interesting about this icon, is that it had two layers of painting. The first is more humble and probably with that began the work of the Mother of God, and another one, newer, done when the metal work was attached, because the sites left open for the faces of the angels and the Christ Child, did not coincide with the original - the reason why it was necessary to repaint the faces and elongate the bodies. But the restoration carried out by Prof. Dorin Handrea in 2011, restored the faces from 1815 in an extraordinary way and discovered the other faces of angels and the Child. Even if we do not see through the clothing, they participate mysteriously in the prayers of fellow believers and clergy, in the presence of the Empress of Heaven - the Mother of God, symbolizing also the humble and mysterious presence of God in our work.

Among the icons of heritage from the XIX-th century that are in church, we can see the icon of Jesus Christ, painted by the artist Manolache on June 16, 1840 at the expense of Mrs. Zoita and family, which was restored in 2011, with the support of Mrs. Dorina Diaconescu and family, and placed in a new iconostasis of carved wood and gold leaf, donated by the families of Mihai-Cristian and Nicolaeta Bugaru. This icon is placed in the iconostasis in the front of the Holy Altar, next to the icon of Mother of God, painted in the style of the painter Radu, in 1840, and placed in an iconostasis identical to that of Jesus Christ, whose restoration was supported by Prof. Teodora Nastase and Lucia, in 2011.

But the most important treasure of the Holy Cross and St. Basil the Great church, is a Holy reliquary in which are found: a piece of life-giving wood of the Cross, on which Jesus Christ was crucified, and particles from the Holy Relics of St. John Baptist , of St. martyr Trifon, of St. martyr Gheorghe, of St. martyr Teodor Tiron , of St. Martyr Elefterie, of St. martyr Haralambrie, of St. martyr Paraschevi.

This holy silver reliquary was made and hand-polished in the Patriarchal workshops of the Pasarea Monastery, being worked by the nuns Fevronia and Fanuria and finished at the Patriarchal workshops in Popesti Leordeni. The hand-polishing work lasted several months and work was completed on September 12, 2011, the day before the celebration of the new patron: the Ascension of the Holy Cross. In accomplishing this, many believers have contributed in their own way to honor the Holy Cross. How the Holy relics arrived here, is wrapped in mystery, as documents are still to be seen. However, we know that they spent a good time hidden in a niche of the Holy Altar, until they were displayed for worship by Father Paul Maracine, after 1990, on a humble piece of furniture and now, in our days, changed with new baldachin. Sometime between 1992-1994, Father Paul showed the Holy wooden relics, in the form of covers for the Gospel, to Father Patriarch Teoctist, but the historical information and how they reached the church, has not been found so far. Until new evidence is discovered, related to the source of these Holy relics, we can present several possible results from an archaeological analysis combined with some historical information, of their coming to Romanian soil.

On the back of the silver and gold clad Holy wooden Cross, is an inscription in Greek, which refers to "Abbot Macarie Dohiaritul - 177 ..." This means that a certain abbot of the monastery of Mount Athos Dohiariu took care of making the Holy relic and probably carried it with him to Tara Romaneasca, where it was left to the mercy of the ruler of the United Principalities , the boyars and the faithful to acquire financial aid to restore and rebuild Dohiariu Monastery. Which explains the fact that this Holy relic was made as a book and could be easily transported in his bag . It is possible that the relic was made in 1770 (the zero is an assumption as the original is obscured by a nail hole in the silver). After the figures, there are some letters which need to be disentangled, possibly the month.

Another possibility is that the relic may have been paid for by a boyar (as an aid for Dohiariu Monastery), why not as a thank you, from the abbot Macarie, to a prince who gave money, to a particular church or monastery.

The frequent pilgrimages to Mount Athos of the Father Cristian Trandafir, seeking information about this, led him to meet a priest, who has a doctoral thesis on the Holy relics and the treasures of Mount Athos and the Holy Places of Greece. He was invited to come to Bucharest to see the Holy relic. He arrived for the feast of St. Dimitrie from Basarabi in 2010, he looked at the relic and autenticated the workmanship: it is an Athonite model and very old. Everything found in the Holy relic is authentic. Color, texture of wood and other aspects are similar to all the important fragments found at the Holy Places and Mount Athos.

To determine the value of the Holy relic, some jewelers were asked to evaluate the metal, stones and workmanship. All those who have studied the Holy relics have assured us that the work in very old gilded silver plate and on the two covers of the Gospel were precious and semi-precious stones. Thus, there are four large sapphires, emeralds, garnets, rubies, topaz and pearls. The Holy Cross is surrounded by a string of precious stones. It is clear that, a simple piece of wood could not be made so special. Under the covering of silver, where is the Holy Cross, we discovered a very valuable miniature Byzantine painting of Saints Constantin and Elena and the two angels, in flight surrounding the Holy Cross. The painting was evaluated, restored and preserved by Professor Dorin Handrea with the ocasion of moving the Holy remains in the new Holy relic, in August 2011. The painting is in gold paint or in gold leaf - very beautiful.

Also, on the left side of the Gospel, where The Holy relics are, above, is a register in which are painted St. martyr Trifon, St. martyr Gheorghe, St. martyr Teodor Tiron , St. Martyr Elefterie, St. martyr Haralambrie, St. martyr Paraschevi (from left to right), in the same extraordinary manner as the Sts Emperor. Above each Saint, we find an inscrption with the name in Greek. The Holy relics were placed on a sheep wool blanket, well mounted in old wax. Now, the cover of the Gospel is placed in the new reliquary, for benefit and faithful worship.

History gathered and processed by Pr.dr. Cristian Trandafir

Cultural-missionary activities

Social - philanthropic activities

Our church is involved in a collaboration partnership with Kindergarten no.1 (extended program) and Kindergarten no. 50, in which children regularly have communion, they are tought through the catechesis (by means of icons and biblical images), open lessons are held on the occasion of certain important celebrations, we can organize pilgrimages to the monasteries and for Christmas and Easter children sing carols in the church and receive gifts. Kindergartens are sanctified by services with Holy water.

Participation in the program of prevention of schoolar abandonment Don't quit the school! and Christ shared with the children!, initiated by the Romanian Patriarchate in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, by the designate person, Father Dr. Marius Zamfira, advises and supports the children at risk to quit. Also the children can, through these programs, approach the church easier and on their level.

Offering of food parcels or meals, depending on the annual possibility, especially on September 13 - 14, when the Ascension of the Holy Cross is celebreted, and on 1 January, the St. Hierarch Basil, both of them patrons of the church.

The program of Holy Cross and St. Basil Church - Victoria

Monday - open from 800 to 1900

Tuesday - open from 800 to 1900

Wednesday - open from 800 to 1900

Thursday - open from 800 to 1900

Friday - open from 800 to 1900

Saturday - open from 800 to 1900

Sunday - open from 800 to 1400 - Matins, Divine Liturgy

Every morning is read about a Saint whose Holy relics are in church or is celebrates in that day, then are mentioned the prayers of the faithful. Confessions are made in all the abstinence periods (post) of the year and at the request of the faithful. The prayers for believers are done in church according to their requests and their need and benefit. This program has an informative title and it can change depending on holidays of the year.

Servants of the Holy Altar in this church:

Among the personalities who lived near the Holy Cross and St. Basil Church

Among the personalities who live near the church

Holy relics

In St. Basil Church, Victoria and the date of their celebration:

St. Trifon (February 1st), St. Haralambie (10 February), St. Teodor Tiron (17 February), St. Gheorghe (23 April), St. Martyr Paraschevi (July 26), St. Elefterie (15 December), St. John the Baptist (celebrated on January 7, June 24, August 29) and a piece of the Holy Cross on which Christ the Savior was crucified (celebrations of the Holy Cross: 3rd Sunday of Lent, 7 May, 1 August, 11 September and 13-14 September - Patron of the church)

CHURCH'S ADDRESS

Calea Victoriei 198, sector 1, Bucharest (vis-a-vis of George Enescu Museum)

Phone: 004 0726.68.96.96 / 0762.73.77.44 004

Tel / Fax: 004. 021.21.25.181

To support the social and charitable activities of the church the Bank account

RO74RNCB0072049696610001 - opened at BCR subsidiary Sector 1, Bucharest - can be used.

TAX CODE: 11831790

St. Basil Church, Victoria - Victoria Avenue, no. 198, sector 1, Bucharest.

2014 - Biserica Sfintei Cruci si a Sfantului Vasile cel Mare - Victoria, Bucuresti