The complex of monuments which form the Royal Court of Targoviste represents one of the most important architectural group from Tara Romaneasca (the Romanian Country) and has a great artistical and historical value. Being a royal residence for many centuries, the Royal Court offers the possibility of revealing a chapter of the romanian medieval art and history. Starting with the year 1967, the Royal Court was transformed into a museum ensemble of the Muzeul Judetean Dambovita ( the Museum of the County Dambovita) and now is part of the National Museum Ensemble "the Royal Court" of Targoviste. Besides the outdoors museum there is an exhibition dedicated to Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), founder of the fortifications ; a lapidarium at the Royal Court's basement built by Petru Cercel and an exhibition of religious art in the great Royal Church. The chronicles of age relate that, by order of the Wallachian prince, all offences, however minor, be they committed by a beggar or by a court dignitary, were to be given the same punishment: impalement on a wooden stake. Certainly, it was only the exaggeration of Prince Vlad the Impalers cruelty of the Dracula myth. Leaving aside speculation concerning a fictional character destined to inspire dozens of horror films, we are indebted to research, as far as the historical records will allow, that which nevertheless hides behind the real Vlad the Impaler. There must have been something in it, for, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire. The grandson of Mircea the Old, Vlad the Impaler was born in Sighisoara in 1431. After his father, Vlad II the Dragon, who had until then been governor of Transylvania, was named Prince of Wallachia (1436), Vlad the Impaler moved to the princely court at Targoviste, for a period of six years. In 1442, Vlad Draculea and his brother Radu the Fair were taken hostage by Sultan Murad II. Vlad was to remain in the fortress of Egrigöz in Anatolia until 1448, while Radu was to return home only much later, in 1462. The period in which the Impaler was held hostage by the Turks was decisive for the development of his vision of life (one which was, to be precise, much more somber than would have been normal). In 1448, after learning of his fathers murder at the hands of Vladislav II and torturous death of his older brother Mircea, who had been buried alive by the boyars of Tâgoviste, Vlad the Impaler made an unsuccessful bid to conquer to thone of Romanian Land. After this first failure, Vlad the Impaler withdrew to Moldova for a time. In 1465, he succeeded in becoming Prince of the Romanian Land. The moment of supreme revenge took place on Easter Day in 1459, when he punished the murderers of his father and brother. The boyar conspirators from Târgoviste were forced to walk, for dozens of kilometers, to Poienari (in the Arges Pass) , where they built a fortress. In the Cantacuzino Chronicle, it is said that: They worked on the fortress until their clothes fell in rags from their backs. In 1462, Vlad the Impaler launched a brilliant campaign against the Turks. His exploits attracted the attention of Pape Pius II, who decided to offer him financial aid through the intermediary of Matei Corvin. Unfortunately, the latter appropriated the sum, delaying support to the Wallachian prince in his war against the Turks. As the Ottoman Turks outnumbered his forced theree to one, Vlad was forced to retreat to Târgoviste, burning the villages he left behind and poisoning their wells. In Victor Hugos Legende des Siècles, a shocking scene is recounted: at Târgoviste, Vlad prepared for the sultan a Forest of Stakes- 20,000 impaled Turks. Mehmed II was so affected by the bloody scene that he decided momentarily to give up the fight, handing the baton to Radu the Fair, Vlads younger brother, regarded as a Turkish puppet. Vlad the Impaler managed to escape his Turkish pursuers, taking refuge at the court of Matei Corvin, whose support he sought. However, far from assisting him Corvin imprisoned Vlad in the royal fortress at Visegrad, subsequently holding him under house arrest at a royal property in Buda. Vlad was, once more, prisoner, for another twelve cruel years In 1476, with the support of Stephen the Great, he returned, for a few months, to the principality of the Romanian Land. He was killed either as the result of a boyar plot or during a battle against the Turks. Vlad the Impaler was a prince who knew how to impose his will, both at home and abroad. He was a promoter of extreme measures: anti-Ottoman policy; reorganisation of the princely council and army; promotion of new blood, from outside the boyar families; elimination of the monopoly exerted by the merchants of Transylvania. In Târgoviste are preserved the ruins of the beautiful princely court of former years, which bore witness to the reigns Mircea the Old, Vlad the Impaler, Petru Cercel, Matei Basarab and Constantin Brancoveanu. The Tower of Dusk , which has become a symbol of the town of Targoviste, was built by Vlad The Impaler above a chapel dating from the time of Mircea the Old. Currently, the tower houses an exhibition dedicated to Vlad the Impaler. Vlad the Impaler was never able to forgive the people of Târgoviste, who had plotted against his father. It is no wonder that he decided to move his court to another place. In 1459 Vlad the Impaler constructed , on the banks of the Dâmbovita River, the first princely court in Bucharest, which was subsequently rebuilt by Matei Basarab, Mircea Ciobanu, Grigore Ghica, Serban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brâncoveanu. It was the Saxons, the Benedictine and Capuchin monks and Matei Corvin who were primarily responsible for the distortions of Vlad the Impalers image. The manipulation of information naturally served certain interests. The Saxons were unhappy at the limitation of their monopoly through the trade laws imposed by Vlad. Matei Corvin wished to justify his unfounded arrest and imprisonment of the Wallachian prince for twelve years, as well as his appropriation of the sum of money sent by the Pope to support Vlads anti-Ottoman campaign. They all were interested in one thing: to discredit Vlad the Impaler. A series of chronicles inspired by the life of Vlad the Impaler paint a macabre picture of the prince, who was wont to punish treachery, dishonesty, stupidity, laziness, lying, thievery, corruption and flattery by impalement, hanging, flaying, decapitation, boiling alive, blinding, crucifixion, stabbing and strangulation. Likewise, victims were buried alive, burned, roasted, maimed, or had their nose, ears, tongues or genitals amputated. In German Tales (1448), richly illustrated with woodcuts, the Saxons of Transylvania took care to present the image of a monster-prince, who fed on the innards of his impaled victims and drank their blood. The Slovonic Tales of the Voievoied Dracula, however, speak of the princes lofty sense of justice, for, in his day, if some one did wrong, committed theft or robbery, or some lie or injustice, not one of them remained alive. Be great boyar or priest or monk or ordinary man, even if he had great wealth, he could not ransom himself from death. Vlad the Impaler was an unusually cruel ruler, since he advocated an authoritarian policy. In a letter to the merchants of Brasov he declared: When a man or a lord is strong and powerful he may make peace as he wills, but when he is powerless, one more powerful will descend upon him and do as he will. The figure of the Impaler has remained emblematic for Romanians, in spite of the exaggerations regarding his limitless cruelty. Legends have grown up around him: strange as it might seem, during his reign a golden cup stood at the edge of a well in the centre of Târgoviste without ever being stolen. Althoungh inexplicable, his identification with a vampire-count, a personage inspired by horror films, has brought Vlad the Impaler an unexpected tourist celebrity. The bloody Draculea has become a product perfect for frightening and attracting the tourists.
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