Chivalry is not Dead!

Most of the ancient Teutonic Order castles were located in German lands given away by the Allies after World War Two to the communist countries. One at least somewhat authentic Teutonic Order castle remains intact with a colorful history: Transylvania’s Bran Castle, previously known as Dietrichstein, was one of the fortresses built by the Knights of the Teutonic Order in the year 1212.

The Teutonic Knights had sent a contingent into the unsettled region to build a series of forts, and peasants were brought in from Germany to farm the land and provide the taxes and labor necessary to build more fortifications and buildings and to harvest the crops that fed the garrisons. At the end of the 13th century, the castle was taken over by the Transylvanian Saxons in the region in order to protect the trade City of Brasov. The castle is the most famous of 15 citadels and fortresses in the area built by German peasants to keep out marauding Turk and Tartar armies. In modern time, the castle was owned by the late Queen Marie, a descendant of the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled Romania for a period starting in the late 17th century, and it was bequeathed to her daughter Princess Ileana in 1938. During World War II, the royal family operated and worked at a local hospital and they later hid some of the tens of thousands of ethnic Germans during the Soviet occupation when they were being deported from Transylvania to labor camps in the Soviet Union.

The castle was confiscated by communists in 1948 and fell into disrepair. Dominic von Hapsburg, a New York architect, inherited the castle from Princess Ileana decades after the communists seized it. More than 60 years after it was seized by communists after World War Two, the Romanian government handed back the Castle to its former and rightful owner, Dominic von Hapsburg. The castle is worth approximately $25 million. Romania has begun returning some property to its former owners and establish a “property fund” to pay damages for assets that cannot be returned. The fund includes stock in state-owned companies that are being privatized.