Small places make great stories. This is also the case of Iulia Hasdeu’ Castle in Câmpina, Prahova County, to which we paid a call on Sunday. Esoterism, science, mystery, sorrow, hope…there are a lot of things to be said about this small medieval-style establishment, and just as many unanswered questions about the sad story behind its walls.
Iulia was the beloved daughter of a great Romanian Scholar, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu who lived between 1838-1907. Great writer and philologist, Hasdeu pioneered many branches of Romanian philology and history, being considered to have been able to understand 26 languages, many of which he could also converse in. But we won’t write about him today, but about his daughter, Iulia, in whose memory the castle has been built.
The scholar’ s only child, Iulia seemed to tread in her father steps, appearing to be a genius erudite since childhood. She had been sort of ‘prodigious child’; she could read at the age of two, spoke French, English and German fluently at eight, she had been graduated from prestigious St. Sava Gymnasium by 12 and obtained a bachelor degree in philosophy at 16. She could sing in a beautiful soprano voice, having undertaken music courses at the Conservatoire and she also expressed her talent for visual arts with the help of the French painter Maillart. To further her education, she studied Latin and Greek languages and was preparing a PhD.
Unfortunately, her brilliant destiny was tragically cut off, as she died of tuberculosis when she was only 18 years old. Back then there was no cure for that. After her death, her father discovered many manuscripts with great poems, plays and other writings signed be Iulia, which were heralding a great talent and scholar. Given over the despair, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu became a spiritualist and a firm adept of the spiritism and that’s the point where the castle idea takes shape and our story begins.
Hasdeu and his wife retreated to a Câmpina mansion, and arranged it as a temple to his newly found beliefs and to his daughter. Thus, Hasdeu practically found a way of comfort his sorrow and maintain a sort of connection with his dead daughter. He was following hard on his shortly contemporary Victor Hugo. The Castle was erected between 1894 and 1896, following Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu’s own plans inspired by the ever-living spirit of his child. The scholar said he had received indications from his passed away daughter during the spiritism sessions he used to take part in.
Initially, the Castle was designed as a cathedral, according to earlier plans, which later on evolved to the current design, consisting of three stone towers, the central one being the “Temple”. The heavy main door, made of stone, rotates around a steel spindle to open and has Hasdeu family’s coat of arms “Pro fide et patria” and Galileo Galilei’s famous words “E pur si muove” engraved on it. The central tower hosts a kind of “Holly Space” dominated by a big statue of Jesus Christ. The left tower contains the living room, decorated with family portraits and laurel leaves and the drawing room, while the right tower shelters the office, the bedroom and the blue room, used for Hasdeu’s spiritist sessions, which used to be very dark, decorated with butterflies, the head of an angel and apparently with other unidentified symbols. The castle features a semi-basement and a terrace for each tower. In the garden there used to be other three buildings, two of which no longer exist, the third presently housing the library, archives and a reading room.
After Hasdeu died, the Castle has fought many battles to stay alive and not go into pieces. There were harsh fights on the establishment between the real heirs and the impostors, which made it fell to ruin, the contents, furniture and art objects being stolen. The inter-war press was warning on Hasdeu “metaphysical temple” becoming a ruin. A journalist even wrote that, “had it not been for Jesus’s wonderful statue, the Castle would have collapsed”. Eventually, one of the heirs decided to donate the Castle to the state, which turned it into a museum. After intense consolidations, the Castle was re-opened in 1965, but unfortunately, there were more challenges ahead it. The building suffered extensive damages during the earthquake of March 1977 and thus a new major restoration work followed. It was only in February 1995 when Iulia’s Castle was again re-opened as a museum with the restoration work still under way.
The museum employees told ‘The Romania Journal’ correspondent there are nearly 25,000 tourists to visit the castle every year, but there is room for more, as they complained that the revamping works are still keeping trippers away. We can assure you Iulia’s Castle is a unique place, full of revelation for the visitor willing to expand his knowledge and perception. Despite the fact some consider it just “a strange place”, the tiny castle with medieval-like appearance enriched with its owners’ appealing romance can provide an exclusive experience for story-diggers. They might find the essence of things, for in this castle “the matter has a peculiar meaning all around”, as famous Romanian writer I.L. Caragiale put it. We definitely invite you to visit it and judge for yourself if the saying is true.
Iulia Hasdeu Castle
199 Bvd Carol, Câmpina, Prahova County
Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. (March to October)
Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 6 pm (November to February)
Closed on Mondays
Entrance: RON 10 for adults, RON 6 for children
Photo fee: RON 10