The Old Court in Bucharest


I will start my story in a simple way and I hope my reader won’t get bored. I’ll just tell you a few things about București (Bucharest), which remains my favorite city.

Many will say it’s an ugly city, very crowded and very loud at times, but I think if you will take a walk and start exploring it, you will find a beautiful town that waits for you to discover. If you like history and old architecture you will probably agree.

First a bit of history about it so you can know what you can expect on this little journey where I try to convince you how nice my city is.

The legend say that the city got its name from a shepherd called Bucur who came in this place and liked it so much that he settled here. We have a little church and a market with that name but we’ll talk about those later.

Another legend that it’s more likely to be based on real facts tells that București was founded by Neagu Voda, the one that founded and ruled Wallachia around 1290. Another legend says that București was founded somewhere in the 14th century by Mircea the Elder, the ruler of Wallachia from 1386 to 1418.

The historical document where the name București appears for the first time is in the year 1459 in a property document during the reign of  Vlad the Impaler, the guy that everyone knows as Dracula. It’s a pity he wasn’t a real vampire because we might have won all the fights against the turks who were always visiting us.

At that time București wasn’t yet the capital of Romania… but then we didn’t have yet what we call today Romania. Back then it was just Wallachia, Moldova and Transilvania, different countries ruled by different rulers. At that time, the capital of Wallachia was Targoviște. Soon București becomes a summer residence of the princely court. During the reign of Radu cel Frumos ( the Handsome ) București becomes the capital of Wallachia.

Between 1459 and 1660 București and Targoviște swapped places as Wallachia’s ruler’s residence. After 1659 București becomes the only capital.

That’s the beginning of București. I will tell you more later. Now, I’ll take you to my first stop, a place full of history, the old Princely Court. It is situated in the old center of București. Probably if you never heard of it you will just walk by without giving it a chance. But if you are in the center near it you should go and take a look.

It is the oldest building in București, probably built but Mircea the Elder and made bigger by other rulers over the time.

Here you can have a look at some pictures of how it looks now, after more than 600 years after it was constructed.

The old Princely Court, that probably dates from the 14th century, was the residence of the wallachian rulers starting around that time. Since then, the court suffered many reconstructions and periods when it was badly damaged.

Over the time, when the rulers rebuilt it, they’ve made it bigger and nicer. This happen mostly when the country was ruled by Laiota Basarab, Mircea Ciobanul ( the Shepard ), Patrascu cel Bun ( the Good ) and Matei Basarab.

In 1660 the ottomans pillaged the palace damaging it badly. We don’t know the exact how it looked prior it’s reconstruction.

Later, in Șerban Cantacuzino’s reign,1678 to 1688, it was added a new building in the north of the palace.

At the beginning of the 18th century, a big fire damaged the court badly and it was partially abandoned.

Șerban Cantacuzino will completely reconstruct the part built by Laiota Basarab.

Another ruler that improved the looks of the palace was Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688 – 1714). During his reign, the court was looking very elegant. He constructed a new princely manor.

The decline of the court came during the phanariot rule. The phanariots were greek guys brought by the turks to rull us, most of them greedy guys. Before them, the court endured the fires from 1718 and 1719, than the Russian-Austro-Turkish war between 1736 and 1739, the earthquakeof 1738, the Russian-Turkish war between 1768 and 1774. To that you can add the lack of interest of the phanariot rullers for the court.

The history of the princely court used as a palace ends with Alexandru Ipsilanti. In 1775 he builds another court on top of the Spirii hill, somewhere around the actual Parliament palace.

The court was sold by Vodă Constantin Hangerli. The transactions were done between 1798 abd 1799 and it was sold to more than 50 buyers.

In 1847, there is a big fire that burns a big part of București that also affected the court.

In the 19th century, near the court walls appears a lot of new streets full of shops. The place becomes a commercial center. One of the streets near the court gets it’s name “Lipscani” from the merchants that came from Lipsca, the actual Leipzig.

The princely court was restored between 1967 and 1972 and it was made a museum and you can visit it ever since.


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