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50 lei 2011 - architect Alexandru Bernardazzi - 180 years since birth
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28 mm diameter, 13 g, 99.9% silver, grained edge
year 2011, circular inscription REPUBLICA MOLDOVA meaning "REPUBLIC OF MOLDAVIA" and the coat of arms of the Republic of Moldavia, in exergue horizontal line and denomination "50 LEI"
bust of the architect, an image of the Saint Teodora of Sihla church from Chișinău, inscription ALEXANDRU BERNARDAZZI and years 1831-1907

Issuing date: 3rd of October 2011

Mintage: 500 coins

The coins belongs to the series Personalities.

About Architect Alexandru Iosifovici Bernardazzi

Alexandru Bernardazzi was born at Pyatigorsk, in Caucasus. His father, architect Giovanni Bernardazzi, had emigrated in the Russian Empire from Switzerland, from the Italian speaking canton of Ticino.

Alexandru studied arhictecture at Sankt Petersburg, and in 1850 he settled in Chișinău, having been hired by the Basarabian Commitee of Road Construction. Between 1856 and 1878 he acted as chief architect of the city of Chișinău. In the capital of the gubernia of Basarabia, Bernardazzi constructed a lot of buildings - the City Hall of Chișinău (former city duma), the Water Tower (nowadays the Museum of the city of Chișinău), churches - Saint Theodora from Sihla, Saint Pantaleon, schools and others - around 30 edifices in total. He stayed in Chișinău over to 1883 (when he moved to Odessa) [1]. Bernardazzi fathered many constructions also outside Chișinău. The belfry of the monastery of Noul (New) Neamț is attributed to him; it was finished in 1912, after the architect's death.

About the Coin

The coin features on the reverse the side portrait of architect Alexandru Bernardazzi, inspired by the bas-relief placed in 1983 on the north-eastern wall of the church (restored in 1974). The bas-relief is the work of sculptor Nicolae Gorionyshev (born in 1929), the monument itself being designed by architect Valentin Mednek (1910-1995).

Also on the reverse, a front view of the church "Saint Theodora from Sihla" as seen from north-west appears. The design does not have any real photo of the edifice behind it; a plan from the old times was used instead, drawn in parallel perspective. Most likely the plan was taken from monograph "O corabie a mîntuirii" (2009) ["A Ship of Salvation"] of priest Ioan Ciuntu, [2, p. 22], who reproduced it recently.

In its composition, the Bernardazzi bas-relief incorporates (centrally, under the effigy), since the centennial year, on the 20th of August 1995, a "stone washed by the tears of the saint" Theodora from Sihla, a stone loosened from the walls of the cave where the saint dwelled [2] in the Mountains of Neamț, nowadays lain at the foundation of the Romanian Church in Basarabia.

About the Church "Saint Theodora from Sihla" in Chișinău

In the present it is the cathedral - the most important church - of the Metropolitan of Basarabia, constituent of the Romanian Orthodox Church from as early as 1918 (although, formally, the decision of its founding dates from the 15th of November 1923).

Situated at the heart of the municipium of Chișinău (Pushkin street no. 20), an important monument of history and architecture of the Republic of Moldavia, protected by the state, this church was built in 1895. It served as "chapel" of the girl Gymnasium (highschool "Princess Natalia Dadiani" today), having Alexandru Bernardazzi as architect, the one who borrowed to the city of Chișinău his imaginative, non-conformist, neo-Byzantine style to many landmarks.

The monument is combining the Russian architectural style with the Italian Gothic style and the Arabic style, but also with Moldavian folk motifs, being a good proof of Bernardazzi's will to create the "new". The "chapel" was built at the order of Theodor and Euphrosinia Krupenski.

Between the two world wars the building had the same function, for the Girl High School "Queen Marie", the queen lending her name to the homonymous seminary at the nun monastery of Suruceni.

Even from the debut of the Soviet invasion, the monument was barbarically desecrated, being defiled by a major shift of purpose: from Church to Museum of Atheism. After the liberation of Chișinău in 1941 over to 1944, the divine service was restored but, together with the Bolshevik return in 1944, the desecration continued, as sport center and Museum of Atheism over to the time of the Proclamation of Independence of the Republic of Moldavia in 1992. The architectural value of the monument is the one that saved it from being demolished. Starting with 1994, the divine service and the restoration of the edifice as place of worship was revived. Miraculously, in the garbage thrown in the semibasement the epitaph was found along parts of the chandelier, crosses and flags of the edifice.

Today, the church is restored and repainted, displaying numerous Romanian saints, either by birth or adoption: Stephen the Great and the Holy, Daniil Sihastrul [the Hermit], John the New from Suceava, Saint Paraschiva, Saint Theodora from Sihla, Brâncoveanu Saints and others.

Here met and are meeting each Sunday believers, plain people, writers, artists, among which also the much regreted poet Grigore Vieru is recalled, from 1992 on, when the edifice was transmited by the Ministry of Culture to the parish.

As an important building of the municipium of Chișinău, Orthodox parish and important center of Romanian soul, the church "Saint Theodora from Sihla" has its own anthem, on lyrics by Dorel Țărnă and music of Liviu Știrbu, its own coat of arms and own flag, finalized by artist Vitalie Roșca.

On the coat of arms and the flag, the protector saints of the building and parish are depicted, Saint Theodore Tiro and Saint Theodora from Sihla, and the Christian past, present and future of the our people are entwined.

A real "vessel of salvation for the Romanian people", the church lived and continues to live dire times, right from its rebirth, having been attacked by atheist hatred, rapacity of the Russian Patriarchy (instrumented in Basarabia through the work of Metropolitan Vladimir), but also by the authorities of the Communist Party who would like to see it sunk as soon as possible.

Under the protection of one of the first martyrs of the faith and of the first native, female saint of Moldavia and the Romanians, the church "Saint Theodora from Sihla" splits the waves of time toward the divinity, having the tricolor hoisted on the mast. At the rudder, the parish priest Ioan Ciuntu is steering, a big-hearted man, writer and fighter through speech and writing, tireless labourer for the national cause, helped by many love and passion driven patriots.


1. Ciobanu C., Stăvilă T., Nesterov T. ș.a., Patrimoniul istoric și arhitectural al Republicii Moldova. Site web,, December 2011 (August 2015, dead link).

2. Ciuntu I., O corabie a mîntuirii. Catedrala Sf. Teodor Tiron și Teodora de la Sihla, Chișinău, 2009 (August 2015, dead link).

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