Give a lion for the Athenaeum of Bucharest

Eva Poteaca | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Bucharest has the surname „Little Paris”, as it gathers the people of all nations. To achieve that, Romania's capital, Bucharest, was transformed into a city that was eager to compete with other European capitals. In 1865, Bucharest was in need of a place where the Romanian people could gather in the name of science and art, making steps that could ensure a bright future for the country. A part of this evolution was the construction of the amazing Romanian Athenaeum. Although the land on which the Athenaeum was built was donated by the city hall, a lot more money was needed for the major part of the construction. The solution was quickly found. A national lottery was organized, and the Romanian people were encouraged to "give a lion for the Athenaeum of Bucharest”. The lottery was a success and lead to the construction of this amazing building. As you may know, the „Lion” was and continues to be the official coin of Romania since 1835.

The construction

The architects in charge of the construction of Athenaeum were Albert Garelon, Grigore Cerchez, Constantin Olanescu, Ion Gr. Cantacuzino, and Ion Mincu. The construction of this dome-shaped circular building of French neoclassical style with eclectic elements was finished in 1888.

Picture © Credit to:DimaAndrei

What a concert hall

Today, this building serves as a concert hall that can accommodate around 794 people. Vocal and symphonic concerts are being held all year round in this palace, that impresses not only through the six frontal and two side columns but also through the interior frescos made by Costin Petrescu. Through this fresco, Costin Petrescu wanted to highlight the important aspects of Romanian history.

The dome ensures that the sound gets distributed evenly and beautifully throughout the entire concert hall, placing the Athenaeum of Bucharest among the top of such structures in Europe and the world.

For over 50 years, this place has been the headquarters of the „George Enescu Philharmonic”, which was founded in 1868. Since 1958, the Athenaeum hosts the annual „George Enescu Festival”, an international competition that gathers people from all around the world. As you may know, George Enescu was a highly acclaimed Romanian musician and composer. He started composing at around the age of five and was the youngest student ever to be granted entrance into the Vienna Conservatory. The Athenaeum was a place where he brought joy and amazement into the hearts of Romanians. This year, the festival takes place between the 1st and 23rd of September.

Nowadays, the Athenaeum is a symbol of not only Bucharest but all Romania. It is a testimony of what is possible when people come together and strive towards achieving the greatness. The slogan „Give a lion for the Athenaeum of Bucharest” is still being used today, in memory of the unity of the Romanian people, and it is passed along from one to another generation. This monument shouldn't be missed when traveling to Romania. The music and the beauty of the main concert hall heighten the visitor's senses and allow one to transcend to a place where the past and the present mix.

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