I've been thinking about how buildings tell stories. Like novels, buildings tell stories about who we are, what we value, what time period we live in, and what legacy we hope to leave behind.
This building is Peleș Castle, located in Sinaia, in the Carpathian mountains, in the heart of Transylvania. Carol I, Romania's first king after it gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire, commissioned the palace. It was to be the royal family's summer home, as well as a hunting preserve.
Statue of King Carol I in front of Peleș
The palace was constructed between 1873 and 1914. It was built in a neo-Italian Renaissance style with German Fachwerk facades, and was the first European palace to be powered by electricity, created in its own power plant, and that had central heating.
The 3,200-square-meter, 160-room castle is impressive. Pictured above, the main hall, is beautifully decorated with sculpted wood and stained glass windows, including a stained glass ceiling.
The Castle Room
Ornate wood staircases, doors, and paneling can be found everywhere in the castle. Truly, this home would be a woodworker's dream . . . or nightmare.
One of the best-known rooms is the Great Armory Room, which hosts some of the finest collections of arms and armor in the world. The room contains more than 4,000 pieces of weaponry—mainly from Western and Eastern Europe, but also from other parts of the world. The above damask steel sword caught my attention in particular. It belonged to Gabriel Bathory, Prince of Transylvania from 1608 to 1613, and is embellished with silver, pearls, and rubies.
The Royal Dining Room
The Turkish Room
The Throne Room
Many of the castle's rooms are decorated so that they resemble the styles of various cultures from throughout the world. Due to its remarkable architecture and to the artistic value of its exhibits, the castle is one of the elite monuments in Europe and certainly one of the most remarkable in Romania.
A sitting room
The music room
One could spend hours going over the detail in each of the rooms. The longer you look, the more there is to see. Queen Elisabath used the music room pictured above to host musical evenings. She and Carol only had one daughter, Princess Maria, who died at age 4.
King Carol I's Robe
Queen Elisabeth of Weid's Robe
In a room on the second floor, a glass display housed the king and queen's robes. They were spectacular. There was a magnificent library there, too, though it was too dark to get any good pictures.
The white hall
I loved this table. It had such exquisite marbling and detail. Most of this is much too ornate for my taste, but I could imagine the work that must have gone into this creation and could even see myself putting it in my home.
One of the first "modern" bathrooms
The interior courtyard as you enter and exit the castle
If Peleș was impressive, though, I was equally impressed by the countryside surrounding it. I'll post a few more pics from Sinaia in my next post, but for now, take a look at the woods and trees shown below.
A stream just across the way from the castle.
It strikes me that, no matter how impressive the works of man, they are nothing compared to nature.
So what does Peleș Castle tell us about King Carol I of Romania? Here are a few facts about his life:
He was born on April 20, 1839 at Singmaringen Castle.
His birth name was Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. (Phew! Imagine saying that!)
He had five siblings.
He was a German prince and was elected Domnitor (Prince) of Romania on April 20, 1866 (his 27th birthday) following the overthrow of Alexandru Ioan Cuza of Moldovia.
On June 29, 1866, immediately after Carol I arrived in Bucharest, the Romanian parliament adopted the first Constitution of Romania, one of the most advanced constitutions of its time. This paved the way for Romania's independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Article 82 of the Proclamation of Independence said, "The ruler's powers are hereditary, starting directly from His Majesty, prince Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, on male line through the right of first-born, with the exclusion of women and their issue. His Majesty's descendants will be raised in the Eastern Orthodox Religion." This, then, was the beginning of Eastern Orthodox Christianity's hold on Romania, which still exists today.
Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.
On March 15, 1881, the Constitution was modified to state, among other things, that from then on the head of state would be called king, while the heir would be called royal prince.
On March 26, 1881, Carol I was crowned King.
King Carol I was devoted to his position as Romania's King, but he never forgot his German roots. He was meticulous and tried to impose his style on everyone that surrounded him. This style was very important for the thorough and professional training of a disciplined and successful Romanian army. This army, under his command, gained Romania's independence from both the Turks and the Russians.
King Carol I with Queen Elisabeth of Weid (image from here)
There is much more to be said about King Carol I's reign over Romania. He ruled for 48 year and brought much success and growth to Romania and its economy. Carol I died on October 10, 1914, shortly after the start of WWI.
Without going into a great deal more detail, though, it isn't hard to imagine such a man creating a palace like Peleș. I find it interesting, too, that one of the only castle similar to it in the States (that I can think of), the Biltmore Estate located in Asheville, North Carolina, was created around the same time. The Biltmore Estate was built between 1889 and 1895 and is similar to Peleș in its grandiosity (though I must admit that, between the two, Peleș takes the cake).
I believe this says a lot about what people considered "beautiful" during this time period, and how the definition of beauty can change. It's difficult to imagine a wealthy person building a castle like Peleș now. These days ornate paneling has been exchanged with white-washed walls and sliding barn doors. And who needs a music room or library when you have a big-screen TV?
Sources: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Carol_I_of_Romania, https://www.unofficialroyalty.com/april-20-1839-birth-of-king-carol-i-of-romania/, https://www.historyhit.com/locations/peles-castle/, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g315907-d318367-Reviews-Peles_Castle-Sinaia_Prahova_County_Southern_Romania.html