The Greek-Catholic Cathedral “St. Basil the Great,” located at 50 Polone Street, in a quiet oasis near the busy Romanian market, has a fascinating history that you will be happy to learn if you make a short visit here. Its history begins in 1892, when the Greek-Catholic priest Demetrius Radu, who came from Transylvania with a mandate to pastor the Transylvanian Romanians in Bucharest, bought a plot of land at 194 Polonă Street with funds received from the Greek-Catholic Metropolitanate of Blaj. It was only after 17 years that the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bucharest was able to obtain authorization to construct a united church on this land in 1909. With the permission of Pope Pius X, a collection was made throughout the Catholic world to raise money to help build this place of worship.
The consecration of the church is a process that took several years
The church was consecrated by Archbishop Raymund Netzhammer, on the feast of St. Nicholas, also in 1909. Father Dr. Bălan participated as parish administrator and was the future bishop of Lugojului. On this occasion, the founding archbishop made an ex libris with a picture of the church of St. Basil the Great, built on a rocky outcrop surrounded by waves and with the sun rising over it.
Greek Catholic Cathedral with special architecture
The church was designed by the architect Nicolae Ghika-Budești, the leading Moldovan architecture specialist during the reign of Stephen the Great and Peter Rares”. Spiru Haret, the then Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture, later accepted the idea. Construction of the building took 7 months, during which Netzhammer personally supervised the project’s progress. The architect and the architectural style, the cataplasm, the interior frescoes, and the church furnishings were all chosen with his infinite respect and affection for the Christian East.
Bishop Raymund Netzhammer asked that the church be handed over to the Beuron Abbey School in Germany and painted by Ravensburg church painters Gottfried Schiller and Julius Ostermaier, who used A. W. Keim’s mineral color process, so the end result was one of rare beauty.
Since the original painting of the shrine was destroyed during the communist period, in 2015, Ivan Karas, an Italian painter of Ukrainian origin, began reinterpreting the scenes that adorned the church to restore them. The scenes from the life of St. Basil the Great are unique in Romania; thanks to the stylistic and thematic approach, they should not be missed by any visitor here. After the fall of the communist administration, the United Romanian Church managed to recover the cathedral on Polish Street after a long legal battle, so it is now the gathering place for those seeking peace and solace.