Peles Castle – The Jewel of Romanian Architecture
The Pelesh Castle in Sinaia, a symbol of Romania, which stands out through its architecture not only within the country, but also in Europe, celebrates, in 2014, 100 years since the construction works were finalized.
Despite the passing of time, the castle, whose construction marked several premieres, seems ready to be lived in at any time, with rooms arranged just as they were in the times of the former owners, including original items of that epoch.
The diversity of the collections it shelters, the preservation of the rooms’ decorating style like on the King’s times, the impressive architecture, its rich history and the natural setting where it was built rank Pelesh among the top castles in Europe.
Pelesh Castle was built between 1873 and 1914, at the initiative of King Carol I, serving as summer residence for the Romanian royal couple, the castle being the greatest historic monument in the country.
The exterior architecture has German Neo-Renaissance features, while on the interior the decoration has an eclectic peculiarity, with rooms in various other styles, namely Italian and British Renaissance, German baroque, Rococo or Turkish.
Daniela Voitescu, the head of the Public Relations department of the National Pelesh Museum, points out that Pelesh Castle, which has 160 rooms, out of which 80 bedrooms and 30 very modern bathrooms, was a “civilizing factor”, its construction marking several debuts for that time.
“Pelesh was the first private residence in Romania using electric power and the first fully electrified castle in Europe. The King built a micro-hydroelectric power station on the Pelesh creek, even since 1883, which secured the domestic illumination, and also the illumination of the park’s bulbs. It is still functioning and provides electric power to the Economat Building. Also, the castle has had central heating with radiators since 1883; they still function nowadays.
In 1883, at the Pelesh Castle, for the first time in the world, was inaugurated the hot air circulation system through induction through the walls and the floors. Moreover, the castle was tooled up with an electric elevator for two persons and with modern bathrooms having cold and hot tap water”, Voitescu explains.
Soon after the construction works of the castle were finalized, many rich families built residences in the Furnica neighborhood in Sinaia, borrowing both the technical facilities and the exterior architecture of the castle, the museum’s representative asserts.
At Pelesh, time seems to stand still waiting for the former owners. This feeling is given by the fact that even nowadays the rooms preserve the decorations used on the King’s times, this being another aspect which differentiates Pelesh among other castles in its class.
“The rooms are arranged like in the days of the former owners. The redecoration was done using the principles of museum technique, but according to the pictures and the sketches preserved in our archive, dating back in those times. There are few castles in Europe where one can find the items in the same place they were made or ordered for. A castle so well decorated that one could live in starting tomorrow can no longer be found in Europe in the category of castles which have over 100 years, as Pelesh does”, Voitescu claims.
Pelesh Castle houses 60.000 artifacts, which are part of the Romanian National Cultural heritage and do not make the cause of the negotiations with the Royal House.
These objects of art are grouped in several collections, Pelesh being one of the museums with the most diverse collections in the country.
For instance, it houses the arms and armor collection, the most valuable in Romania, through its number and the intrinsic value of the items, the furniture collection, the decorative art collection, the plastic art collection, the stained glass pictures, the textiles collection and the exterior decorations made of stone, marble and ceramic (the statues and the bas-reliefs found on the terraces).
According to Daniela Voitescu, the greatest richness of this museum consists in the manually carved wood decoration, which is still in a very good condition. It was crafted in some of the most famous ateliers of the world, namely in Austria and Germany, and we still don’t know the secret of the wood treatment which makes it look so good even after 100 years.
The castle was nationalized in 1948 and functioned as a museum from 1953 until 1975 when it was closed for restoration works. It was reopened to the public in 1990, and since then it has been visited by over 7.000.000 tourists.
Visits are allowed only under guides’ supervision, which limits the number of group members and implicitly of the visitors during each opening day.
The museum’s representative points out that 25% of the tourists who visit this place annually are foreigners.
The tour comprises the basic exhibition, which includes the ground floor of the castle, with the formal rooms, and the optional tour which includes visiting the ground floor and the first floor of the castle where we can see the private rooms (bedrooms, bathrooms, guest rooms).
The second optional tour (ground floor plus the first and the second floors) is unavailable until December 31st 2014 for preservation reasons, as it is stated on the Pelesh National Museum official website.
Each month, the castle hosts concerts of both young and consecrated artists, carrying forward the tradition established by Queen Elisabeth.
The 100th anniversary of the completion of construction works at Pelesh Castle is marked by a temporary exhibition dedicated to the most prominent architect of the Romanian Royal House, the Czech Karel Líman, the author of both the modernization plans of the castle and the construction of Pelishor Castle. The exhibition includes, among other things, the original construction schemes drawn by the architect, and the plans of the interior and exterior decorations, having next to them photographs of what we have at the present moment.
Just as spectacular is Pelishor Castle (Little Pelesh), built between 1899 and 1902 by architect Karel Líman, representing the only consistent Art Nouveau monument in the country when it comes to interiors and decorations, Daniela Voitescu explains.
Daniela V. says the exterior decorations take over German Renaissance features, namely the Fachwerk style, characterized by clearly visible apparent beams.
Pelishor was home to the royal couple Ferdinand and Mary since 1903; the latter being the one who left her personal touch on the decoration of the castle.
One can notice, among other things, the outstanding golden room, whose interior has a unique value, the ornamentation, which contains gold-plated stucco walls, a dome ceiling, gilded furniture and polychromatic stained glass windows which diffuse the light, all being designed by Queen Mary according to her personal style.
The golden bedroom also has gilded linden wood furniture decorated in Queen Mary’s personal style which combines Celtic and Byzantine elements in an Art Nouveau perspective.
Furthermore, Pelishor Castle owns a valuable collection of decorative art in the Art Nouveau style. (The National Press Agency AGERPRES)