City of Crosses: Bucharest's Re-Consecration after 1990
Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, is preparing to challenge Moscow’s leadership as world capital of Orthodox Christianity. In 2016, in fact, the construction of the biggest orthodox church in the world will finally come to a conclusion (the huge cathedral is located just at the back of one of the main symbols of the city, Casa Poporului).
This initiative unleashed cyclically indignant reactions from some parts of civil society, contesting the choice to allocate such an amount of resources to erect a new church, while these should rather be used to strengthen the public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. However, there are also supporters of the construction of the “Catedrala Mântuirii Neamului Românesc – Cathedral for the Salvation of the Romanian People”: while some political parties already granted financial support to orthodox clergy, vast parts of the believers’ community emphasise the importance to build a new, big house of worship.
My research aims to grasp current new urban configurations of Bucharest mapping social contrasts, place-making strategies, and related meaning-bestowing processes: considering this entangled case in the light of (post)modern global secularisation could turn out to be of high heuristic value.
Such a case then offers an interesting opportunity to enquire how religion is perceived on the local urban scale and how it is used to brand the city by means of renewed and more attractive symbols. In this case, for example, the place chosen and the type of building on construction reveal a clear and precise strategy of city branding.
Moreover, taking into particular consideration the socialist and post-socialist times, this case invites to rethink the “post-socialist” label, at least in the form of a provocative question: is it still viable to use this expression when, in the capital city, a symbol of orthodox religion will soon overtower the past symbol of socialist materialism?