(Image source - Iulia Hasdeu by Maillart) Browsing through Whatafy earlier on today, I came across a post on the Castle of Iulia Hasdeu in Campina, a site with a story attached to it (as everywhere does in the country of my heart) that has fascinated me for many years. It inspired me to go off and do some further research of my own. There are many wonderful sites out there full of information on this breath-takingly impressive, sad, yet peaceful monument built by a bereaved father in memory of his lost child. Several of them have been used in this post - please visit them via the hyperlinks in the text.
The Iulia Hasdeu Castle (or a folly house, in fact) in Campina, Prahova was built by historian and politician Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu over a period of three years and was blessed by the Bishop Ghenadie Petrescu of Arges.
(Image source) Professor Hasdeu's beloved only child, Iulia, died at the untimely age of 18 from an unmerciful bout of tuberculosis - an event that dramatically shook and completely transformed her father's life. A child prodigy, Iulia graduated from Sf. Sava and the Music Academy of Bucharest (piano and voice) at only eleven years old. As a pupil of the Sévigné College of Paris, where she continued her secondary education, Iulia's exceptional intelligence was much admired by her teachers. She is said to have mastered seven languages and was, in short, a genius. As well as her astonishing aptitude for languages, she also took private lessons in drawing, painting, piano and singing and continuously wrote poems, prose and plays for the theatre. At 16, she attended the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy at La Sorbonne in Paris whilst also following courses at the School of Higher Studies. Her literary works were published posthumously in three volumes by Hachette under her father's careful supervision.
Between 1888 and 1891, Professor Hasdeu built his first temple for Iulia: her sepulchre at Bellu cemetery in Bucharest. At some point, it was defaced and vandalised by religious fanatics (or so I was told) who considered her posthumous 'communication' with her father (if that is indeed what it was) to be satanic, but I understand that it has now been restored and is both protected and one of the most visited places of rest in all Bellu.
(Photo source - Mihai Constantin) In 1893, Professor Hasdeu and his wife (also named Iulia) spent a few summer days in Câmpina at the home of their friend, the chemist, Dr. Constantin Istrati. Professor Hasdeu admired the large park around his friend’s property and decided to buy it for a castle he would build dedicated to the memory of his late daughter. Work began at once.
Professor Hasdeu claimed that Iulia provided the plans for building the castle over the space of a year during sessions of spiritism. The plans were interwoven on a basis of numerology - magic numbers 3 and 7, with, for example, 3 towers, 3 underground rooms and stairs formed of 7 steps each. It was completed in 1896. Iulia's messages to her father (most of them in French), were transmitted day and night.
Professor Hasdeu's life became bound to this new 'scientific' belief' - spiritism. It was his one connection with his beloved lost child. Whether one believes it or not is really neither here nor there. "It was in March, on a rainy and dull evening; I was sitting alone at the desk in my room... I don't know how, I really don't know, my hand picked up a pencil... started to move, for maybe five seconds. I felt many short raps in my temple... like a telegraph. When my hand stopped and the pencil fell from my fingers, I felt myself as if awakened from a deep sleep. I looked at the paper in front of me and could read very clearly: "Je suis heureuse, je t'aime; nous nous reverrons; cela doit te suffire, Iulia Hasdeu" (I am happy, I love you; we shall see each other again; this must be enough for you, Iulia Hasdeu)." Anyone who has ever loved someone with all their heart and then lost them through death cannot remain immune to such a tale. Many of us even yearn, I am sure, for the same experience.
(Photo source) This very informative site describes the castle itself as follows: "The main entrance is a huge stone door, supposedly fixed on a diamond bearing. On the outside of this door is the sign of the Hasdeu family and two texts: "pro fide and patria" (for God and country) and "e pour si muove" ("nevertheless it moves") which encourages visitors to push it, for it opens easily and permits entrance to the castle. The door was sided by two stone thrones, on which there were carved Iulia’s main seven reincarnations, the twelve laws and the Pythagorean symbols (the pentagram and the seven circles). On each throne there was a woman sphinx, guardian of the entrance. Above the door there was the Eye of the World, and on the crenels one could read a date: July 2, the day when B.P. Hasdeu used to symbolically celebrate his two Iulias: his wife and his daughter.
The lateral doors had grids that symbolized the Sun painted in yellow and green-shaded blue. The exterior covers were provided with stained glass painted in the same shades, and above them two symbols: a vertical cross and beneath it a horizontal crescent. The windows of the castle also had grids and stained glass intersected by a cross, and at the interior, on both sides, were parallel mirrors. Their role was symbolic: everything was infinitely re-created.
Inside, the castle is decorated with frescoes and marble of various colors. The tower from the left of the edifice holds the guest hall and living room, both decorated with capital columns. The living room holds the family portraits surrounded by laurel crowns. In the tower on the right, one finds the scholar’s office, the dining room and the room for spiritualist sessions.
(Photo source) The walls of the first two halls have flowers as their main element. These are the lightest rooms during the day since the castle is north facing (...). The room for the spiritualist sessions was dark, however, and on those walls were symbols: an angel’s head, a triangle, a butterfly and, most probably, other undiscovered works, too. Today, the mural paintings of this room remain just as they were for they have been left untouched.
A spiritualist manuscript and some ectoplasm photos will satisfy the curiosity of the visitor asking himself how Hasdeu talked to his departed daughter. Through direct automatic writing, using cultured mediums, Professor Hasdeu received answers to questions related not only to Iulia's spirit, but also to his father's (Alexander) and his grandfather's (Tadeu).
Sometimes, the written communications were reinforced by photographic sessions. The scientist was a pioneer of spiritualist photography in Romania." (Once again, please visit this excellent site HERE)
As far back as the 50s, well-known literary historians Dumitru S. Panaitescu (nom de plume: Perpessicius) and George Calinescu highlighted the importance of the monument, and proposed a memorial museum dedicated to Professor Hasdeu and his illustrious family. In the early 60s, the castle had already been listed for some time. After consolidation, repairs and restoration (by the painter Tent), the B.P. Hasdeu Memorial Museum was opened to the public in April 1965. Following the earthquake of 1977, damage was so vast it had to be closed for restructuring and renovation once more. It reopened again in 1995, and today displays furniture, personal belongings of the Hasdeu family, photographs and original documents, manuscripts, Professor Hasdeu's reviews as well as paintings by Nicolae Grigorescu and Sava Henţia.
(Photo source) 1996 saw the centenary of the Iulia Hasdeu Castle. Various stories relating to it have continued to circulate for now over one hundred years. Ignorance, prejudice, one's own superstitions or perhaps even the simple incapacity to equate with Hasdeu’s own level of thinking have caused it to be often labelled as strange, spooky, haunted or cursed. For the curious, open-minded visitor, however, a pilgrimage to this castle is a revelation. Through contact with fascinating, mysterious symbols and the peaceful atmosphere that seems to envelope every room, one discovers a certain essence. It is the place of mysterious, much longed for, secret communications between a grieving father devastated by loss and his brilliant daughter, a child prodigy, so cruelly snatched away long before her time.