Brief History of the Archdiocese of Craiova

Since 1750, the idea of setting up a hierarchical seat in Craiova became more and more prominent. At the request of Bishop Grigore Socoteanu (1748-1764), ruler Gregory II Ghica (1733-1735 and 1748-1752), wanting to have a hierarch in Craiova, signed on May 3rd, 1750 a royal book, giving to the Episcopate of Ramnic “the houses of Craiova’s Bans”, “close to the stone church, where it is celebrated and honoured the feast of the great martyr Dimitrius, since the diocese did not have houses in Craiova and his Holiness since he used to be so often in Craiova, it will be for a better order to the soulful use of the inhabitants of those counties … since in Craiova, there is a royal chair, because of the countless number of trials and when many times decision often has to be taken based on ecclesiastical judgment … I have given these houses … in a yard where there is also that stone church of St. Demetrius, which from this moment on is to be called the Episcopate of Craiova” (Toma G. BULAT, Documentary Contributions to the history of Oltenia (XVI-XVII and XVIII centuries), Ramnicu Valcea, 1925, p. 88; Alexandru V. VASILESCU, Ownership Documents of Ramnic Episcopate over  Craiova Bans’ Houses, in the “Archives of Oltenia”, VI (1927), 29-30, p. 47). Also, Gregory II Ghica’s successor, Constantin Mihai Racovita (1753-1756 and 1763-1764) reinforces this 1750 royal decision, by a new act of office, dated November 8th, 1753: “For this city is a ruling and political seat greater than those of other cities, which has always been special compared to other gatherings of great boyars and merchants … it is also a great ban, a churchwarden and caregiver as a substitute of my ruling over the five Olt counties, and it is right for his Holiness to have a dwelling there in Craiova … since it is in the middle of that diocese … let Craiova be as an Episcopate” (Toma G. BULAT, Documentary contributions to the history of Oltenia (XVI-XVII and XVIII centuries), p. 92, Alexandru V. VASILESCU, Ownership Documents of Ramnic Episcopate over  Craiova Bans’ Houses, p. 49).

After April 7th, 1847, all Ecclesiastical administrative staff of Ramnic were to move to Craiova. The cause was a devastating fire which burnt down more than half of the city of Ramnicu-Valcea. Therefore, all Ecclesial administration moves to Craiova, into the houses of Ganescu succursal monastery (and the seminary in the cells of Bucovatul Nou monastery; from 1851 in the houses of cavalry commander Alecu Dârzeanu). In 1848 the revolutionaries who had been the authors of Islaz proclamation would ask, among other things, for the establishment of a metropolitan church in Oltenia. In 1850, elected as Bishop of Ramnic, after a ten-year absence in the archbishop’s seat, is appointed Saint Calinic of Cernica. And the new hierarch choses Craiova, too as his residence, in the same houses of Ganescu succursal monastery, especially since the ruler Barbu Ştirbei (1849-1853 and 1854-1856) wanted to permanently establish the royal seat in Craiova. Due to a lot of toil, some of the buildings necessary for a proper functioning of the Episcopate are built “as brand new ones” by Calinic. In December 1854, however, these were under the control of the Austrian armies (who had participated in the Crimean War). Under these circumstances, Saint Calinic moved, in 1856, the residence from Craiova to Ramnic. Timothy Evdoxiados, a bishop is to remain in the Bans’ Citadel, who is to take care of the believers in these areas until his passing to the eternal ones, on June 26th, 1876 (buried in the Sineasca cemetery). Meanwhile, Craiova Houses of the Episcopate were now lived by the Court. Over time, the need to set up a hierarchy seat in Craiova became increasingly obvious. At the urge of Bishop Atanasie Stoenescu of Ramnic (1873-1880), historian V.A. Urechia drew up and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, in 1880, a bill by which the Metropolitan of Ungrovlahia was to become a Patriarchate, and Ramnic Episcopal See moved to Craiova to become a Metropolitan. After the death of Bishop Athanasios, the project was abandoned.

The first official document asking for the establishment of the Metropolitan of Oltenia was the Report of the President of the Council of Ministers, Constantin Argetoianu, submitted for approval to the ministers in the cabinet (we should mention the fact that that Nicolae Zigre was the Minister of Cults and Arts and Ion Marin Sadoveanu was state secretary within the same ministry.

As a result of this report, King Carol II signed, on November 7th, 1939, the decree-law no. 3.997, which stated the establishment of the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia, Ramnic and Severin (it was called like this in order to remind as much as possible and keep a vivid memory of both the Metropolitan of Severin and Ramnic Episcopate), as a replacement of the old Diocese of Ramnicul Noului Severin,which had been eliminated on the same day. The new hierarchical institution’s residence was established in Craiova (the Church of St. Demetrius was set up as a cathedral). The new Metropolitan Church consisted of the following dioceses: the diocese of Craiova (which was founded at the same time) and the Episcopacy of Arges. The priests and believers of the five counties of Oltenia (Valcea, Romanati, Dolj, Gorj and Mehedinti were under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Craiova.) The same royal decree stated that the Archbishop of Craiova was also the metropolitan of Oltenia, Ramnic and Severin. The new Metropolitan was also to have a vicar archbishop called Ramniceanul. All Ramnic Episcopacy’s wealth was to be transferred to the “use” of the new Metropolitan, and all administrative staff were to move from Ramnic to Craiova. It was also stated the fact that the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church was to appoint a deputy archbishop up to the moment when a new archbishop was officially elected and assigned.

Patriarch Nicodim appointed “His Grace Irineu Mihalcescu-Ramniceanu, bishop “as a deputy archbishop of Craiova (appointed on November 12th, 1939). The absence of an archbishop’s seat was shortened because on November 29th-30th, same year, the National Church Congress (also convened for the election of a new metropolitan of Moldova, as a replacement of Nicodim Munteanu, who had been chosen as a Patriarch) had elected Nifon Criveanu, the bishop of Husi as an Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia,.

On April 20th, 1945, the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia ceased its existence, because of a “special” law of the new government, at the same time with the re-establishment of the Ramnic Episcopate; Metropolitan Nifon was forced both to live in Bucharest and to retire, although he was barely 56 years old. He died on June 14th, 1970; he was buried at Cernica monastery, where he lived his last life years.

On June 18th, 1947, the Diocese of Craiova, under the care of the Metropolitan of Ungrovlahia is again set up and its influence extended over the counties of Dolj, Gorj and Mehedinti; its cathedral was still St. Demetrius Church of Craiova.

On November 20th, 1947, “in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, members of the Government and all the members of the National Church Congress”, Firmilian Marin was elected archbishop of the newly established Diocese of Craiova,.

On January 28th, 1973, and enthroned on February 25th, the same year, His Eminence Teoctist Arapasu (later patriarch of Romania). He shepherd the Church of Oltenia until September 25th, 1977, when he was elected an Archbishop of Iasi and Metropolitan of Moldova and Suceava (enthroned on October 9th, 1977).

In the spring of 1978, His Eminence Nestor Vornicescu, PhD, (baptized Nicholas) became the shepherd of the Oltenian believers.

On October 3rd, 2000, His Eminence Teofan Savu, PhD, was elected an Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia, enthroned on October 22nd, the same year, (on March 5th, 2008 he was elected as a Metropolitan of Moldova; he was enthroned on 8th June, the same year).

On July 8th, 2008, His Eminence Irineu Popa, PhD (baptized John) was elected an Archbishop of Craiova and Metropolitan of Oltenia.