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In her first guest post for The Paranormal Scholar, the artist and author Radiana Piț examines Romania’s Iulia Hasdeu Castle, and how it came to be an icon of 19th century Spiritism.
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The story of the Romania scholar, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, and his daughter, Iulia Hasdeu, is an enduring enigma. How is it that these highly intelligent cultural personalities came to be two of the most distinctive figures in the Romanian spiritualist community?
The early loss of his daughter led B.P. Hasdeu to explore new realms of possibility, in order to reconnect with Iulia and explore the afterlife through her spirit. The testimony of his journey still stands today within the walls of the Iulia Hasdeu Castle at Campina, Romania.
Child genius: the irreplaceable Iulia Hasdeu
Born in 1869, Iulia Hasdeu was the genius child of Romanian culture who studied French at the age of two, and who, by the age of eight, was already writing poems and prose in both Romanian and French. By the age of eleven, she graduated from St. Sava Gymnasium and the Conservatory of Music from Bucharest, exceeding in the field of piano and canto.
Having inherited the outstanding intellect of her father, she became the first Romanian woman to study at the prestigious La Sorbonne University in Paris, France. She was writing her doctoral thesis on Romanian folk philosophy: logic, metaphysics, psychology, ethics and theodicy when she contracted tuberculosis.
When she was faced with the first signs of the illness Iulia wrote to her father.
“As for interrupting my studies and returning to the country before being at least licensed, I am not even considering it. I will not do it, even if I would have to die for it and no human power can force me to. I did not work my entire childhood and youth to stop now when I am so close to reaching the harbor. I am still alive and I will not give up this work as long as I still have left a drop of blood in my veins and my chest breathes with life.”
Despite her intense fidelity to intellectualism, she was forced to give up her studies in the April of 1888. Her parents took her to doctors in Montreux, Switzerland, and to the Agapia monastery in Bucharest. Eventually, however, they brought her home. Iulia succumbed to tuberculosis and died on the 29th of September, 1888. She was only eighteen years old.
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Even on her deathbed, Iulia had continued to write. After her death, two diaries would reveal her double life. In her first diary, the ‘real’ one, we can read in her last note, made in September 1888, the prediction of her own imminent death:
“Mother, I leave you forever. I will not see you again. I will acquire my existence under an unknown name. I’ll reach without help from anyone, on my own, the glory which I dreamed.”
At the end of her second diary, also known as “the diary from the future”, we can observe her dream of living 100 years in the future:
“The Queen Iulia died on May 21, 1971, at 11.20 am, at 101 years 6 months and 6 days…”.
With her passing Iulia left behind a devastated father. B.P. Hasdeu, the “genius of great vastness”1 who was already well-respected as a writer and philologist, spent the rest of his life publishing her works and memories. He also dedicated himself to finding ways to keep in touch with her spirit. While Iulia’s death may have been a tragic loss for Romanian culture, it was the catalyst for her father’s dramatic shift to spiritism.
The Great Temple
The Romanian scholar, B.P. Hasdeu, was only fifty years old when Iulia died. It is said he never recovered from her death and spent months mourning her loss, waiting for a sign from her. Six months after his tragic loss, he finally received the sign he had been waiting for. The moment is recorded in his famous work which discussed spiritism as a philosophy, Sic Cogito.
“Six months have passed since my daughter’s death. It was the month of March: winter left, but spring did not arrive yet. In a wet and gloomy evening, I was sitting alone in my chamber, next to my worktable. Before me, as always, there was paper and a few pencils. How? I don’t know, don’t know, don’t know, but without knowing, my hand took a pencil and rested the tip of the pencil against the gloss of the paper. I started to feel short and dense pulsing into my left temple as if a telegraphic device was shoved into it. All of a sudden, my hand started moving restlessly. At most for five seconds. When my arm stopped and the pencil slipped between my fingers, I felt as if awakened from a sleep, even though I am certain I did not fall asleep. I glanced over at the paper and very clearly read: Je suis heureuse; je t’aime; nous nous reverrons; cela doit te suffire. Julie Hasdeu (I am happy; I love you; we will meet again; this should be enough for you). It was written in my daughter’s handwriting.“2
After this first sign from his daughter, B.P. Hasdeu dedicated his life to the purpose of finding her spirit – through any means necessary.
He found refuge in spiritualism and built a temple in her memory at the Bellu cemetery where she is buried. Known as the “Small Temple“, he considered that it would not suffice for his explorations, and in 1893 he decided to raise a castle for his daughter.
The castle at Campina was built between 1894 and 1896 on the designs that, according to B.P. Hasdeu, Iulia herself gave to him from beyond the grave.
The Great Temple of Iulia Hasdeu at Campina was specifically built with a design that would allow B.P. Hasdeu to communicate with his daughter in the afterlife. Apparently, the numbers 3 and 7 form the architectural basis of the castle. The place is full of symbols, which he believed would facilitate the connection between himself and Iulia. It was at the castle that B.P. Hasdeu wrote the first book of spiritism in Romanian literature, Sic Cogito. He claimed that Iulia had guided his hand in this work and advised him during the process.
“The tone must be imposing and convincing, a sort of Sic cogito, meaning: he who can convince, the better for him it is, he who cannot – the worse… As for your Sic cogito, know that it will be your final word and the title of your entire work at the same time.”
B.P. Hasdeu was convinced that the Great Temple was the home of his daughter, that his work, is, in fact, her work. Those who come to visit and live in the castle are visitors, as Iulia is its true mistress.
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Ioan Luca Caragiale, the famous Romanian writer, was impressed with the building upon visiting and described it with the following words:
“The temple is oriented towards the Sunrise, it’s foundation is the shape of a cross, and the main axis falls perpendicularly on the meridian. It has two bodies with a floor each, and a central donjon, thus suggesting the concept of the trinity. On the massive access door, fixed on an iron axis, the Hasdeu family crest is engraved: Pro fide et patria, alongside Galilei’s dictum: E pur si muove. Inside, under the tall dome of the central donjon, in the middle of the circular hall, there is a pillar of rose marble, upon which two iron staircases rest, as they climb towards the belt of the donjon where there is a metallic gallery. At the gallery’s level, above the pillar that supports the staircases, there is a podium bearing the statue of Jesus, in colorful wood, crafted by the sculptor Casciani from Paris. The dome is lighted by three doors with stained glass. Behind Jesus, under a round window, there is Iulia’s bust covered with a thin, white veil. At the basis of the marble pillar, there is Iulia’s photo from her funeral day. The side bodies of the castle each have two halls, one bigger, and one smaller. In one of them sits Iulia’s piano, of which they say she played exclusively. In the other hall are Iulia’s library and her portrait in natural size. A building in which Iulia’s spirit can be easily identified…”
Although the castle in its entirety was built for his daughter, B.P. Hasdeu constructed a special spiritism chamber within the building for Iulia’s spirit. The room is perfectly dark with a hole in a wall. It is said that through this hole her spirit would gain access to the room. Within the walls of this room, B.P. Hasdeu tried to capture Iulia’s spirit using photography, but he never succeeded. Many believed that he was insane, driven mad with sorrow and that all the stories about her spirit were the make-believe of a sick mind. However, many personalities of the time did believe B.P. Hasdeu and even participated in the seances he organized.
Of course, nowadays, there are many legends and stories that are told about this special castle. Many people who pass by at night say that they can hear her spirit playing the piano, to which her father applauds. Another legend says that Iulia was once spotted on the terrace of the castle holding a bouquet of daisies in her arms. The following day, the gardener found daisies in the yard of the castle, despite it not being the season for the flowers.
The castle is still standing today and continues to be a place of legends, holding within its stone walls the memory of the genius child, Iulia Hasdeu, who left a grieving father at the edge of insanity.
This article was written by Radiana Piț, the Romanian artist and author. Purchase her most recent book, “Yearning for Spirit”, here.
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