Giuseppe TATEO

Academic Year:

Research Program:

Position: Independent Researcher


Research project: Archaeology of an Unfulfilled Project: Rediscovering Romania’s Secular Past Through the Early History of the National Cathedral, 1881–1932

On 25th November 2018 Romanian Patriarch Daniel blessed the altar of the newly built national cathedral, namely the most impressive work ever realised in the country after the 1989 revolution. A controversial project for different reasons (location, name, public funding, architectural choices), the “Cathedral for the Salvation of the People” was built in only 8 years, although its history dates back to 1881. Surprisingly enough, the only historical account of it was published by the Romanian Patriarchate itself. Such account is not satisfactory, for it fails to fully explain why the cathedral couldn’t be built until very recent times. My research looks specifically at the first fifty years of the project, between 1881 and 1932 (when the less expensive renovation of the patriarchal cathedral shelved the idea of building a new one), and focuses on the secularising forces that, de facto, postponed its realisation in favour of other major works of public utility such as the construction of new schools. I argue that, on the one hand, the history of the national cathedral well illustrates an unexpected secular vitality in the Kingdom of Romania at the turn of the 20th century, while, on the other hand, it calls into question the role played by the state in funding the impressive church-building industry flourished after 1990.