• Ilinca Stroe

A Desperate Father’s Feat: The Iulia Haşdeu Castle

Castelul Iulia Hasdeu, Campina

Iulia was an only child, born to a loving mother with the same first name and birthday as her, and to father Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu, whom famous Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade described as “the most learned Romanian of the 19th century”, a philologist of “frightening erudition”. [1] She was a brilliant child, Iulia: she could read when she was two, she could write at four, she composed her first poems when five, was fluent in French, German and English before she had turned 10, graduated secondary school when she was 11, and at 16 years of age she was apparently the first Romanian to ever enrol at the Sorbonne [2]. She was working on her PhD thesis on Romanian folk philosophy [3] when tuberculosis struck. She died at 18.

The father was devastated. He had published an enormous amount of work – journal articles, historical monographs, a remarkable Critical History of the Romanians, an impressive dictionary called Etymologicum Magnum Romaniae, in which he had traced and revealed the meanings acquired by words throughout their linguistic history; he had discovered for the first time in the field of philology the law of word circulation in a language; he had been a member of the Romanian Academy before turning 31; he had worked as Head of the State Archive; he had even published Iulia’s work (poetry, prose and drama written in French) at the famed Parisian publishing house Hachette [4]. But now all of that interest, work, glory and success were gone. His only child, a genius child, was dead. He retired to the town of Câmpina to mourn.

One day, he recounted, he dozed off in his study. “Six months had passed since my daughter’s death. It was in March.... Without realising it, my hand reached for a pencil and put its point to paper. I started feeling short, deep taps in my left temple, just as if I’d implanted a telegraphic device into it. Suddenly, my hand started moving restlessly. About five seconds, at the most. When my arm stopped and the pencil dropped out of my fingers, I felt awakened from sleep, although I was sure I had not fallen asleep at all. I took a look at the paper and read there very clearly: “Je suis hereuse; je t’aime; nous nous reverrons; cela doit te suffire. Julie Hasdeu. (‘I am happy; I love you; we’ll see each other again; this should be enough for you.’) Written and signed in my daughter’s handwriting.” [5]

Intrarea in Castelul Iulia Hasdeu, Campina

The illustrious scholar turned to spiritism. He carried correspondence with French astronomer Flamarion and with famous spiritist W. Crookes. He hosted and attended séances at Câmpina together with a metropolitan bishop, three generals and a professor. [6] He wanted to keep being connected with his daughter’s immortal soul. It was Iulia who dictated to him, he claimed, the detailed architectural plans for the castle, the construction of which he carefully coordinated and supervised between 1894 and 1896.

The building is eccentrically replete with mystical esoteric symbols. There are three towers made of stone, of which the middle one hosts a temple. At the entrance two mottos are displayed, the Haşdeu family’s “Pro fide et patria” and Galileo Galilei’s “E pur si muove”. Two stone thrones flank the entrance, with two female Sphinxes, while Iulia’s seven reincarnations are engraved there, along with twelve laws pertaining to four fields [7]: the religious, the moral, the social and the philosophical. The religious field features laws such as “Believe in God”, “Believe in the immortality of the soul”, and also “Believe in the gift of communicating with the departed ones”. The moral laws read, for example, “Love and serve thy nation”, while the social ones state, “Be honest to thyself so that others honour thee”, and “Honour work, for work is life”. As for the philosophical field, we’re reminded that “When you refuse to believe you cannot see”, and “You know the facts, you know the truth”. All of those laws were revealed to Haşdeu during séances of spiritism, apparently [8].

The castle comprises six rooms, of which one is dedicated to Iulia, with her doll, bust, journal and math notebook on display, one is the obscure chamber where spiritism séances were conducted, featuring a stone dove, a candle-holder and a statuette of Jesus [9], and another one, located in the castle’s highest tower, is the temple. It includes a corridor with parallel mirrors symbolising infinite recreation, and a statue of Jesus Christ sculpted by Raphael Casciani, which, according to legend, Germans during WWII wanted to dislodge from its base, but failed to do so because they were “struck by some mysterious force” [10]. In fact, a couple of weird phenomena are reported to happen in the building: a piano tune is seemingly heard every night from the temple, and the massive granite door to the hall of parallel mirrors supposedly opens by itself on New Year’s Eve [11].

Surreal sensations? Paranormal manifestations? Why not go and experience its atmosphere first-hand? The Iulia Haşdeu Castle, which was included on the List of Historic Monuments in 1955, is now home to the Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu Museum, open 9 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Located at no. 199 on Carol I Boulevard in Câmpina, it features portraits of the Haşdeu family members, photographs and documents, vintage furniture, manuscripts and collections of the magazines managed by the great philologist, first editions of his works, as well as valuable paintings by renowned painters such as Nicolae Grigorescu, Sava Henţia, G.D. Mirea and Diogene Maillart [12].

After all, there is no better way to pay homage to a desperate father’s love for his only genius child than by visiting the place where he shaped his longing for her departed soul into an architectural feat that future generations are invited to explore, question or otherwise admire and feel connected to.

Notes & Sources

[1] <https://ro.scribd.com/doc/187764563/IsabelaVScrabaHasdeuEngl>

[2] <http://www.formula-as.ro/2010/901/asul-de-inima-45/castelul-iuliei-hasdeu-sunt-fericita-te-iubesc-ne-vom-revedea-12003>

[3] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iulia_Hasdeu>

[4] <http://www.visitprahova.ro/orase/campina/exploreaza/28/muzeul-bogdan-petriceicu-hasdeu>

[5] <http://www.formula-as.ro/2010/901/asul-de-inima-45/castelul-iuliei-hasdeu-sunt-fericita-te-iubesc-ne-vom-revedea-12003>

[6] <https://ro.scribd.com/doc/187764563/IsabelaVScrabaHasdeuEngl>

[7] <http://www.visitprahova.ro/orase/campina/exploreaza/28/muzeul-bogdan-petriceicu-hasdeu>

[8] <https://ro.scribd.com/doc/187764563/IsabelaVScrabaHasdeuEngl>

[9] <https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castelul_Iulia_Hasdeu>

[10] <https://ro.scribd.com/doc/187764563/IsabelaVScrabaHasdeuEngl>

[11] Ibidem.

[12] <https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castelul_Iulia_Hasdeu>

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