The Teutonic Knights – “Ordo domus Mariae Sanctae Theutonicorum Hierosolimitanorum” – a catholic religious order formed in Palestine during the late twelfth century by German crusaders, erected a fortress in Bran , before they were driven away from the area in 1226.
In the 14th century, the Saxons of Transylvania (“Sachsen” – a population of German origin that came to Transylvania in the twelfth century), from the region encompassing Brasov, were urged to participate in the building of Bran Castle, which was previously named “Dietrichstein” or “Törzburg” in German, “Törcsvár” in Hungarian, and “Turciu” in Romanian.
In 1388 , the castle’s construction was complete. The Castle was built on a steep cliff between Măgura and Dealul Cetăţii (“fortified town’s hill”), with an exceptional view of the nearby hills, Moeciu Valley and Valea Bârsei. It served the role of customs – holding 3% of goods transferring in and out of Transylvania – and the role of a fortress – the castle stood at the Eastern border of Transylvania and was used in an attempt to stop the Ottoman Empire’s expansion. The castle was inhabited by professional soldiers, mercenaries, and the storyteller Ioan de Târnava, wrote about “the English brigands and ballista soldiers” of the fifteenth century.
The Castle was given as fief (“property given in return for loyalty”) by Sigismund of Luxembourg to his ally, Prince Mircea, the Elder of Wallachia, where he could escape to in case of an attack by the Turks. After the death of the Romanian Prince in 1419 , due to the political instability of Wallachia, Sigismund took over the castle and entrusted it to the Princes of Transylvania.
The Turks raided Transylvania, but John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara) defeated them in Bran. Iancu, Prince of Transylvania, who needed the support of the Saxons at the border, reinforced the promises granted to the inhabitants of Brasov by Mircea the Elder and by Sigismund.
Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes) was allied with Bran and Brasov during his first reign (1436 – 1442) and through the start of his next reign, after the Princes of Transylvania requested that he handle the anti-Ottoman resistance at the border. During his second reign (1456 – 1462) , however, his army passed through Bran in early 1459 to attack Brasov, in order to settle a conflict between the Wallachia Voivode and the Saxons.
By 1836 , Bran Castle lost its military and commercial importance, after the border between Transylvania and Wallachia was moved to the mountains, at Pajura. Although Bran ceased to be a border and customs point of Austro-Hungary, the castle continued to be an administrative seat.
After 1888 , the City Administration of Brasov transferred the castle to the region’s forestry. For 30 years, the castle fell into decay – it was inhabited, up to 1918, by the foresters, woodsmen and forest inspectors coming from Brasov.
After 1918 , Transylvania became part of Greater Romania. On December 1st 1920 , the citizens of Brasov, through a unanimous decision of the city’s council, led by Mayor Karl Schnell, offered the castle to Queen Maria of Romania, who was described in the deed as “the great queen who (…) spreads her blessing everywhere she walked, thus wining, with an irresistible momentum, the hearts of the entire country’s population”.
The Castle became a favorite residence of Queen Maria, who restored and arranged it to be used as a residence of the royal family. From 1920 until 1932 , the Castle was converted into a royal summer residence, coordinated by the Czech architect Karen Liman, who designed the castles Peles and Pelisor.
After 1957 , Bran Castle was transformed by the communist authorities into a museum. The museum had three departments: the Castle – which contained pieces of royal heritage; the medieval customs; and Ethnography – that included traditional houses in the park near the castle.
The castle’s restoration works, which had started in 1987 , were finished in 1993 . The Castle was reopened as a museum and was reintroduced into the tourist circuit.
On May 18 2006 , after several years of legal proceedings, the castle was legally returned to the heirs of Princess Ileana of Romania and Archduke Anton of Austria. However, the Romanian Government, through the Ministry of Culture, provisionally administered the castle for another three years.
On June 1, 2009 , the Castle fully re-entered the possession of its legal heirs, Archduke Dominic, Archduchess Maria Magdalena and Archduchess Elisabeth.