Photo by Andrei Cucu

Museums galore

Probably the most rewarding and lengthy cultural experience you can have in Iași is visiting the multitude of museums.

You won’t be able to see all of these in one day, so you can choose to group them in clusters based on the map below. The list is by no means exhaustive and you can search for more here.

You can start your tour at the Palace of Culture. This is the most instagrammed place in Iași. Inside there are four museums: The History Museum of Moldavia, The “Ștefan Procopoiu” Science and Technique Museum, The Ethnography Museum of Moldova and The Art Museum. The Museum of History of Moldova (left wing, ground floor) captures the evolution of the Royal Court of Iasi, the Iași society in 1900 and the function of the Palace of Justice building in the interwar period. It hosts over 50.000 items and comprises of three main collections: “Archaeology”, “History” and “Numismatics and Medalistics”.

Right outside, in the front of the Palace of Culture, in a building you can’t miss, you’ll find The Museum of ”Metropolit Dosoftei”. A place that marks the first pages in Romanian literature history, this was the home of Dosoftei Barilă (1624-1693), the first hierarch in Moldavia who translated and versified books of religious interest in Romanian (Psalms), using the ancient printing press in the process of extending the usage of Romanian in religious institutions.

A bit to the north, on Independence Boulevard, The Museum of Natural History, the first museum of its kind in the country, is especially appreciated by children. The collections of insects, fish, birds and mammals, as well as those of minerals or nests and eggs number over 350,000 pieces, being among the richest collections in Romania. These are complemented by traveling exhibitions of minerals, reptiles or prehistoric creatures.

Close by, on Lăpușneanu Street, you’ll find The Palace of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, a symbol for the city. The ground floor shows various aspects of the Union epoch (the double election, partizans of the Union, reforming politics) and the palace’s history, and it hosts numerous cultural events. In the hallway, the painting “Hora Unirii” by Constache Agafiței illustrates the events of January 1859 which took place in front of the former Bacalu’s Inn in the current Union Square. The first floor is dedicated to the princely apartments – the working offices of the Prince and the Lady Elena Cuza, the living room, the hall, the billiard room, the Lady’s salon and the bedroom.

To the north, lined in a row and close to each other, you can visit: The Vasile Pogor Memorial House (home to the former mayor of Iași and the first private building in the city with electrical lighting), The “Mihail Kogălniceanu” Memorial Museum (home of the most important supporter of the Union of Moldova with Wallachia and a collaborator of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza) and Ion Creangă’s Hovel Museum (a small rustic house where the poet lived for 17 years). These three memorial houses are a must-see. They carry a ton of stories from Romania’s political and literary history. You can find out more about them in the list below.

If you made it this far and have a couple more hours to spare, you should head up towards Copou and The Museum of the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University. It hosts two museums actually: The Museum of Cucuteni Civilization (one of the oldest civilizations in Europe) and The Academic Museum (which presents the various historical stages of Iași’s higher education in unique exhibits that reconstruct the evolution of the institution and academic disciplines).

There’s a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge about these museums and memorial houses. Some of it you’ll find in the list below, but for a rewarding and complete experience, you have to visit all of them. Enjoy!

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Architecture, Museums
Pogor house or “The House with Lighted Windows” is the first private building in Iași with electric lighting.

The great boyar Ioniță Cerchez, responsible with bread distribution, is the one who built here for the first time a dwelling in 1776. His son Iancu inherits the property and leaves it to his daughter, Zoe, wife of headman Vasile Pogor. The latter demolished the old building and built a new one in 1850. After the headman’s death, in 1857, the houses were inherited by his son, Vasile Pogor, three times mayor of Iași.

The building worked as headquarters of “Junimea” Literary Society, founded in Iași in 1863 at the initiative of some young people returned from their studies abroad: Titu Maiorescu, Vasile Pogor(son), Theodor Rosetti, Iacob Negruzzi and Petre P. Carp. During the many meetings at Junimea, some of the most famous writers appeared, such as Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creangă, Ioan Slavici or Vasile Alecsandri. Since 1867, Junimea published the “Convorbiri Literare” magazine, which became the most famous publication in the history of Romanian literature. During the world wars, the cellars of Pogor House were transformed into ammunition and weapon stores. The historians of the time said that these undergrounds were part of a cellar network which crossed the area and were considered a refuge place or a food store. Since 1972 it became the residence of the Literature Section of the Moldova Museum Complex, separated afterwards, since 1990, into the Iași Museum of Romanian Literature, an independent institution, until 2018, when it moved to the House of Museums.

The main building is comprised of 10 rooms with the permanent exhibition. The main entrance can be noticed through the four columns, above which you can see a balcony, adorned with two Ionic pillars. Inside there are objects of memorial value, tapestries, paintings and manuscripts, some of them belonging to great writers. In the rooms on the ground and first floor, but also in the two hallways, the main stages and literary streams of the last two centuries are presented.

Nowadays, the “Vasile Pogor” Museum organises many cultural events: book launches, opera concerts and symphonic concerts, exhibitions and fairs, actions for children and events which encourage freedom of expression through art among young people. The “Pogor Attic” Galleries host literary and artistic events. The “Street Delivery” Festival in June has a big success among young people, who simply fill up the yard. Also, FILIT, the International Literature and Translations Festival, each year, in October, reunites at Pogor House famous writers and international audience. In the yard, there is also an annex, inaugurated in 1994, which protects the entrance in the catacombs of Pogor house and where recently a coquettish restaurant has opened.

Strada Vasile Pogor nr. 4, Iași 700110
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Photo by Iulian Aruxandei

Dosoftei House marks the first pages in the history of Romanian literature. The house was built in 1677 on the place of the former cemetery St. Nicolae Domnesc Church, after rebuilding the inside wall by voivode Antonie Ruset, still visible in front of today’s Moldova Hotel.

Although the house was probably built by a tradesman, the name is linked to Moldavia’s Metropolitan, Dosoftei Barilă (1624-1693), one of the greatest scholars of Romanian history, who would have lived here for a while. Dosoftei was the first hierarch in Moldavia who translated and versified books of religious interest in Romanian (Psalms), using the ancient printing press in the process of extending the usage of Romanian in religious institutions.

This “Archways House” has a special medieval Byzantine architecture, with massive stone walls, in an almost cubic shape, with the roof easily atilt and narrow eaves specific more likely to a hot climate, like the one in Anatolia. On each of the two floors of the house there are two big rooms. A special note is given by the small and rectangular windows and the porch facing the boulevard, with archways leaning on six massive columns. The building’s architectural style reminds us of the shops destined for commerce, such as the ones in the fairs and bazaars in the former Ottoman Empire. In the porch, the merchandise for sale was exhibited, while the rooms were used as storage spaces. This is the only remained building of the ones existing long ago in the trade quarter of St. Friday, which occupied the entire area from the Palace to the Central Market.

In 1970 the Old Literature Section of the Romanian Literature Museum was opened here, being considered a representative place of value preservation. Near the building, Dosoftei’s bronze statue (1975), made by the Iași sculptor Iftimie Bârleanu, is proof of the scholar’s involvement in the evolution of Romanian literature.

As a visitor, you could rebuild the route of Old Romanian literature development in Iași, beginning with some of the oldest books printed in Romanian. Among the unique exhibits there are a Missal, considered to be the first printing on Romanian territory and The Apostle, the oldest dated Romanian manuscript and the Sermon of metropolitan Varlaam, the first Romanian printing, written in Moldavia. To these are added also a copy of The Chronicle of the land of Moldavia by Grigore Ureche, as well as a printing press model from the time of metropolitan Dosoftei.

Dosoftei House, along with the House of Deacon Creangă from Golia Monastery, is among the oldest civil buildings preserved in Iași and marks an important stage in the city’s history.

Visiting hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00-17:00

Strada Anastasie Panu 54, Iași 700259
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Photo by Axinte

Landmarks, Museums
The little house from Țicău quarter or “the hovel” hosted Ion Creangă since the summer of 1872 until his death in 1889.

He had been unfrocked and then had to leave his dwelling inside Golia Monastery. The hovel had a porch towards west, where there was also the entrance door, and a veranda, that being a popular loggia, with a wide opening towards Ciric and Șorogari hills, towards the east. The writer moved here, in the room on the right, having as neighbour in the other room, Ecaterina (Tinca) Vartic, the one who was taking care of Creangă. As sign of gratitude for her dedication, Ion Creangă bought the dwelling on her name in 1879.

In 1876, for half a year, his good friend and literary brother, poet Mihai Eminescu, lived here, period reminded with pleasure by both writers. A few months after the death of Creangă, Tinca got married, abandoning the hovel. After her death, Constantin Creangă, the writer’s son, along with a group of friends and admirers, bought back the property in order to rehabilitate it and renovate it.

Ion Creangă arranged the place after the model of his parents’ house from Humulești, with rustic furniture, with wooden or ceramic vessels, realising an intended imitation of his childhood house. The stove fireplace, the oven, the sarmale pots, the round wooden table with three legs, the clay floor full of cats, represented familiar coordinates for the clever story teller in the not always friendly city. Creangă rather slept outside, in the hovel’s porch, from spring to autumn. The work room exhibits the desk, with manuscripts of writer, the lamp, the pen, the inkpot, the sand box, the chest of drawers which reminds of the one of Eminescu and many other original objects. All the stories and the renowned “Recollections from Childhood” were written at the hovel.

On the 15th of April 1918, the “Ion Creangă” Hovel in Țicău was placed on a public tour, thus becoming the first memorial museum in Romania. Throughout time, Ion Creangă’s hovel became the most visited museum in Iași, with over 100 000 visitors per year. This offers a live and fascinating incursion in the universe of life and work of the original Moldavian writer. In 1968, in the yard of the Hovel, the granite bust of Ion Creangă was installed, made by sculptor Iftimie Bârleanu. The building in the yard with the documentary exhibition “The Life and Work of Creangă”, the library and the documentary fund founded on the 15th of April 1918, as well as the open amphitheatre (project made by the Iași architect Virgiliu Onofrei) were built during 1984-1989 and inaugurated on the 11th of June 1989.

Strada Simion Bărnuţiu nr. 4, Iași 700118
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A premiere for Iași in the field of art is also represented by the construction of the first museum of art in the country, in 1860, hosted in this palace since 1957. Initially “The Picture Gallery” – like the Museum of Art of Iași was called, was hosted by the Old University and started with only 12 paintings bought from Paris by the forty-eighter revolutionary Scarlat Vârnav. The initiative was liked by Iași intellectuals who donated paintings from their own collections, such as the 39 paintings donated by Costache Negri. Developed throughout the years, the museum’s collection comprises about 10 thousand paintings, sculptures and graphic works. Among the famous paintings of Romanian painters, are the ones signed by Nicolae Grigorescu, Octav Băncilă, Theodor Pallady  or Nicolae Tonitza.

The popular art is celebrated through the Ethnographic Museum of Moldavia. Founded in 1943, the museum has nowadays exhibits which cover the entire area of historical Moldavia. The items reflect, thematically, the life style and rituals, such as marriage, ancient occupations, traditional architecture and social organization this area. Traditional clothes are one of the main point of attraction of the Museum, here being illustrated specific Moldavian motifs, which began to be used more and more in current outfits.

The “Ștefan Procopiu” Museum of Science and Technique brings in front the unique collection of musical machines in the section of “Sound recording and rendition”. These exhibits are valued with the occasion of the International Festival of Mechanical Music, when tens of organ grinders from all over the world come to fill the city streets with their music. The museum also has photo cameras, calculus and writing machines, meteorology or telecommunication instruments.

Palace of Culture, Piața Palat 1, Iași 700259
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Architecture, Museums
Located on Titu Maiorescu Street in Copou, the museum has been functioning since 2011 as a department of “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University. It is situated in a building from 1911, which belonged to the neurosurgeon Scarlat Panaitescu and afterwards to the neurosurgeon Nicolae Oblu. The house is built in Neo-Romanian style with Art Nouveau elements.

The Museum of the University represents the continuation of two museum traditions, the Museum of Antiquities, founded in 1916 at the initiative of professor Orest Tafrali and the Academic Museum, initially founded in the Rector`s Office from the University Palace on the celebration of 125 years from the founding on the first modern University in the country. The exposed materials from the Museum of Antiquities were the result of archaeological excavations from the area of the Neolithic Cucuteni culture and of the Greek fortresses from the Black Sea, becoming afterwards part of the Museum of Moldavian History. The current university museum combines the two collections and has an archaeological section – the “Cucuteni” Civilization Museum (ground floor) and an academic one – the Academic Museum (first floor).

The “Cucuteni” Civilization Museum comprises some of the most valuable items obtained after archaeological research and exhibits from the Collection of the “Cucuteni for the millennium 3” Foundation. This civilisation is one of the oldest in Europe (5200 – 3500 B.C.) partially covering the territory of Romania, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Thematically arranged in a modern manner, the museum shows the visitors scenes of the daily life of the ancient civilization, with the help of original items, as well as with a wide audio-video reconstitution of the archaeological research process. The famous “Cucuteni” ceramic vases with spiral motifs, painted in red, black and white can be admired here, along with weapons, tools, cult objects and very valuable jewellery. In the obscure room, called the Thesaurus Hall, the mystical atmosphere made by the female figure thesaurus, is amplified by the ceiling which reproduces the starry sky and the tribal music background.

The Academic Museum presents the various historical steps of the superior education in Iași. Unique exhibits reconstitute the evolution of the institution and the academic disciplines, and the visitors can admire the University`s symbols from the first rector`s office, the flags of the first faculties, paintings of personalities, official documents, photographs, tools and medals.

Along the patrimony mission, the museum functions as promoting space for university exchanges and organizing of scientific events and temporary exhibitions in the building`s attic. The free tours in Romanian, English and French are offered in an attractive manner by the gifted students and graduates of the Faculty of History.

Visiting hours:

TUESDAY – FRIDAY: 09:00-16:00
SATURDAY – SUNDAY: 10:00-15:00

Cucuteni – ancient European civilization

The culture takes its name from the village near Târgu Frumos (Iași county), where Teodor Burada discovered the first vestiges in 1884. Cucuteni – Tripolie is one of oldest European civilizations (5200-3500 B.C.) which covers 385.000 km² in the NE of Romania, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Specific for this culture are the vases with a refined painting, having three different phases – Precucuteni (carved geometrical models), Cucuteni A (spiral painted models), Cucuteni B (integrating of anthropo /zoo-morphic models, with a cosmologic role, along with geometrical models). The civilisation is covered in a true mystery because the Cucuteni people used to set on fire their houses regularly, a ritual with many possible explanations.

Strada Titu Maiorescu 12, Iași 700460
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Photo by Muzeul Memorial "Mihail Kogălniceanu" - Facebook

Architecture, Museums
The “Mihail Kogălniceanu” Memorial Museum illustrates a fragment of the glorious past of the Romanian people.

In this house, the politician Mihail Kogălniceanu (1817-1891) was born and lived along with his family. The building was constructed in 1807 and rebuilt in 1888 by the architect Carol von Kugler. The house hosted important people such as Costache Negri, Vasile Alecsandri, Alecu Russo, but also the Princes of Moldavia, Mihail Sturdza and Grigore Alexandru Ghica. This is also the place where prince Charles I was hosted in April 1869, on his fifth visit to Iași. During the First World War, it was the headquarters of the Martial Court and after that, of the Society for Protection of War Orphans. It suffered great damages during the bombings in 1944 and was rehabilitated after the war through the efforts of professor Gheorghe Băileanu, becoming a students’ hostel of the Faculty of Medicine. In 1970, the building becomes part of the patrimony of the Museum of Moldavian History and turns into a memorial museum.

A remarkable historian, journalist, writer, lawyer, diplomat and politician, Mihail Kogălniceanu was born in Iași in 1817, being educated at the Three Hierarchs School, at Cuénim`s boarding school in Miroslava and at Lunéville, France. He had university studies in Berlin, where he promoted Romanian identity (instead of Moldavian or Muntenian identity), playing an important role in popularizing this name before the Union. When he returned to Iași, Kogălniceanu founded the “Dacia literară” magazine and was director of the National Theatre (1840). During the 1848 Revolution he manifested for civil and political rights and for the abolition of boyar privileges. He was the most important supporter of the Union and collaborator of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza. He became prime-minister of Romania during the Union period, when he sustained the secularization measures of monastery wealth and the agrarian reform. On the 9th of May 1877, during the reign of Charles I, Kogălniceanu read in Parliament the “Proclamation of Independence of Romania” towards the Ottoman Empire.

The Neoclassical architecture of the building is emphasized through the entrance porch with four Tuscan columns. The coquettish rooms reconstitute the elegant air of boyar houses from the half of the 19th century, with Oriental furniture or specific to the styles Louis XV and Louis XVI, Sèvres porcelain, silver objects with monograms and Biedermeier furniture. In the museum, there is the first holographic projection in a Romanian memorial museum, through which Mihail Kogălniceanu, interpreted by the actor Nicolae Ursu, welcomes his guests.

Visiting hours:
TUESDAY – SATURDAY, 10:00-17:00

Kogălniceanu and Cuza – Artisans of the Union and Romania

Mihail Kogălniceanu has unceasingly sustained the ideal of a Union between the two Romanian Principalities from 1837, when he wrote “The History of Romanian Countries”. As member of the Ad hoc Divan of Moldavia, he firmly promoted the unionist cause, stating that “the greatest desire […], that will be the happiness of future generations is the Union of Principalities into one state”. The election of Cuza was made in extremis, after ruining the plans of the anti-unionist party, very powerful in Iași. The agrarian reform, radical for those times, refers to abolition of chores, elimination of boyar privileges and the allotment of peasants. This was adopted in 1864, but was paid with the price Cuza`s reign.

Strada Mihail Kogălniceanu nr. 11, Iași 700454
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The Museum of Natural History is the oldest museum of its kind in the country. The building was called “Roset House” or “Sturza House”.

It was also called “The Elephant`s Museum”, due to the impressive Indian elephant on display on the first floor. The Museum of Natural History was founded in February 1834, half a year before the Antipa Museum in Bucharest, by the doctors Mihai Zotta and Iacob Cihac. They founded the Doctors and Naturalists Society in Iași, the first scientific society of its type in the Romanian Principalities. The museum was hosted in several buildings in the city: the house of Alecu Balș, in the Mihăileană Academy and since 1841, in the current building. The house was bought by the Doctors and Naturalists Society in 1844 from Agripina Sturza, who received it as dowry from her father, Vasile Roset. Apparently, the edifice was built in 1811 on the place of an older house which belonged to the chronicler Ion Neculce.

The building is famous due to “The Elephant`s Cabinet” and Cuza`s Hall. Here, in the evening of January 3rd 1859, the National Party decided, after stormy discussions, to propose and support Alexandru Ioan Cuza as Prince of Moldavia. His double election in Bucharest led to the Unification of the Romanian Principalities and to the founding of the modern Romanian state. The museum owned valuable objects belonging to the prince, nowadays exposed in the hall bearing his name.

The oldest and most famous exhibit from the museum`s collection is the Gaba elephant which made the museum famous. The mammal`s skeleton was bought from the circus for 135 gold coins by Mihail Sturdza, the Prince of Moldavia. The legend says that the elephant`s skin was once stolen and used as a roof for one of the houses in the city`s slum.

The museum building distinguishes itself through the Neoclassic façade. The museum is one of the few architectural monuments of Iași with a dome on arches structure on the ground floor. In 1873, the second botanical garden of the city was arranged in its yard. The plants and seeds were donated by Anastasie Fătu himself, who founded in 1856 the first botanical garden in the Romanian Principalities, a few hundred meters away. From that garden only a few secular trees remain, and are declared Monuments of Nature.

Until 2013, when it was closed for restoration, the museum was highly appreciated, especially by children. The insects, fish, birds and mammal collections, as well as minerals or nests and eggs counted over 350.000 items, being one of the richest collections in Romania. Moreover, there were itinerant exhibitions of minerals, reptiles or prehistoric creatures.

Radu Rosetti – Stories about Cuza`s election in Iași

The memorialist and historian Radu Rosetti tells us in the second volume of “Recollections” about the tense moments which led to the Union of Principalities in 1859. These happened in a hostile international context, when Austria, Russia and the Ottoman Empire were against the Union and there was a powerful anti-Union movement in Moldavia. His uncle, Lascăr Rosetti, present at the meeting in the night of January 3rd 1859, in the “Elephant`s Cabinet” from the current Museum of Natural History, locked the door, saying that no deputy would exit the room until they decide who to propose as candidate for the throne of Moldavia. After long and tense debates, the deputies voted unanimously for Cuza`s candidacy.

Bulevardul Independenței nr. 16, Iași 700098
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The Palace of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, symbol of the city, was witness to the Union of the Principalities, being named “Museum of the Union” in 1959, on the centenary of Romania’s birth.

It was built in 1806 by Constantin Catargi. After 1827, C. Paladi lived there, candidate to the throne and the first commander of the Earthly Militia (National Army), founded in 1830. The building became the residence of Mihalache Cantacuzino-Pașcanu and hosted the meeting of the unionists (Vasile Alecsandri, Costache Negri, Mihail Kogălniceanu) since the time of Prince Grigore Al.Ghica Vodă. In 1856, the founding act of the Union Committee was signed here. As an irony, in the building across the street, now hosting the U.A.P.R. art galleries, the most important anti-unionists were frequently meeting: Nicolae Istrati, Gheorghe Asachi and Costache Negruzzi, who were fervently sustaining that moving the capital to Bucharest will mean the city’s decline, the isolation and poverty of Moldavia.

For three years (1859-1862) the palace became the residence of the first prince of the United Principalities, Alexandru Ioan Cuza. Cuza signed here the famous declaration through which the permanent Union of Principalities was proclaimed, on the 11th of December 1861, after the approval of the Ottoman Empire.

After the permanent move of the capital to Bucharest in 1862, the palace served as residence for its rightful owner, Ecaterina Ghica. In 1886, the building was sold to the Urban Credit Society in Iași and the ground floor rooms became elegant shops. During the First World War, the palace was the residence of King Ferdinand I and in 1937 the Museum “Cuza-Vodă Palace” was founded on the first floor, at the initiative of the historian Nicolae Iorga.

The building follows the lines of the Neoclassical style. On the façade modified in 1872 we can see the monogram of Ecaterina Ghica in the balcony’s fittings and the coat of arms of the Ghica-Comănești family on the gable. The massive telamons which are metaphorically holding on their shoulders the weight of the sky have inspired the great poet Mihai Eminescu to state that “when I see them, I feel how history of the Romanian people is crushing me”. The interior is decorated with Renaissance and Baroque elements, the central hallway has gilded decorations and the arcades of doors are adorned with acanthus leaves.

The ground floor shows various aspects of the Union epoch (the double election, partizans of the Union, reforming politics) and the palace’s history, and it hosts numerous cultural events. In the hallway, the painting “Hora Unirii” by Constache Agafiței illustrates the events of January 1859 which took place in front of the former Bacalu’s Inn in the current Union Square. The first floor is dedicated to the princely apartments – the working offices of the Prince and the Lady Elena Cuza, the living room, the hall, the billiard room, the Lady’s salon and the bedroom.

Visiting hours:
TUESDAY – SUNDAY: 10:00 – 17:00

Elena Cuza – the Great Lady of Romania

Elena Rosetti (born in 1825 in Solești, Vaslui) receives a special education since childhood, which ensures her place in the high society of Moldavia’s capital. In 1844, she meets Alexandru Ioan Cuza in Iași and dedicates herself entirely to the marriage. Being an introvert, living besides a harsh husband, she accepts with great sacrifices the burden of the princely crown and her husband’s infidelities. With love and diplomacy, she supports him in crucial moments such as his arrest during the 1848 Revolution and his crowning as Prince of Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859. With the same motherly dedication, she accepted to raise the two illegitimate sons of the prince and was concerned with the problems of orphans and women.

Strada Alexandru Lăpușneanu nr. 14, Iași 700057
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Photo by Andrei Postolache

Architecture, Museums
The main attraction and the absolute symbol of Iași, the Palace of Culture represents an emblematic museum of Romania and the headquarters of the National Museum Complex of Moldavia.

The monumental edifice imposes through its height (the 55m tower), surface (268 rooms with a total surface of 35.000 m2) and its privileged position on a promontory of the “Golden Plateau”, the terrace from above the Bahlui river which offers the best visibility.

The current shape of the building is the result of the remake, between 1906 and 1925, of the former residence of Moldavia’s Princes, situated inside the old Princely Court of Iași. The Court was initially erected during the reign of Alexander the Good towards 1400, and documented in 1434. This is where the capital of Moldavia was moved in 1564, during the time of Voivode Alexandru Lăpușneanu, followed by a long consolidation process. On the 27th of May 1600, in the same place, Michael the Brave proclaimed himself “Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania and Moldavia”, a title that no other voivode has had before. The Iași Union of Romanian Principalities for almost a year, later strengthened the ideals of union of Romanians everywhere.

During the first centuries of existence, the Princely Court looked like a fortress, with defence walls, bastions and entrance tower, but the fortifications were removed at the order of the Ottoman Empire. A remodeling takes place under the reign of Vasile Lupu (1634-1653). After some fires and the devastating earthquake in 1802 (7.9 Richter), which destroyed a big part of the constructions, the Prince of Moldavia Alexandru Moruzi builds an imposing Princely Palace (1806-1812) designed by the architect Johan Freywald, similar to Viennese palaces. It is said that it had 365 rooms, one for each day of the year. After a fire, between 1841-1843, Prince Mihail Sturdza ordered the reconstruction of the edifice under the name “The Palace of Reign”. After the 1848 Revolution, Iași was the cradle of Romanian intellectuals’ effort of accomplishing the ideal of Union: “Hey, Wallachian, hey, neighbour, come join me” (“Hora Unirii”, Vasile Alecsandri, 1856). In the Hall of the Elective Assembly in the Palace (situated then above the entrance hallway) the election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza as Prince of Moldavia was confirmed on the January 5th 1859 and the mission of accomplishing the Union was given to him. Cuza’s investiture firman was read here on the 21st of September 1859 by the Turkish colonel Samih-bei. After the decision of moving the capital to Bucharest (1862), the building loses a part of its roles and after the 1880 fire, the palace receives a Neoclassical aspect of French inspiration. In 1883, in front of the Palace, the equestrian statue of Voivode Stephen the Great was erected, with bas-reliefs representing the battle of Moldavia with Poland and with the Ottoman Empire, work of the French sculptor Emmanuel Fremiet. The promise of King Charles I to offer Iasi a true symbol led to the redesign of the edifice in 1906 by the architect Ion D. Berindei, in a Flamboyant Neogothic architectural style, changing its destination into a Palace of Justice and Administration. The inauguration took place on the 11th of October 1925, in the presence of King Ferdinand I and Queen Mary. During the Second World War, it served as barracks of German and then Russian troops and field hospital. Begining with 1955, the edifice received the name “Palace of Culture”, hosting the Museum of History of Moldavia and the Museum Complex.

The building reflects the spirit of ducal palaces in Western Europe, with triumphal hallways decorated with pavement mosaics, very large halls and a rich wall heraldic decoration. In the arrangement of some rooms, ultramodern technologies were used (ventilation system, lighting, vacuum cleaner, clocks synchronized with the one in the tower, etc.) or, as a first, the usage of bois-ciment (“wood-cement”), a decorative material from a mixture of cement and resin, boiled in oil, imitating oak wood, invention of the famous engineer Henri Coandă.

The Palace of Culture shelters four museums of national importance: The Museum of History of Moldavia, The Museum of Art, The Ethnographic Museum and The “Stefan Procopiu” Museum of Science and Technique.

The Union Route proposes an incursion in the Museum of History of Moldavia (left wing, ground floor) which approaches the evolution of the Iași Princely Court, the Iași society in 1900 and its role as Palace of Justice during the interwar period. The testimony of the existence of the Princely Court is present in the medieval foundations visible through glass floors or in the exhibits which approach the evolution of military organization of the capital of Moldavia. The society of Iasi of the 19th century is illustrated through fashionable activities – theatre, photography and sports bets. The role of Palace of Justice is present in the typical Court room or in the former Jury Court in the Henri Coandă Hall. The most impressive room in the Palace is the Voivodes Hall (first floor), a festivity hall with a Gothic arch ceiling, with the portrait gallery of the rulers of Moldavia’s lands, from Decebal to Charles II (Carol II), on a Prussian blue background, and with a superb fireplace symbolically decorated with the genealogic tree of Moldavia’s rulers. The clock tower has the carillon horologe – a drum with pins which operates eight bells. These bells play “Hora Unirii” (composed by the Iasi composer of German origins Alexander Flechtenmacher) at each precise hour, symbol of the essential role that Iași had in the birth of modern Romania. Fifteen minutes before the precise hour, tours are organised in the palace’s attic and tower in order to observe the clock’s mechanism, to experience the vibration of the bells and to admire the superb view over the Old Centre of the city.

The Princely Court ruins (still in arrangement), the effigy of the Rosetti family, from the current Roznovanu Palace and the two cannons (trophies from the Independence War in 1877) harmoniously complete the Palace Square.

Visiting hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00-17:00

Michael the Brave – The first Union in Iasi

The Prince of Wallachia, Michael the Brave (1558-1601) rose over the Ottoman, Habsburg and Polish domination in the Romanian Principalities. After his successful military campaigns in 1599, he defeated the Prince of Transylvania, Andrei Bathory, and in 1600 he chased away Ieremia Movilă, Prince of Moldavia. On the 27th of May 1600, through a charter issued in the Princely Court in Iași, Michael the Brave declared himself “Prince of Wallachia and Transylvania and Moldavia” and manufactured a seal on which all three coat of arms of the Romanian Principalities appeared. Unfortunately he was assassinated a year later in Turda, in August 1601, by the mercenaries of the Habsburg imperial general, Giorgio Basta. During the First World War, the prince’s head, placed at Dealu Monastery in the occupied Muntenia, was brought to the Metropolitan Cathedral in Iași.

Palace of Culture, Piața Palat 1, Iași 700259
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