Bran Castle and a Secret Tunnel down a Well

Welcome to our mini tour of Bran Castle, now a secret tunnel down a well. Do read here about how the fortress came to be, first rising as a wooden watchtower in 1211, and also learn how you can receive your Covid-19 jab in this medieval location.

Onward we step, through Thursday Doors.

We are in 1377. It was King Louis I of Anjou who, tired of battles against Wallachia, ordered that the wooden Bran fortress be replaced with a mighty castle that will help control all military access to (and from) the south, where Wallachia was neighboring Transylvania, and through where the Ottoman threat was on the rise.

Of course, trade routes moved, bypassing Braşov whose inhabitants became restless, losing money. So Louis I of Anjou promised them to bring the customs center to the new fortress of Bran, if only they would build fast enough.

The King kept his word and on November 19 he granted in writing, to the city of Brasov, privileges over the customs center located at Bran Castle. And the fortress bustled with soldiers, mercenaries, and even a commander who held the title of Vice-Voivode of Transylvania.

Bran Castle and a Secret Tunnel down a Well. Bran Castle, drawing room door opening into a secret passage

The beginning of the 15th century marked an important event, for in 1407 Sigismund of Luxembourg (King of Hungary and later Holy Roman Emperor) gifted Bran Castle to Prince Mircea the Elder of Wallachia (grandfather to Vlad the Impaler) as a sign of his deepest gratitude. Bran castle remained in the property of Wallachia until just after the death of Mircea the Elder.

Over the following centuries Bran Castle exchanged hands several times between the inhabitants of Brasov and various Princess of Transylvania.

This way, many doors opened and closed for this medieval fortress.

Bran Castle, library door

Until 1920… when Transylvania finally became part of Greater Romania (the interwar Romania). The citizens of Brasov gifted Bran Castle to Queen Marie of Romania as a gesture of courtesy towards the new sovereigns… Queen Marie, born Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh, was wife to King Ferdinand I of Hohenzollern, the second King of Romania (1914 until his death in 1927).

…”Many years ago, in a trip over the border, I saw it standing in stark loneliness on that cliff and wondered how it would feel to govern such a fortress and to transform it into a home. How wonderful it would be to revive a small medieval castle, a true fairy tale. And the unbelievable truly happened.”

Queen Marie of Romania on first laying eyes on Bran Castle

Under the hand of Queen Marie and the court architect, Czech Karel Liman – who designed the castles Peles and Pelisor, also Royal residences – Bran Castle was restored and transformed into the Queen’s summer residence – improving the medieval fortress, but without changing it.

“I have done nothing to take away its feudal aspect, I did not change the swiftness of the stairs, I did not deprive the roof of porches, nor have I straightened the skewed rooms. The doors have remained so low that one must duck when entering the rooms, the walls are several cubits thick, the heavy beams cross the un-arched ceilings, and there are so many floors in the castle that one hardly knows which level they are on”.

Queen Marie of Romania, on restoring Bran Castle
Queen Marie of Romania in her flower garden at Bran Castle, Source National Archives of Romania
Queen Marie of Romania in her flower garden at Bran Castle, Source National Archives of Romania

What about the old well?

Dug around 1388, it was now over half a century old. The 57 meter deep well of Bran castle was giving an insufficient amount of water, so a modern system came in place, with water piped into the castle straight from the natural springs surrounding the valley.

While in the old well’s shaft… an electric elevator was installed that provided easy access between the castle and – through a maze of tunnels – the valley below with its Royal Park and flower garden for the Queen who was, by now, suffering from arthritis.

Bran Castle and a Secret Tunnel down a Well. Bran Castle Stone Elevator shaft entrance
Bran Castle, left: the old door before the Stone Elevator shaft entrance, of steel and glass, was created in 2018

After 1948 when the Royal Family left Romania – King Mihai I was forced to abdicate on 30 December 1947 by the communist regime – Bran Castle, but especially its tunnel, were engulfed by darkness. And they slept the length of a human life…

It took a great team of many craftsmen, architects, miners, IT specialists, historian, restaurateurs… to revive it.

Bran Castle secret tunnel, the Time Tunnel, exit
Bran Castle secret tunnel, the Time Tunnel, exit

Today, visitors of Bran Castle can go down the Queen’s elevator shaft, through the old well, visit the Time Tunnel and exit, as the Queen once did, through her flower garden.

It is worth mentioning that the Romanian company who created and installed this specially design elevator won with this project, Bran’s Stone Elevator, 1st Place at the Elevator World Competition held in USA. The historical monument with its asymmetrical architecture, above and below the ground, tested the skills of the 100% Romanian construction team that finalized this entire project. The elevator booth is unique, specially designed to fit the necessities of the Bran Castle’s time travel historical project.

Next time we will watch a video of Bran’s Time Tunnel together – with detailed explanations of its many historical reenactions. I can’t wait!
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Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities blog – where you can discover more doors from around the world.

22 Replies to “Bran Castle and a Secret Tunnel down a Well”

  1. The first picture, the sepia one, took my breath away. It’s like Queen Marie blinked and that was the image of Bran Castle imprinted on her pupil. I visited Bran Castle some 15 years ago, but I don’t recall the Time Tunnel. When did they restore it?

  2. I truly enjoyed every bit of this post Pat. I love learning the history and I enjoyed your writing style very much. I also appreciate the Queen’s descriptions.

    I have to say, I don’t think I’ve seen a door in the middle of a staircase before. Interesting, albeit dangerous.

    1. Thank you so much, Dan. I sacrificed a day of writing for it, but it was worth it.

      Yes, that door in the middle of a staircase is rather tricky, and the steps are narrow and worn-polished. I guess the steep incline of the stone on which the castle was built was such, that a curved staircase was needed there. Can’t even imagine running up 😉

  3. I loved the story and Queen Marie was a beauty (both inwardly and outwardly it seems.) I like the door that divides the lower steps from those continuing up. Reminds me of a place in France my s-i-l and I visited.

    janet

    1. Ah, thank you, Janet.
      Yes, Queen Marie should not be forgotten. She adopted not only a country, but its culture too.

      Yes, that little wooden door on the worn out, wooden steps is magical 🙂

      Thank you for your gracious comment, Janet 🙂

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