Castles (and Other Things That Claim the Name)

Since arriving in Romania I have encountered a number of castles, palaces, citadels and churches with fortifications. According to my guidebook there is quite a debate about what really constitutes a castle and palaces, citadels and churches can be misnamed.

Bran Castle is a true castle. Glad to have one undisputed winner in the group.

Bran Castle

In Rasnov is a castle that my guidebook refers to as a fortress and Wikipedia describes as a citadel. Apparently it can also rightly and fully claim the title of castle.


Rasnov Fortress

Sighişoara has a citadel that encloses the small old town in a wall built in the 14th century. But it’s a citadel not a castle. As there is no central castle building and no king-like ruler ever lived there, I guess I can understand that. Though it does have the walls and the turrets…
citadel walls and towers

Oradea also boasts a citadel. This citadel was used by a ruler, Matthias Corvinus, between 1458 and 1490, but apparently there’s something that makes it not a castle, besides not looking much like one’s vision of a castle, despite the walls and the remains of a moat.

Oradea Citadel

Peleş Castle, which appears on most signs and guidebooks as a castle, isn’t actually a castle, it’s a palace. Though it looks like one’s vision of a fairy tale castle.

Peles Palace?

To make things interesting just up the road from the Peleş Castle (or is it Peleş Palace?) is the Pelişor Palace. The Pelişor Palace housed King Carol I’s nephew Ferdinand, who later became king, and his wife Marie.

Pelisor Palace

Biertan has a church with 2 or 3 walls around it. It’s a church not a castle, but the sign outside the church pointing the way says castle. Apparently even the locals are confused. I know I certainly am.

Biertan Fortified Church

The fortified churches certainly look like castles. The one at Harman even has a moat (well, the remains of one anyway).

Wall of the fortified church at Prejmer

Fortified church at Harman

What makes a castle a castle? I have no idea.

Whatever their names, these are beautiful places.

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One response to “Castles (and Other Things That Claim the Name)

  1. Elizabeth Wiersma

    Hmmm…I do know one thing about castles…there are none in Zeeland! Anyway, my students and I have the same debate about cottages vs. cabins. What is the difference??? Can they be use interchangeably? Such deep thoughts!!

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