People's Salvation Cathedral (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului) Tateo, Giuseppe
The People's Salvation Cathedral (Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului) is the main house of worship of the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is located on top of Arsenal Hill, in Bucharest’s city centre, surrounded by important state institutions: the Palace of the Parliament eastwards, the Romanian Academy of Sciences south-east and the Ministry of Defence westwards. The cathedral was first conceived in 1881 by King Carol I to celebrate the independence gained against the Ottoman which led to the establishment of the newborn Kingdom of Romania. Following disagreements over the most suitable location, recurrent lack of financing and unfavourable historical events, its realisation was postponed several times until the outbreak of WWII. The project was shelved after Romania became a socialist republic in 1948 and gained again momentum only after its collapse in 1989. Ever since, it took two decades, two different Patriarchs, the benevolent attitude of the whole political spectrum and two ad-hoc laws for construction works to take off. The laying of the foundation stone in 2007 officially started the construction works, which are supposed to end in 2025. The cathedral was consecrated and inaugurated with a week of public celebrations between November and December 2018, on occasion of both St. Andrew’s day (the patron saint of Romania, November 25th) and the 100th anniversary of the Great Union declaration of Alba Iulia (December 1st), which led to the formation of the modern Romanian state. Once finished, the cathedral will become the seat of the Romanian Patriarchate and of the Bucharest Archbishopric, whose current leader is Patriarch Daniel Ciobotea. Its alternative name – “national cathedral” – has been adopted by church hierarchs and spokespersons to highlight its civil significance: honouring notable national figures and fallen soldiers by performing funerals and commemorations is, in the eyes of the Patriarch, among the main purposes of this new imposing religious complex. It is 125 meters tall – the highest house of worship in Eastern Christianity – and includes halls, chapels with a crypt, four nuclear shelters, offices and cells, a canteen, a religious articles store, a medical consulting room, a museum of Romanian Orthodox, exhibition rooms, apartments and a council room. When asked about the brand-new cathedral, Patriarch Daniel argued he intended to erect a symbol of national significance, “a Latin-Byzantine basilica, traditional, especially in the interior, but with a Romanian taste, a point of connection between East and West’ (Vasilescu 2010: 538).
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