At the very heart of Bucharest, near Universitatii Square, lies one of the oldest architectural complexes of the city – the Coltea hospital and church. It is guarded by the statue of boyar Mihail Cantacuzino, who in 1704 decided to start the erection of the capital’s first hospital on a piece of land bought from the Coltea family of boyars.
The hospital had 24 beds “for the rest of the debilitated”, a pharmacy, houses for surgeons and a “house for sciences”, with rooms that accommodated those who taught there. The hospital had two wings: “one for the tending of poor men and ill strangers, in total number of twelve, and the other for poor and ill women, also in number of twelve.”
In the middle of the complex Cantacuzino had earlier started work on a monastery, on the location of a small wooden church. The bricked monastery displays construction and decorative elements of the local Brancovenesc architectural style, such as the open porch, which takes the shape of a tri-lobe archway. By 1717, Coltea hospital and the monastery ensemble were surrounded by tall bricked walls.
To finance the hospital, boyar Mihail Cantacuzino founded a brotherhood in 1706, with each member paying 1 leu per year. In exchange, upon their deaths, the monastery was obliged to take care of their funeral services and pray for them.
Patient eligibility was established by Cantacuzino through a set of regulations: it was open to poor people or rich boyars who became poor, both locals and strangers; in the event of their death, they were to be buried within the grounds of the Coltea monastery, with a religious service that showed the same respect as that performed for the rich.
The monastery was in itself a smaller complex, with an inn for travelers and a Romanian and Slavic language school, which was functional until 1867. Partially destroyed by fire, the church was rebuilt in 1739. One can still see traces of the exterior painting in the loggia, dating back to the 18th century.
The hospital’s building was modernized between 1837 and 1842 and extended to 60 beds. A school for surgeons was founded in the same period, the first of its kind in Romania, which was part of the Coltea hospital until 1852.
Today’s building was built between 1867 and 1888 by the Dutch architect Joseph Schiffler.
The hospital has been recently refurbished, following a USD 90 million investment.