The History of Dracula’s Castle

Everyone knows something about Dracula, the famous character from Bram Stocker’s book that had such a great resonance. What not everyone knows is that Bran Castle is the place that inspired the writer. The truth is that Bram Stocker had never been to Romania, and he built the entire story by inspiring from books and pictures that described Vlad III Dracul, (c. 1431 - 1476), and the Bran Castles’ stories. His character is built following the stories about Vlad Tepes and his cruelty.

Bran Castle was first mentioned in documents in 1377 when it was built by the Saxons of Kronstadt at their own expense and labor force. But this beautiful medieval castle is older than that. Initially, it was built as a wooden castle guarding an important mountain pass by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, when King Andrew II of Hungary invited them into the small but strategically sensitive Burzenland in return for guarding the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Kipchak-Cuman confederation.

The Teutonic Knights had quite a different point of view and planned to establish their own, independent state in the area. King Andrew II, (1175 - 1235, king of Hungary from 1205 until his death), quickly realized what was going on, and in 1225 he expelled the Teutonic Order from his realm, before it managed to grow powerful enough to oppose him. In this tim, this wooden fortified settlement was called Dietrichstein, and it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242 during the Mongol Invasion.

As time passed, and military conflicts intensified, the castle was heavily fortified and was used over the ages as a defensive position against the invading Ottoman Empire. Despite popular belief, Vlad III Dracul had little to do with the castle, although he passed through the area occasionally. In fact, it has never been the property of Wallachian prince. He may have stayed at Bran for a few days (not even that is so certain, though), but it was definitely not his castle.

Besides playing an important military role, Bran Castle also had a commercial purpose. Being placed at the border of two important regions, it provided safe passage from one location to another, thus improving the relations and economic development of both Wallachia and Transylvania. Bran remained a key military strategic position at the crossroads of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Principality of Moldavia and the Principality of Wallachia up until the 18th century.

In 1917, the town of Brasov donated the castle to the Emperor of Austro-Hungary, Franz Joseph I, (1830 - 1916). After the end of World War I, the castle has been donated once again by the city of Brasov, but this time to Queen Mary Of Romania (1875 - 1938; Marie of Edinburgh). After her death, the castle passed to Princess Ileana's property, (1909 -1991), Queen Mary's daughter, and the archduke Anton of Habsburg's wife, (1901 - 1987).

After the forced abdication of Romania's Royal Family in 1947, the castle passed into Romanian state property, and in 1950 was granted as National Monument. In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as Bran, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, (born in 1937), the son and heir of Princess Ileana. Nowadays, it is a museum.

The castle has 57 rooms and a secret passageway leading up to the watch towers. It is situated on a cliff at an elevation of 762 meters (2500 feet), and is surrounded by valleys and hills. Much of the furniture and the artwork that hangs from the castle’s walls today belonged to the Queen Marie.

Photo: The Bran Castle, situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov in Romania.

http://www.bran-castle.com/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Bran_Castle
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