The Old Court in Bucharest

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I will simply start my story, 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 to know what you can expect on this little journey where I try to convince you how lovely my city is.
The legend says that the city got its name from a shepherd called Bucur who came to 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 actual facts tells that București was founded by Neagu Voda; he founded and ruled Wallachia around 1290. Another legend says 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The historical document where the name București appears for the first time is in the year 1459 in a property document during the reign of Vlad the Impaler, the guy that everyone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 constantly 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. Wallachia, Moldova, and Transilvania were just different countries ruled by various 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. If you have never heard of it, you will probably just walk by without giving it a chance. But if you are in the center near it, you should look.

It is the oldest building in București, probably built by Mircea the Elder and made more prominent by other rulers over the time.
Here you can look at some pictures of how it looks now, after more than 600 years after it was constructed.
The old Princely Court, which 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 severely damaged.
Over time, when the rulers rebuilt it, they’ve made it bigger and nicer. This mainly happened 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 exactly how it looked before its reconstruction.
Later, during Șerban Cantacuzino’s reign,1678 to 1688, a new building was added 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 looked 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 rule us, most of them greedy guys. Before them, the court endured the fires from 1718 and 1719, then the Russian-Austro-Turkish war between 1736 and 1739, the earthquake of 1738, the Russian-Turkish war between 1768 1774. You can add the lack of interest of the Phanariot rulers for the court.
The history of the princely court used as a palace ends with Alexandru Ipsilanti. In 1775 he built another court on the Spirii hill, somewhere around the actual Parliament palace.
The court was sold by Vodă Constantin Hangerli. The transactions were done between 1798 and 1799, and it was sold to more than 50 buyers.
In 1847, a big fire burned a big part of București that also affected the court.
In the 19th century, near the court walls appeared many new streets full of shops. The place becomes a commercial center. One of the streets near the court gets its name “Lipscani” from the merchants 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.
I will take you on a short trip back in time. In 1716, a foreign prince ruled Wallachia for the first time… The Ottomans were the ones who brought him from Fanar. On his name, Nicolae Mavrocordat decided to make a gorgeous new monastery.
He chose for his monastery a hill. So in 1716, the first stone for the monastery was put. In 1722, the monastery was finished. It was made in a Brancovenesc style and consecrated to the Trinity.
Nicolae Mavrocordat made a school at the monastery, where the teaching language was Greek. The monastery also had a printing press and a very nice library. At that time, the library was one of the most complete from all Europe.
After the death of Nicolae Mavrocordat in 1730, Wallachia will be ruled by his son Constantin, who in 1736 will add at the east wing another chapel and a new yard. The monastery at that time was one of the biggest monasteries from south-east Europe.
A century later, the monastery will become something totally different, a prison.
Now we are in the time of Alexandru Ioan Cuza. There is a legend about how it became a prison; at that time, most churches from here were dedicated to Holly mountain. All the money and properties of the church were going out of the country to the monks from the holly places.
The church then, as also now, didn’t pay any taxes, but they had to help the poor ones and give shelter to those in need, but the reality was a bit different. The monks were really corrupted. Getting back to the legend there is said that one night Cuza decided to take one of his incognito walks. So he went to the Vacaresti monastery dressed as a poor man who needed some food and shelter. When they saw him, the monks closed the door in his nose. Somewhere nearby, he had a little army waiting for him and some thieves, so he got all the monks out of the sanctums and put the thieves instead because the monks were like the thieves.
Since then, the monastery became a prison and stood like this for many years. For political reasons, many prominent personalities were imprisoned, among them writers and political people.
The monastery also used to have extensive tunnels going to different places in the city. The tunnels were big enough for a carriage so the people from the high society could come to the monastery without being seen.
In 1973 the prison was dismantled, and the monastery’s restoration started. The East Wing of the monastery is restored, but three years later, the big earthquake will damage the monastery, but not the kind that would affect the structural strength. After the earthquake, a few years later, Ceausescu, the ruler of that time, decided to demolish the monastery and make a complex with a sports hall and a conference hall or a Court instead. But in the end, he tried to make an anthropic lake as a defense system for flooding. The revolution came, and Ceausescu era ended, and the project was never finished.
Now, I hope you enjoyed my little story. I leave you to see the pictures that I promised you.