The town of Târgovişte is one of Romania's foremost historic locations. The capital of Wallachia for approx. three centuries (14th - 17th), Târgovişte also hosted the residence of 33 rulers, from Mircea the Old to Constantin Brâncoveanu. Probably one of the reasons for its selection as Wallachia's administrative centre was its strategic location, on the main trade route connecting Wallachia to Transylvania and the Balkan Peninsula. Initially, it operated as a secondary capital (with Curtea de Argeş as the main one), to become the only capital city most likely under ruling prince Alexandru Aldea (1431-1436), historians believe.
The three-century long capital city status entailed a quite dynamic social and economic development for the town and the region. The progress concentrated around the Royal Court, an architectural complex erected in the 15th - 17th centuries. Ruler Mircea the Old is the founder of the royal residence, with construction works launched around 1400 and finalized in 1476. He is also the founder of the first royal residence and ordered the construction of the first towers.
The oldest reference to the Târgovişte settlement was found in a document by a Bavarian Crusade fighter, Hans Schiltberger, who took part in the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, and noted that Wallachia had two capital cities, Agrich (Argeş) and Turkoich (Târgovişte). Important details on what the Royal Court looked like in the 16th Century are provided by Francesco della Valle of Padua, who visited the city in 1532, and by Pierre Lescalopier, who passed through Târgovişte in 1574.
The museum includes the Royal Residence, the Great Royal Church, the Small Royal Church and the Chindia Tower. Only the ruins can now be seen of the Royal Residence, its gardens and fountains. The Great Royal Church still boasts its frescoes with portraits of Wallachian rulers, and a cannonball stuck in its walls, in testimony of past wars. In the Small Royal Church, visitors can see interesting pottery work and the oldest church porch in the country, built concurrently with the church in the 16th century.
Standing out in the museum complex, the Chindia (Sunset) Tower was built during the rule of Vlad the Impaler, better known today as the inspiration for the fictional character Dracula. The tower was erected during his second rule (1456-1462) and had multiple functions: a fort element, a watchtower, a repository for the State treasury, an access gate to the city. The main role of the construction was the military, defense role, although it served concurrently as a watchtower, a prison and a repository. The tower is built of red brick, shaped as a cylinder and having a pyramid-shaped stone basis. It is over 27m high, with a 9m diameter. The tower overlooks the church porch dating back to Mircea the Old's times. The upper platform is accessed through a flight of 122 stairs. The building has a door opening directly to the royal residence, via a mobile skyway.
Ruler Matei Basarab (1632-1654) renovates the entire complex, particularly the tower, doubles the inner walls and builds a Turkish bath. In 1660, ruler Gheorghe Ghica orders the demolition of the Târgovişte residence, on orders from the Ottoman Sublime Port. Constantin Brâncoveanu is the ruler who has the royal residence reconstructed (between 1692 and 1696). After his death, the capital of Wallachia will be moved. The most important restoration works on the Chindia Tower are carried out in mid-19th Century. The operation is particularly important, as not only was the complex overhauled, but also the initial architecture was substantially modified. The latest restoration works in the complex were reported in 1961, further to an initiative by the Directorate for Historic Sites, with only superficial repairs carried out since.
At present, the Chindia Tower is a museum, hosting an exhibition dedicated to the two reigns of Vlad the Impaler. Thus, history fans have an opportunity to come in touch with their forefathers' heritage and to experience unique feelings. Unfortunately, the museum is ever more seldom visited by Romanian tourists; many of those who still come here are foreigners (from Nine o'clock).
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