August 25, 2021
Bran Castle, pictured here in this colorized picture from the early 1900s, has a long history that really begins prior to the construction of the castle when the German crusaders formed a religious order in Palestine, the Teutonic Knights. They were given Terra Borza to defend the Southeastern border of Transylvania from the Cumans and the Pechenegs, who were Turkish nomadic peoples. In 1211 the Teutons built a fortress in Bran, which is a Slavic name, meaning “gate,” and it is also the name of the gorge. The Teutons didn’t remain there long as they were driven from the area in 1226.
The construction of the castle began after the Hungarian king Louis the Great (Louis I of Anjou) granted the people of Brasov permission to build a castle in 1377, and the Saxons of Transylvania were encouraged to participate in the process. They chose a site on a steep cliff between Măgura and Dealul Cetăţii (“fortified town’s hill”) as it provided a phenomenal view of the nearby hills, Moeciu Valley and Valea Bârsei. It took 11 years to build, and once it was complete, the castle had two functions: as a fortress, and as a customs agency. Soldiers and mercenaries occupied it, as they worked to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.
The Connection To Dracula
The castle changed hands during the 1400s, being given as a fief to Prince Mircea of Wallachia so he could escape there if the Turks attacked. In 1419, it was entrusted to the Princes of Transylvania. During 1459, Vlad the Impaler, who had been allied with Bran in 1448, burned Bran’s suburbs and murdered hundreds of Saxons from Transylvania. Because of politics, some historians of the time depicted him as a despot with a thirst for blood. Vlad the Impaler was also called Vlad Dracul, hence one of the connections with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bran Castle itself is the only castle in Transylvania which fits the description of Dracula’s castle as well. Much of the Dracula story is also derived from the myths of the denizens of the local towns, who believed in steregoi, people who were normal during the day, but at night, they tormented people while they slept. Their powers faded in the day.