The Old Princely Court was built as a palace or residence during the rule of Vlad the Impaler in 1459. Archaeological excavations started in 1953, and now the site is operated by the Muzeul Municipiului București in the historic centre of Bucharest, Romania.
Recognizing the city’s strategic location along the Dimbovita River near Wallachia’s southern border, Vlad the Impaler set up his summer residence in what was then known as “the Citadel of Bucharest,” and the city soon became the economic nucleus of Wallachia. Bucharest became the preferred residence of subsequent rulers and eventually the capital of Romania. The princely palace and court, too, gained prominence as the commercial and religious hub of the city.
Vlad the Impaler’s reign was dominated by conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, hence the necessity to permanently watch over and protect the southern border, the Danube, made him stay in the fortified town on the Dâmbovița banks. He issued a Latin document on 13 June 1458 from the area of current Bucharest. Then, on 20 September 1459, he issued a document in Slavonic, specifically referring to the “fortress” in Bucharest, his “princely residence”. Other documents were issued in 1460 and 1461. Vlad would have been accompanied by his family, courtiers, and an army corps.
During his reign, Mircea Ciobanul repaired the palace, and defined the limits of the city. His palace became the economic nucleus of Bucharest, surrounded by the houses of traders and craftsmen known as the Lipscani. Matei Basarab repaired the palace during his own reign, so that it was “completely rebuilt…amazingly elegant” with a “charming aspect, much finer and gayer”. Constantin Brâncoveanu rebuilt and extended the palace using stone, including a great marble staircase at the entrance.
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