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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bucharest - The Romanian Athenaeum

Date of visit: 9th April 2014

Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu statue in front of the Athenaeum

Romanian Athenaeum is a concert hall in the center of Bucharest, Romania and a landmark of the Romanian capital city. It was opened in 1888 as the city's main concert hall and a home of the George Enescu Philharmonic and of the George Enescu annual international music festival. It is actually an ornate, domed and circular building design, built and intended as a concert hall right right at it's conception.

Photo of inside concert hall shared from a-dmcblobal.com
In 1865, the cultural and scientific personalities such as Constantin Esarcu, V.A. Urechia and Nicolae Creţulescu founded the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society. To serve its purposes, the Romanian Athenaeum, a building dedicated to art and science was decided to be erected in Bucharest and in use till present day on the same function.


The building was designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, built on a property that had belonged to the Vacarescu family and inaugurated in 1888, although balance of work continued until it's final completion date in 1897. A portion of the construction funds was raised by public subscription in a 28-year long effort, of which the slogan is still remembered today, "Donate one leu for the Ateneu!" in Romanian language.


On December 29, 1919, the Atheneum was the site of the conference of leading Romanians who voted to ratify the unification of Bessarabia, Transylvania and Bukovina with the Romanian Old Kingdom to constitute a Greater Romania.


Extensive reconstruction and restoration work has been conducted in 1992 by a Romanian construction company and restoration painter Silviu Petrescu, saving the building from collapse. The 9 million Euro required were contributed in equal shares by the government and the Council of Europe Development Bank.
The overall style is neoclassical, with some more romantic touches. In front of the building there is a small park and a statue of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu.



Inside, the ground floor hosts an ornate conference hall as large as the auditorium above (see below photo). The auditorium seats 600 people in the stalls and another 52 people in loge seating (check the 2nd photo). A 75 sqm long and 3 m wide fresco by Costin Petrescu decorates the inside of the circular wall of the concert hall. Painted using the al fresco technique, the piece depicts the most important moments of Romanian history, starting with the conquest of Dacia by Roman emperor Trajan and ending with the realization of Greater Romania in 1918. If I could, I would spend some time inside the concert hall to appreciate the painting.

The main reception area, photo by pinterest.com
Recognized as a symbol of Romanian culture, the building has been inscribed in 2007 on the list of the Label of European Heritage sites.

Source of information: Wikipedia.
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