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  • Curtea Domnească
    Curtea Domnească © Alex Petrescu

Curtea Domnească

Architectural Monument

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Calea Domnească 181
cent. XIV-XVII
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A prince that saw the court of the King of France, Henry III of Valois and of his mother Catherine de Medici and that was the guest of the Doge of Venice, Prince Petru Cercel (1583-1585) did not find according to his times the old castle of the ancestors and ordered the construction of a new princely residence of fairly large size and good architecture as noted by his secretary the Genovese Franco Sivori, a statement reinforced in 1585 by the Frenchman Jacques Bongars: Prince Petru built a small but beautiful and grandiose palace in Târgovişte.

With a rectangular blueprint, 32.5 m long and 15.5 m wide, the palace, with 1.5 m thick walls, oriented north- south, was composed of the cellar, ground floor and first floor. The ground floor performed the administrative functions and the first floor the private ones, intended exclusively for the ruling family. There is no trace of access for neither the ground floor nor the first floor. Differentiated entrances are to be presumed, for the ground floor a staircase parallel to the west wall, located above the first entrance to the cellar that later disappeared seems to be the most plausible hypothesis.

The cellar, following the axis of the building, impressed with the perfection of the technical realization. The plan, having the shape of a square with the side of 12 m, consists of four equal compartments, arranged around a central pillar of a cruciform section, each covered with semi-cylindrical vaults. It had three entries used successively. The first perpendicular to the westside descended on a smooth slope of approx. 20 m long and was organically part of the building. The second one opened around 1640 is also located on the westside but parallel, with the access from the north, suppressing the first, and third access appeared during the renovation of the royal houses by Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714) and it is located on the southeast corner of the palace, with access from the south, facilitating the connection with the gate on the south-east side of the enclosure.

The ground floor is symmetrical and comprises ten rooms, three on each side of the north-south axis, three at the northern end and a larger room, arranged transversely, at the southern end. This was later divided, at the end of the 17" century, by a transversal wall, thus obtaining two smaller rooms.

From the first floor began the suspended gallery, made of wood, which connected the princely house with the balcony of the church. It was supported by masonry pillars whose bases can still be seen.

The two residential buildings from the 15" and 16" centuries, although built a short distance from each other - approx. 3 meters, operated independently until the end of the 17 century. The connection between the two buildings was made through a connecting vault, an architectural ingenious and aesthetic solution. A median corridor was created that connected the two buildings on the first floor, a solution possible by adding the upper level over the walls from the 15 century house. On the east façade, the porch was rebuilt, with a loggia with access stairs to the gardens, and on the west façade, next to the first palace, a stone staircase was added, the foundations of which are still preserved.

Today the basement of the Petru Cercel's Palace houses Lapidarium Exhibition.


It was founded in 1584, together with the palace, next to it, to the south, by Prince Petru Cercel (1583 1585). The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was built in the tradition of the Princely Church from Curtea de Argeş and the Metropolitan Church of Wallachia from Târgoviᵒte, following enclosed Greek cross blueprint. It is distinguished from the contemporary churches by its unprecedented proportions, the rectangle, in which the outer contour is retained, measuring 30 x 14 m..

An innovative element in the Wallachian architecture is the appearance above the entrance into the nave, of a balcony (kafas) for the princely family supported by a vault unloaded on two pillars and a stone column. The access was made either directly from the palace through the door in the upper register of the north wall of the church, the so-called Ladies'Bridge, or on the staircase inside the nave.

The first painting, from the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the next one, it is partially preserved in the apse of the deacon and on the southern wall of the narthex..

The interior of the church was completely painted, between 1696-1698, at the commission of Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714) to a team of led by the Greek master painter Constantinos. The variety of iconographic themes, the aesthetic sense in the harmonization of colours, as well as the expressiveness of the figures, makes the painting of this church one of the great achievements of its era.

The iconostasis, decorated with vegetal and zoomorphic motifs, gilded, which bears the coat of arms of the country and the year 1697 was ordered by the same ruler.

On the west wall of the narthex was painted the largest gallery of Wallachian rulers that illustrates, on a slightly oversized scale, the image of the following princes: Petru Cercel and Constantin Brâncoveanu, as founders, holding the church in their hands, behind them are represented Neagoe Basarab and Matei Basarab, to the left of the entrance, and on the opposite side: Mihai Viteazul, Radu "erban, Constantin "erban, "erban Cantacuzino and Radu Mihnea. There were also the graves, now empty, Prince Matei Basarab's family, the tombstone of Lady Elina († August 15, 1653) and a fragment of the slab of the adopted son Mateias († June 16, 1652), elements of funerary art made by master Elias Nicolai from Sibiu (Hermannstadt).

From the rich inventory of the church, the most important item preserved is a bell cast in Gdaňsk (Danzig), in 1669 by master Gerhard Benningk that arrived here from the ruined monastery Clatea-Bucium, near laşi, in Moldavia, as a gift of Prince Constantin Duca, son-in-law to Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu.


Saint Parascheva Church, moreover known as Sfânta Vineri and also named as Saint Petca or the Small Princely Church is the only monument, known until now, in the architecture of Wallachia dating from the middle of the 15th century, preserved intact until today. The oldest testimony attesting to the existence of the church is a stone frame with an inscription on the lintel, written in the Slavonic language, reminiscent of the clucer Manea Perșanul and his wife Vladaia, dated July 13, 1517. 

However, it seems that it is only the mention of a repair and not the foundation date of the monument. The same clucer (the title of a person in charge of providing the necessaries for the Princely Court) is mentioned later as the founder of the St. Nicholas Androneşti Church. The plan of the Sfanta Vineri church, just like that of the chapel-church, is influenced by the general features of the Cozia type triconch plan. The church has a single tower on the nave and the massive porch with two rows of arches originally had a bell tower but now it is no longer existing. The exterior in wrapt into has an apparent brick masonry and the decoration consisting of arches whose archivolts are underlined with enamelled discs of green, yellow and brown colour.

The narthex houses the tomb of Lady Bălaşa, wife of Prince Constantin Şerban (1654-1656), who died on March 21", 1657. Her tombstone is adorned with plant elements, angels heads and Wallachia's coat of arms framed by two crowns. Here is also resting the niece of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu, Lady Stanca who passed away on 7" May 1708. A slab with an inscription in verse from September 22, 1761, is placed above the tomb of Şerban Fusea who repaired the church in the years  1731-1732.

In the immediate vicinity of the church there are several tombs: Nicolae Fusea 1854, cupbearer Nicolae Brătescu- 1858, Mihail Drăghiceanu - February 5, 1861, Maria Brătescu - June 27, 1882, Matilda Grecescu, Alexandru Vlahuţă's fiancée - July 1, 1883.


It represents a civil construction with a unique value in the architecture of Târgovişte. Located north of the Sfanta Vineri Church, it was built in 1656 at the initiative of Lady Bălaşa, the wife of Prince Constantin Şerban (1654-1656). According to the stone inscription embedded in the southern façade of the building, the purpose of the building was: to be a resting place for all Christians in need. Lady Bălaşa's preoccupations for charity are also retained in the epitaph on the tombstone at St. Friday's church: She was... to poor a merciful helper... and to all the impoverished (and) in suffering people, a worthy protector In 1824 the asylum functioned according to the privilege granted by the ruler Grigore IV Ghica (1822-1828) after which they are sick here to cure their passions.

The construction plan includes 4 rooms arranged in a row with brick floors covered with cross-vaults with bevelled edges. Access is provided through two halls with exits both to Sfanta Vineri Church, to the south, and on the north side to the enclosure wall. The openings of the doors and windows are arched at the top and the roof is made of shingles on high frame design.

Outside, to the south of the Balaşa house, there are the ruins of an annexe building consisting of a porch and two rooms of a later date made of brick masonry. The external access for Lady Balaşa's Asylum, respectively to Sfanta Vineri Church is placed to the south, between the two enclosure walls consisting of a small guardhouse and a vaulted corridor.


The only information on the constructions destined for the court servants and the household annexes came to us from the time of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714). A document from September 6", 1696 mentioned that the stables and barn located not far from the Princely bath were covered with shingles. Two buildings have been preserved at ground level, of which the first (A) erected during the reign of Matei Basarab (1632 1654), oriented on the long east-west axis had the dimensions 20 x 9 m, four rooms on the south side and a porch bordered at its ends by two small rooms. Probably after 1700, a brick staircase was added on the south-east corner. The second building (B) had a rectangular plan with a median wall and three transverse walls. It is noticeable the existence of an opening of approx. 6 m to the northeast, at the junction with house A. For the dating of building B during the reign of Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu we mention a late 17th-century window frame from a collapsed wall similar with other of the same period.


Next to the large gate, opened during the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu (1688-1714) on the south-east side, for carts, an abbot's house was attached to the inner wall of the enclosure. The initiative to build this house, in the autumn of 1802, was caused by the earthquake that led to the serious damage to Dealu Monastery whose abbot, at that time, was Dionisie Lupu (1795-1807) who later became Metropolitan of Wallachia. Through the document from December 27, 1802, the Prince Constantin Ipsilanti (1802 1806) granted to the Dealu Monastery as a place to hold the liturgy St. Vineri Church, situated in the Princely Court and the use of the Princely Gardens. From a document from April 14°, 1803 we learn that it was already being built: a pair of large houses, with rooms upstairs, with service rooms downstairs, with a cellar, kitchen and a stable. The dimensions of the building were approx. 27 x 9 m.

Planimetrically to the basement with two compartments, shallow, made of masonry in boxes, were attached on the ground floor two service rooms, warehouses and a corridor along the entire length of the north facade. Upstairs is the spacious gazebo accessible by a staircase attached to the north façade. Two rooms were arranged as bedrooms and the third, to the west, like a living room beyond which was placed a pantry with the access through a service staircase added to the west side. 

In 1889 the building became the property of the priest Nicolae Grigorescu Arama, who will rebuild it in neoclassical style. Hence the origin of the name under which the building is known, especially to the people of Târgovişte: Arama's House. At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was used as a private boarding school, a local police station and during the First World War, it was the headquarters of the German occupation headquarters 1916 1918.

The last conservation and restoration project of the Princely Court from Târgovişte, carried out between 2008-2010, allowed the reconstruction of the building, on a 1: 1 scale. The photo from 1867, taken by Carol Pop de Syathmary from the Chindiei's Tower with the old Dionisie's House, against the panoramic background of south- east part of the city, was, in this context, very helpful. Today the ground floor houses the Museum of Printings and the Old Romanian Books. 

Unique in the country through the documentary, historical and artistic value of its exhibits, it hosts first of all the results of the printing house installed at Dealu Monastery, at the order of Prince Radu cel Mare (1495-1508), by the Montenegrin monk Macarie who printed the first book. Wallachia: Missal (1508), as well as the Slavonic Octoih (1510) (religious songs book) and the Slavonic Gospels (1512) as well as first editions and rare books, is living proof of the developments of culture on the Romanian territory


The Royal Court, the most important museum collection in the city, is the central attraction of the municipality.  The ensemble includes the Royal Court, the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Mare Royal), the Church of St. Friday (Little Royal) and the Chindiei Tower.

 In the last part of the 16th century, Mircea cel Bătrân built the first princely houses in Târgoviște, partially preserving the walls of the building and the basement with approximately 2.5 m thick walls.

 The complex was expanded and gained brilliance during the reign of Petru Cercel (1583-1585), who moved the capital of Romania to Târgoviște.  He added a new one-story building, the ground floor being for servants, courtiers, and chancellors.  Upstairs, there were the ruler's quarters, the family's quarters and a large hall for the divan's deliberations.

 Petru Cercel, the brother of Mihai Viteazul, was a cultured, handsome and talented young man, conversant in several languages ​​and a poet in Italian.  He traveled to France, soliciting support at the court of Henry III to obtain the throne.  Adopting French customs, such as wearing an earring with a pearl in his ear, Peter Cercel conquered the French court, gaining the king's support over the Sultan of Constantinople.  After two years of negotiations, he managed to occupy the throne of Wallachia.

He had big projects for the expansion of the city of Târgoviște, but he managed to complete only a small part of them.

 Completing the Metropolis and building the royal palace, he brought water to the city from a considerable distance.  He also ordered bronze cannons to be cast, inspired by those in the Venice Arsenal (a specimen with the ruler's inscription is on display at the Central Military Museum in Bucharest).

 For financing, he took out large loans in Constantinople and took over the debt of his predecessor, Mihnea, thereby significantly increasing taxes.  These actions generated an unfavorable atmosphere in the country and at court, and Peter was ordered to appear before the Sultan.  Aware of the seriousness of the situation, he collected his riches (43 of which are full) and set off for Transylvania with a small army.

 During the journey, when crossing the country of Bârsa, the soldiers looted his possessions, and the governor of Transylvania confiscated 125,000 gold coins from him.  After being arrested near Mediaș and imprisoned in the fortress of Hușt, in Maramureș, Petru managed to escape after seven months, descending on a rope.  He took refuge first in Rome, where he received the support of the Pope, then in France.  Here, he managed to regain the trust of the king and decided to try his chance again.

 Arriving at the Gate, he met Mihnea, who was also claiming the throne of Wallachia.  Unfortunately, having more capital, Mihnea was successful in the end.

Petru Cercel was imprisoned at Edicule, in the prison also known as "the seven towers".  After a few months, under the pretext of being exiled to the island of Rhodes, he was strangled on a ship.

 The roof of the buildings of the Royal Court was made of glazed tiles, presenting various colors.  The fountains and terraced gardens bore similarities to those found in the royal courts of Europe at that time.  The apartments exuded luxury and opulence, surrounded by high walls.  Surrounded by French and Italian artists, who had accompanied him by order of Henry III, Petru Cercel aimed to transform his city into a capital similar to those in Western Europe.

 In 1595, during the battles of Michael the Brave for the liberation of Târgoviste from the occupation of the Turks, as well as in 1610, when the army of Gabriel Báthory, the prince of Transylvania, plundered the city for three months, the royal court suffered significant consequences.

Matei Basarab rebuilt the courtyard in Târgoviște, connecting the two structures through a connecting vault and creating a median cor-cone.  Loggias and the open porch were added on the east side.  Rooms such as the reception hall were decorated with ceramic tiles and the enclosure wall was doubled.  After the death of Basarab, the palace was destroyed by order of the Turks.

 After 35 years, Constantin Brâncoveanu took over the leadership of the country and obtained the sultan's approval for the reconstruction of the royal palace, the fortifications and the pavilion.  He added rich ornamentation in his characteristic style.  The terrible death of the ruler also brought grief to the princely court in Târgoviște, which was left in disrepair and ruined.

 The Chindia Tower, dating from the second half of the 15th century during the time of Vlad Țepeș, was built as an observation, guard and defense tower.  The flame lit at Chindie, from which it derives its name, was visible throughout the city, providing day and night surveillance of the surroundings.

In 1840, the French painter Michel Bouquet captured the ruins of the tower in a drawing, becoming the only testimony of its appearance before the repairs made by Gh. Bibescu and Barbu Știrbei, which changed the original appearance.

 Chindia's tower, 27 m high and 9 m in diameter, consists of a two-tiered, windowless, crenellated stone base.  After restoration in 1847-1851, two more cylindrical floors were added, provided with windows and balconies supported by molded stone consoles.  An interior spiral staircase with 122 steps ascends to the battlemented upper platform, offering a view of the city and its surroundings.  Inside the tower, on each level, we find the "Vlad Tepeș Exhibition" and the "Dracula Exhibition", the character created by Bram Stoker.

 Nicolae Bălcescu, in 1847, described the Chindia Tower as a sad and lonely remnant of the famous Royal Court, loved by Romanians as a monument that speaks to them of their glorious past.  Witness of triumphs and times of glory, the tower was a watcher of all voivodes proclaimed in peace and war.

The Grand State Church was built by Petru Cercel in 1583. His project, completed in just 6 months, mobilized thousands of workers daily.  Subject to a fire, it was restored during the time of Constantin Brâncoveanu, including by applying a new painting, fragments of which are currently visible only in the niche to the right of the altar.  In the 18th century, it was again destroyed by an earthquake.  In 1965, restoration restored it to its original appearance.

 The configuration of the church forms a framed Greek cross.  The porch is supported by columns and the exterior is divided into two equal levels by an ornate girdle.  The pronaos shelters the graves of Matei Basarab's family.  The votive painting, complete, represents all the voivode founders of the place.  The nave has a coffered balcony, and the direct entrance to the palace is through the door in the northern wall.  The stone staircase from 1697 also allows access from the nave.  The wooden temple is decorated in Brancoven style.  The paintings on the walls of the side apses of the altar, arranged in three layers, offer an insight into the decorative evolution.

The Little Royal Church (St. Friday) is an essential component of the Royal Court complex and was built around the 1450s, being renovated in 1656. Initially, it functioned as a place of worship until the new church was built.  The main access to the nave is provided by an open porch, and the facades are decorated with arches and ceramic discs.  At the southern entrance, there is the oldest preserved writing, in the Transylvanian Gothic style, dated 1577. The old furniture includes a Brancove princely coat of arms with the coat of arms of the Wallachia.  Sinan Pasha turned the church into a fortress bastion, surrounding it with a double high wall, after the conquest of the city of Târgoviște in 1595. In the cells of the church, Mrs. Bălașa, the wife of Constantin Șerban, founded an asylum for the poor and the elderly.  The church houses the tomb of Mrs. Balașa.

 According to legend, the Little Princely Church attracts many believers, especially on Good Friday before the Easter holidays, and those who attend the service are said to be cured of any illness.

 Source: Bucharest-Brașov on variants (Ministry of Tourism, 1976)
Alex Petrescu
4 years ago



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