Cultural gems in Romania Sturdza Castle Miclăușeni Iași county slider

The dream that did not fade. Sturdza Castle in Miclăuşeni

Its rooms witnessed the intellectual elegance and artistic splendour, but also the human decadence and destruction. Its terrace saw both the lights of the interwar local Belle Époque, with a Romanian “Great Gatsby” atmosphere, as well as the Soviet tanks and soldiers ignorant to culture, throwing incunabula in the stoves to get warm. The unique Sturdza Castle in Miclăuşeni (Iaşi), a historical and cultural heritage building is awaiting resurrection.

On the outside, the picturesque castle in Miclăuşeni shows its lost glory, like an elderly woman whose eyes, still alive and smouldering of vital breath, tell you the whole story of her seductive life. The face of a man is his autobiography, Oscar Wilde said, while the face of a woman is her fictional work. In this key, however, if we give it human attributes, the Castle in Miclăuşeni would be a man, well beaten by the blizzards of life, but never defeated, still standing.

About the restoration of the castle – a true miracle of Romania, highly degraded today – I have heard talking for two consecutive years, but until now the works (apparently initiated with European funds) have not surpassed – ironically, in vino veritas! – the winery phase. The host of the place, says that the Bacchic room will be functional in about two and a half years, and will include the original vaults that have been saved.

Until its glory will be restored, the castle serves today as a pilgrimage place for tourists – organized, generally third-age or occasional tourists – who deviate from the European road due to nostalgia or curiosity, but also for the married young people in search of a charming background for their wedding album. On Sunday, al fresco dining takes place here, the meal being “flourished” with an everlasting story that steals the imagination of the guests.

Sturdza Castle in Miclăușeni Iași county the southern fasade

Sturdza Castle in Miclăușeni – the southern facade and the terrace Photo: Marius Donici

A (neo-gothic) wedding gift

“The castle was built in 1880 by George Sturdza and his wife, Maria. They married before 1880, and after the wedding, they left in their honeymoon in the West. There they stayed for about one year and on their return, they decided to modify the old mansion – George Sturdza inherited a mansion from his father, Alecu Sturdza. That mansion was radically transformed into a castle with a neo-gothic architecture. They were inspired by their journey through Germany, France and Austria. It is said to have been a wedding gift: Maria was the artist of the family. You see, Maria made many of these paintings. She was a miniaturist and book painter and worked a lot at the castle”, said Sebastian, the man who literally owns the keys of this hidden architectural pearl.

“In that room there was a tailoring workshop, called the «Women’s Room». But what’s interesting is that a secret door opens from inside. It is a niche in the wall, where you go down a tunnel. It is an evacuation tunnel, which has its exit alongside the monastery, to the village, Miclăuşeni. The tunnel is about 500 meters long and fell down on certain sections. When the castle will enter restoration, there is a project to restore the tunnel to the monastery also. There are two such secret exits in the castle”.

The transformation of the mansion into a castle lasted almost two decades and a half, between 1880 and 1904. Austrian artisans from Bucovina and the area of Cernăuţi put their creative print on the stoves, the carpentry or the parquet, a special one, whose remaining parts can be admired today.

“The elements of originality of the castle are the paintings, some of the carpentry and the fittings, and some stoves. The furniture pieces have not been preserved: most of the furniture observable today has been purchased or donated. We have, where the painting shop was, an original gilded stove, very beautiful”, emphasized Sebastian.

Such as in many heritage buildings in Romania, the atmosphere is suggested, as far as possible, by means of objects from the respective time. It is also the case of Miclăuşeni, with a piece worked during the same period, but for another family – an old washbasin.

The calm and beautiful period, until 1944

Covering thoughtfully the rooms of the Moldavian castle, you are pierced by the spirit of the place, and the characters that moulded it and populated it come to life.

“In the painting of the room with the washbasin is Maria Ghica Sturdza. From 1904 to 1944, it is the most calm and beautiful period of the castle. Period that includes First World War, but then the castle was used only for humanitarian purposes. Here, on the ground floor, the wounded warriors were treated. Then, George Enescu was invited here and he sang for the wounded. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the Soviet army occupies the castle. The Soviets did not destroy the carpentry, except that they took everything at their departure. Then, the main collections disappeared: the collection of paintings, the collection of medieval armour, chandeliers, pieces of furniture, thousands of books. Many were burned. You know that they wanted to free us from the Germans …”

You can really feel the pain of alienation in the walls of the Miclăuşeni Castle. We awake, hardly, from reverie, and we enter the child’s room.

“George and Maria had one child, a girl named Ecaterina. Ecaterina has grown up here. When the Soviets came, she was the only master of the domain – her parents had died. She knew the front approached, quickly withdrew taking what she could, and although she was notified immediately after the departure of the Russians, she did not return so quickly, and for a short period, the castle remained unguarded. Then, many locals have devastated thousands of books plus many objects.

Ecaterina was married to Șerban Cantacuzino, a very rich man, but very ill. He died early, and the two did not have children together. That is why Ecaterina, after the war, in 1947, having no heirs, made the decision to donate the entire domain and the castle to the Church. Then, in ‘47 she donated everything to the Roman Episcopate. Then the monastery was founded – everything went well until the 1950s, when the Communists appeared. You know too well, the Communists had a hatred against the boyars and the Church. Instead of preserving the castle, they sought to destroy it. Think that in the 1950s, this castle looked great, and immediately after that they turned it into a warehouse.”

Weapons and grain warehouse, then “asylum” for 41 years

“I was telling you that in the 1950s the castle was taken over by the Communists. In a first stage, it was held as a warehouse for weapons and grain, and in 1960 a hospital for children with disabilities was established here, a kind of asylum, which functioned until 2001. 41 years. During this time, it has greatly deteriorated, especially when the radiators and the electrical installation were installed. They broke the entire castle to install pipes, wires …”

The Castle’s painting, as remarkable as you can see from its reminiscences, is part of the well-known Art Nouveau style, originated in Belgium and France in the beginning of the century. Characterized by vegetal, floral and animal motives, it is also reflected in the fairy tale interior and exterior decorations, as well as in the visibly full of meaning heraldic. The walls are garnished with fantastic animals – dragons, griffins – and the main elements of the Sturdza family emblem – the cross with the serpent and the lion – imposingly dominate.

Evidence of the elegance of the mansion’s former owners –turned into-castle are omnipresent in Miclăuşeni’s jewellery: in the hall “was one of the largest libraries in Moldova at the time. All Sturdza members who have lived here since the mansion were collectors of books, bibliophiles. They donated nearly 60,000 volumes – rare books, valuable books, such as princeps editions, incunabula, or others. Unfortunately, over 40,000 copies are lost in the ’44s and ’50s. During the Soviet occupation, the soldiers did not come down for the fire woods … The walls were not painted, they had wallpaper made of silk and shelves from bottom to top.”

The “resistance” piece of the Castle remains today, as before, the reception hall of the guests. In this place, different cultural events were organized. “This Miclăuşeni family, which you see in pictures – Maria, Ecaterina, George Sturdza – did not organize sumptuous parties or balls. They were more inclined towards the cultural side and very close to the Church. They often organized a type of event that was called a cultural party, inviting different personalities of the time.”

In Miclăuşeni, the good taste is ubiquitous, and the attention to detail and the concern for beautiful decorations of the “founders” – is beyond any doubt. A proof is also the painting for which was used the trompe-l’oeil technique, designed to deceive the eyes and emphasize the forms. “A kind of 3D. I suspect that when it was new, you really thought it was sculpted”, pointed out Sebastian.

Regrettably, a fire in the winter of 1985 affected the attic of the Castle, reconverted into a children’s home, and destroyed the already falling ceilings. It was then a massive fire, which lasted almost a day and a half, for whose extinguishment the firemen used tons of water, which infiltrated into the beam and then into the reed. Subsequently, a team of restorers made a damage control using a special paper, called Japanese foil, made of rice and designed to absorb water and maintain the dry ceiling. It was a compromise solution, reached today at “maturity”.

From a corner, a statue of Stefan cel Mare timely reminds us of the identity of a wider framework that hosts us: “Before Stefan cel Mare, in the time of Alexandru cel Bun, in 1410, a young man called Miclaus gets an estate in this place. From there coming the name of the village: Miclăuşeni.”

The English-style park, gateway to ataraxis

Although the Castle remains, even after the standards of the 21st century, a luxurious business, the elegance with which it was conceived induces you admiration and prevents you from briefly classify it as a boyar “indecency”. From the living room, you get on a terrace that opens itself to a bucolic scene, where table was served when weather allowed it.

“The entire park has 30 hectares. It is an English-style park, a dendrological park. Several tree species have been brought in and domesticated, including some exotic species such as Ginkgo Biloba. It has over 150 years old and has been deliberately planted close to the castle. Beneath it, Sturdza family had a pavilion – it is said that if you seat under it, it gives you positive energies.”

“Order is the soul of things”

An apothegm dear to Sturdza family, engraved above a servant’s entrance, was Ordo anima rerum, meaning, “Order is the soul of things.”

“There are all kinds of inscriptions that urge you to silence, study, introspection, prayer. Above the door, on the outside, is the motto of the Sturdza family, also in Latin: Utroque clarescere pluchrum, or “Beauty shines everywhere” – both the outer and the inner. There is another apothegm, as they were thinking: “Where there is peace and quiet, there is harmony”.

It is notable the local effort to revive the greatness of Miclăuşeni and to put it on the map of Romanian culture. At each beginning of September, the Castle’s Festival, with the interwar – Belle Époque theme, is organized here. It is the moment when hundreds of people (over 3000 in the third edition of 2016) come dressed “as in Caragiale’s time – the ladies wearing sophisticated hats, and the gentlemen being very elegant. All cars are stopped at the entrance, and the place is full of carriages, carts, vintage cars, and many shows and workshops, such as waltz, tango, painting or music.”

Teodor Burnar

Teodor Burnar

The Matrix’s Editor-in-Chief. An experienced writer with 11 years in Romanian media and 3 books under his belt
Teodor Burnar

Ultimele postari ale lui Teodor Burnar (vezi toate)

Raluca Băncioiu

Raluca Băncioiu

She's a graduate of the MA program in Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text. She's an optimistic person and a true familist
Raluca Băncioiu

Ultimele postari ale lui Raluca Băncioiu (vezi toate)

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