Cantacuzino Castle: The Legacy of a Great Byzantine Family
Cantacuzino Castle is part of the impressive cultural and material legacy of the Cantacuzino family whose origins go back to the Byzantine Empire. Monumental and opulent, the castle is the reflection of the taste and ambitions of its owner, Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino, the richest man in Romania in his time.
The ancestry of princely family
The descendant of a princely family that traces its Byzantine ancestors one thousand years back, Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino (1832-1913) was one of the most important land owners in the country, this being also the source of his immense fortune. In fact, he was so rich that his contemporary nickname was Nababul, a French term used to describe extremly wealthy people.
His economic power was doubled by his political influence. Educated in Paris, Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino was one of the key political figures in Romania until his death in 1913. He was the mayor of Bucharest, the President of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and minister several times, as well as a member of the freemasonry lodge Sage d’Heliopolis.
His wealth and predilection for sumptuous residences is also reflected in the three palaces and castles he left as legacy – Cantacuzino Palace from Victoriei Avenue in Bucharest, the ruins of the Little Trianon from Floresti, its plans included 354 rooms, and Cantacuzino Castle from Busteni.
Neo-Romanian architecture and unique heraldic collection
Nababul started the construction of his mountain castle, one of the most beautiful in Romania, in 1901, on the location of a former hunting chalet used by his family for centuries. Placed at the foothills of Zamora Mountain, in Busteni, and enjoying the grand view of Bucegi Mountains, the castle was close enough to the summer royal residence from Sinaia.
One of the finest examples of the Neo-Romanian style – an original mix of Byzantine, late Italian Renaissance, Oriental and local peasant and ‘Brancovenesc’ style elements – the castle was built under the supervision of Grigore Cerchez, one of the best architects of the time. It was finished two years before the death of the owner, and the results were spectacular.
Decorated with expensive and rare materials, the castle still conserves the sculpted oak doors, the stained glass windows brought from Venice, the fireplaces decorated with mosaic and gold foils and partially some of the wall paintings done by Viennese artists. Unfortunately, the original furniture was stolen once the castle was nationalized by the communist regime, but even so you can still feel its grandeur.
Each room has its own particular wooden ceilings with decorative beams, while the stained Murano glass windows are adorned with portraits of the family’s ancestors. The Ball Room is the most impressive from the entire castle. On one wall, the natural size portraits of 12 preeminent Cantacuzino members are painted on Cordoba leather, while on the other side you can admire a unique heraldic collection in Romania – the blazons of 27 families that were connected to the Cantacuzino group.
The state of the art architectural result of a man’s vision and richness, Cantacuzino Castle is one of the last pieces from the legacy of the carefree Belle Epoque when Romania was a fast modernizing and young kingdom. A visit to this castle is one of those few occasions to get a glimpse of how life was –back then – for one of the most prestigious members of a family whose roots go back to the Byzantine Empire.