A tyrant’s super-castle: biggest building in Europe

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Built with great human and economic costs, the now-called Palace of the Parliament symbolized Ceausescu’s absolute rule, being designed to host all of the most important institutions of Romania and also the leader’s home. A medieval super-castle in the XX century.

Nothing else mattered

The son of very poor farmers from south-eastern Romania, Ceausescu always tried to put his mark on the country’s history and to impress every foreign leader that came to visit. And what could have he found more visible than that ? Who inspired him ? Well, another erratic dictator- North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung. In his attempt to build the House of the Republic, how he called it, the dictator spared no effort. And no one. To make room for his gigantic project, the Romanian absolute ruler wiped out almost the entire historic centre of Bucharest. He tear down without hesitation people’s houses, stores and even churches. Almost 40 000 people were forced to move. That was not possible, still, for the 19 orthodox churches , 6 synagogues and 3 Protestant churches that were demolished.

For the  1 100 chambers and 12 stores the building has, were used, among others, 1 million cubic meters of Romanian marble and 700 000 tones of steel and bronze. All that in a period when Romania was struggling with an economic crisis . The population struggled to find even the basic products due to Ceausescu’s decision to build People’s House. While also paying before term the country’s external debt. But the old tyrant was living his fantasy unabated. He often visited the site of the construction and rushed architects and workers to get the job done faster. And they were more than a few. 200 architects and 20 000 people worked simultaneously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to finish the grandiose task the feared dictator has given them . In some moments, up to 100 000 Romanians were mobilized for this, including soldiers. And, in less than 7 years, the colossal building was given to use, although not entirely finished. 333 000 square meters of developed area and a volume of more than 2 million and a half cubic meters. It cost more than 3 billion dollars.

What to do with it

Ceausescu did not enjoyed his little castle too long. His regime was toppled by force in the 1989 Romanian revolution. Ceausescu himself was swiftly executed on Christmas day by the new authorities after a set up trial. But the People’s House remained to symbolize the part of Romania’s history marked by a megalomaniac dictator.

Now, the chilly record building hosts both of Romanian parliament chambers, other smaller institutions and is also the most important building for hosting conferences and other events. It even hosted the NATO summit in April 2008, the most important international event ever hosted by the south eastern European country. Even the popular British TV show Top Gear filmed  here and showed the whole world just a part of the impressive network of underground tunnels.

Although it is probably the most important tourist visiting site from Bucharest, many consider the building to be totally lacking esthetics. Some even consider it monstrous. What’s important for many, the now Palace of Parliament consumes more energy than a town with 250 000 habitants. Recently, there were Romanian lawmakers that asked that the Romanian parliament move from here and instead People’s House be transformed into a gigantic commercial building with malls, cinemas and other money-making objectives.

No matter what his past and present is, the biggest building in Europe will probably remain for centuries to go one of the most remarkable constructions in history. In some way or the other.

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