At the beginning of 1730, on the land where Mântuleasa Street is today, there was the property of a certain Mantu Cupeţul, a merchant well-thought-of and man of means.
As the rotive on the church porch states (this was actually the enigma that drew our attention upon the Mântuleasa story in the first place), two women, Maria and Stanca, sister and wife to Manta Cupeţul, a local magnate (in the documents at the National Archives he is both called „merchant”, in the city and „boyar”, at Cernăteşti, where his vineyards and lands are) built the church „from its very foundation”, so that themselves and all their dead relatives be redeemed and entitled to a place in God’s Kingdom. The church building is finished at 25 September 1733 (Giurescu, C. , 102) and consecrated one year later, in 1734, a beautiful monument of the XVIIIth century, presenting some unique elements among the Valachian sacred places.
Concerning what lied there where today is Mântuleasa Church we discover in Ionnescu Gion’s history of Bucharest. The anecdote is illustrative for the way an urban mythology may be born: before 1732, when they began the building of the church, on this land there was the house holding of the Manta family (there was actually Stanca’s dot, in land and outbuildings). There was also a large orchard, circled with a cane fence. As there were many aggressive unleashed dogs in the neighbourhood, people used to break a cane from the fence, in order to fight them. Thus a new anecdote was born, together with a syntagm which has circulated for one more century in this part of Bucharest, until people began to forget whom it spoke of: „to break from Mântuleasa’s fence” (meaning to take from where was nothing left anyway) and „Mântuleasa’s fence”, as a border between a safe space and a dangerous one. The land is also mentioned as belonging to „Hadji Manta” (hadji has its etymological roots in a Greek Term, agios, meaning a sacred man), which reveals another important piece of information: Manta Cupețul had made the pilgrimage to a sacred place, such as Mount Sinai, the monasteries in Thessalia, Jerusalem or Athos Mountain. For historians, Mântuleasa name seems to refer to Manta’s wife, Stanca, esepecially because the land in question was part of her dot; the neighbourhood and the church name is given by „the widow of Manta Cupețul” (Ionnescu Gion, 200).
At a deeper level of understanding, and beyond the comical aspects of the episode, the phrase reveals a mere dramatic facet of things: Stanca’s position among her contemporaries, especially in the small community she is part of, is not comfortable at all. Immediately after Manta’s death, Stanca’s social status is changed: once a widow, she becomes completely vulnerable, having to face everybody all by herself – relatives (especially her husband’s), neighbours, servants on her husband’s lands and even authorities, which are all interested in gaining as much as possible from her new belongings, as a widow . Thus, the gesture of taking a cane from the fence holds a particular meaning, a deeper symbolical one, revealing hidden truths related to Stanca’s new status within the community: the fact that the protagonist of the anecdote is Stanca, and not her husband, is a proof that he had already died and all is now a matter of a deterioration of her proprietary status. The building of the fence clearly represents the intention of protecting her belongings and claim her rights / especially if we think that there were few fences in Bucharest at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, and they were precarious improvisations made of cane.
Mântuleasa Church enlists in a typology specific to Walachia presenting some unique elements within the territory of Romania. The mural painting within the porch representing the Parousia includes an interesting depiction of a bestiary reuniting fabulous and real animals as well as a bizarre anthropomorphical figure which might be related to Hades or some other chtonian being. There is, as well, a certain element which holds our attention – in the River of Fire where the sinners categories are depicted we may find the unique category of those who listen at others windows. It is the only representation of the sin of defamation we know, an illustration of an apocryphal legend (a translation from Slavonic, of Grigore din Mahaci, dated 1580) referring to the women that “listen at other people’s doors” and are punished to remain hanging by the ears for eternity, at the bottom of Hell.