Ruginoasa – the Palace of Tragic Destinies

In an early morning commuter train, in a bilevel car, I find my seat ready to depart for  Ruginasa, from Iasi, to visit Cuza’s Palace. It’s a sunny day of spring, but the windows, neglected by the rail company janitors, add a gray tint to the outside air. In the recurring and continuous noises of the train, charged with the perfume of my youth, I watch in motion people dressed humbly, a ball thrown in a basket in a yard, old houses with rustic patina – planted and perfectly framed in their scenery – as opposed to the new generation houses, from the 90s, built from AAC or finished in garish colors. These are sheer intruders in the natural order of these places.
A scarecrow placed in a field, with the intent to keep away the birds from pecking at the crops, reminds me of the movie OzLand, directed by Michael Williams. A tragedy, still applicable to society today.
Green fields drive away my commiserations for the protagonists of OzLand. In spite of the many new houses lacking any architectural or aesthetic meaning, I will soon set my eyes on Cuza’s Palace, built in the neo gothic style! So much involution from the intricate neo gothic castles to the bland rectangular houses built from AAC, following no architectural style, finished in pink, orange or lime green, many only half-done due to the absence of funds.
Time passes by with the landscapes left behind and, after an hour or so, the train reaches Ruginoasa. On Main Street a medieval wall with an imposing gate and a tower surround the palace.
In its original configuration the palace had a fairly different layout. The residence, consisting most likely of a mansion and a rustic church, initially belonged to the Sturdza family. At the end of the 17th century, Ioan Sturdza bought the entire Ruginoasa village from Lord Constantin Duca. And so, after Ioan Sturdza, from one generation to the next, Ruginoasa had as landlords Sandu Sturdza (1716), Stefan Sturdza (1750), and then Sandulescu Sturdza who, in 1804, started building the Ruginoasa Palace, presumably with a rectangular shape, the work being completed sometime between 1811 and 1813, directed by the Viennese architect Johann Friewald. The church “Adormirea Maicii Domnului” (The Repose of Virgin Mary) was built in 1811 by the same architect, with a classic triangular pediment, and four columns with ionic capitals.
The square shape the palace has today, in neo gothic style, will be given between 1847 and 1855, when Costache Sturdza, Lord Mihail Sturdza’s cousin, hired Bavarian architect Johan Brandel of Daggendorf.
Costache Sturdza abandons the palace in 1857, after his son is killed on its stairs trying to stop the kidnapping of his stepmother, Marghiolita Sturdza, by men sent by Nunuta Roznovanu, who was in love with her. Later on the palace is mortgaged by Alexandru, another son of Costache Sturdza, to the Bank of Moldavia. After he fails to pay his dept to the bank, the palace is auctioned off and is bought by Cuza in January 13th, 1862.
Cuza’s Palace has windows with broken arches, battlements, turrets in the corners, rosettes and forged steel balconies. The exterior of the palace is modest but elegant, catching attention more through its interior thanks to the furniture and its layout. The vintage curtains are luxurious and deliver an authentic patina, the pieces of furniture in neo gothic style were ordered by Lady Elena from the Parisian company Pierre Mazarov Ribailles.
Lady Elena Cuza’s room seemed mystifying to me. Compared to the other rooms, where the furniture and the paint on the walls were in harmony with the neo gothic style, her room gave me a strong “girlish” vibe. If the neo gothic was distinctive to Lord Cuza’s rooms, she opted for the Renaissance style and only one piece of furniture, the place of prayer, is neo gothic.
Cuza’s Palace has four sides, those facing East and West having entry ways, two floors, 53 windows and 33 doors. On the ground floor there are 9 guest rooms and the living room, where we find a huge table in the style of Rochefoucauld, with 24 chairs with stools and two shelves with barometers in the style of Ludovic the 15th.
The ballroom or the place where the art of conversation was practiced is upstairs, near the individual rooms of the hosts. In this grand salon we find a green circular sofa, in the same style of Ludovic the 15th.
On the ground floor we find an installation of a hologram of Cuza, that impressed me a lot less then the neo gothic library or the books found on the table, containing Romania’s Organic Laws.
Born in 1820, Cuza is the man that united the Romanian Principalities on January 24th, 1859. At the age of 39 he is elected ruler of the Romanian Principalities, formed after the Principality of Moldavia united with the Principality of Wallachia. It is during his rule, in the year 1862, that the name of Romania was officially adopted. He carried out agrarian and electorate reforms, for which the Conservatives will not forgive him and begin plotting against him, together with the Liberals, who viewed him as a weak representative, ending with the coup d’etat of February 22nd, 1866. Cuza was arrested by a group of military conspirators and forced to sign his abdication, but later on he was allowed to leave the country, and after 7 years of exile he would die in Austria.
His lineage was broken with the death of his two illegitimate sons, which he had with Maria Obrenovici, but were adopted and raised by Elena Cuza: Alexandru, the oldest, will die in Spain, at the age of 23, from heart illness, and the youngest of the two, Dimitrie, at the age of 24, because of amorous reasons, will commit suicide in his room inside the Ruginoasa Palace,
Cuza’s remains were brought to Ruginoasa, but in 1944 were moved to … Read more here

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