The magnificent Cotroceni complex originates from 1678 when Serban Cantacuzino, ruler of Wallachia, erected here a monastery and a Baroque palace. Its strategic position, near the city of Bucharest, brought Cotroceni in the attention of all the later rulers. Many of them paid special care on enlarging and embellishing the complex. So, Cotroceni National Museum is not just an amazing architectural ensemble but also, a place that captured various aspects from different historical periods.
In 1852, ruler Barbu Dimitrie Stirbei initiated the first major modernizing process of the complex by adding an elegant garden. In 1895, under the first Romanian king, Carol I, Cotroceni Royal Palace was built on the ruins of the old medieval court. The design of the palace was done by the chief architect of the Romanian royal family, the famous French architect Paul Gottereau. But the modifications didn’t stop there. In fact, a very ample process of extending the complex was carried out after the Great Union of 1918, under the supervision of the second royal family and the Romanian architect Grigore Cerchez. As a result, both King Ferdinand I and his wife, Queen Maria, left their exquisite artistic marks on the walls of Cotroceni.
But a severe decline phase of the entire complex begins in 1947 when King Michael is forced by the Communists to abdicate. The palace is successively robbed and the royal libraries, as well as rare pieces of furniture, are intentionally destroyed. The deterioration process culminates in 1977 when a powerful earthquake hit Romania. But President Ceausescu decides immediately to restore the palace as his secret plan was to transform the complex into a luxurious hotel. He also makes the unfortunate decision of demolishing the 300-year-old medieval church just because, according to the plans, it spoiled the view. Considering its position and historical importance, between 1977 and 1986, a new wing was also added in order to host the Presidential Administration. This way, Cotroceni holds the record of being the only Romanian official residence of permanent using since its foundation.
Since 1991, the old wing of Cotroceni ensemble was turned into a museum which was structured to offer a clear and detailed insight of the tumultuous history. From the medieval remains of the old Cantacuzino church, the richly decorated royal chambers to communist marks, the Cotroceni National Museum is now undoubtedly unique and intriguing.
The visits are possible only in groups with a guided tour (available in different languages) which gives the possibility of finding many interesting things, not only about Cotroceni National Museum but about Romania in general. Also, the museum has a well framed official website which is permanently updated, according to the new activities or exhibitions and it is advisable to check in advance the program. For more information about visiting hours or fees click here.
Credits: Bizovi Mihai