Peleș Castle (Romanian: Castelul Peleș pronounced [kasˈtelul ˈpeleʃ] (About this soundlisten)) is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia, in Prahova County, Romania, on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, built between 1873 and 1914. Its inauguration was held in 1883. It was constructed for King Carol I.
The complex is northwest of the town of Sinaia, which is 48 kilometres (30 mi) from Braşov and 124 kilometres (77 mi) from Bucharest. In the southeastern Carpathian Mountains, the complex is composed of three monuments: Peleș Castle, Pelișor Castle, and the Foișor Hunting Lodge.
When King Carol I of Romania (1839–1914), under whose reign the country gained its independence, first visited the site of the future castle in 1866, he fell in love with the magnificent mountain scenery. In 1872, the Crown purchased 5 square kilometres (1.9 sq mi) of land near the Piatra Arsă River. The estate was named the Royal Estate of Sinaia. The King commissioned the construction of a royal hunting preserve and summer retreat on the property, and the foundation was laid for Peleș Castle on 22 August 1873. Several auxiliary buildings were built simultaneously with the castle: the guards’ chambers, the Economat Building, the Foișor hunting lodge, the royal stables, and a power plant. Peleș became the world’s first castle fully powered by locally produced electricity.
The cost of the work on the castle undertaken between 1875 and 1914 was estimated to be 16,000,000 Romanian lei in gold (approx. US$ 120 million today). Between three and four hundred men worked on the construction. Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians, during the construction phase, wrote in her journal:
Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were coolies. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled in all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes.
The first three design plans submitted for Peleș were copies of other palaces in Western Europe, and King Carol I rejected them all as lacking originality and being too costly. German architect Johannes Schultz won the project by presenting a more original plan, something that appealed to the King’s taste: a grand palatial alpine castle combining different features of classic European styles, mostly following Italian elegance and German aesthetics along Renaissance lines. Works were also led by architect Carol Benesch. Later additions were made between 1893 and 1914 by the Czech architect Karel Liman, who designed the towers, including the main central tower, which is 66 metres (217 ft) in height. The Sipot Building, which served as Liman’s headquarters during the construction, was built later on. Liman would supervise the building of the nearby Pelișor Castle (1889–1903, the future residence of King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie of Romania), as well as of King Ferdinand’s villa in the Royal Sheepfold Meadow.
Construction saw a slight slowdown during the Romanian War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in 1877–78, but soon afterwards the plans grew in size and construction was quite rapid. Peleș Castle had its official Royal Ball of Inauguration on 7 October 1883. King Carol I and Queen Elizabeth lived in Foişor Villa during construction, as did King Ferdinand and Queen Marie during the construction of Pelișor Castle. King Carol II was born at the castle in 1893, giving meaning to the phrase “cradle of the dynasty, cradle of the nation” that Carol I bestowed upon Peleș Castle. Carol II lived in Foișor Villa for periods during his reign.