Monument to Excess: Ceausescu’s Romanian Palace

Monument to Excess: Ceausescu’s Romanian Palace

Devin Connolly is a MIR Sales/Client Specialist and tour manager who’s traveled the world. She has her favorite places; right now Devin’s especially drawn to Romania and the South Caucasus.

Devin Connolly is dwarfed by the sheer size of the People's Palace in Bucharest, Romania <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

The People’s Palace in Bucharest, Romania looms over MIR’s Devin Connolly
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Many of us who lived through the 1980s remember Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s megalomaniac president who was overthrown and executed alongside his wife in a bloody 1989 revolution.

Like most leaders who are eventually overthrown, gross excesses characterized Ceausescu’s rule while large numbers of Romanians at the time lived in extreme poverty. The “Palace of the Parliament,” or “People’s Palace,” was built in Bucharest to hold Romania’s four major state institutions, as well as to function as a residence for the Ceausescu family.

Architectural details abound in the 1,000+ rooms of Ceausescu's former palace <br>Photo credit: Michel Behar

Architectural details abound in the 1,000+ rooms of Ceausescu’s former palace
Photo credit: Michel Behar

In Excess of… EverythingIn addition to its daily functions, Ceausescu’s palace was meant to be the architectural symbol of his great leadership; superlative in every way. It holds the world record for three feats:

  • world’s largest civilian administrative building (by floor area)
  • most expensive administrative building
  • heaviest building

I had no idea that people kept track of such things until I visited Bucharest. After much Googling, the total weight of the building still eludes me, but Romanians know it tops the list!

With more than 1,000 rooms taking up nearly four million square feet of space and 3,500 tons of crystal used for chandeliers, the palace was clearly made with the legacy of both building and commissioner in mind. During the busiest times of construction, a rotating crew of 20,000 workers labored round the clock to complete the building.

One of the nearly 500 chandeliers in Romania's Palace of the Parliament <br>Photo credit: Michel Behar

One of the nearly 500 chandeliers in Romania’s Palace of the Parliament
Photo credit: Michel Behar

Final Thought: People’s PalaceWhat the visitor sees today over the course of a 90-minute tour is about 5% of the Palace of the Parliament. The building itself isn’t nearly as ornate as other architectural showpieces around the world, but the scale of the People’s Palace is most remarkable.

For me, the highlight of the tour is standing on the balcony overlooking the Bulevardul Unirii (Unification Boulevard), Bucharest’s own version of the Champs Elysees. From that vantage point, it is easy to imagine oneself as a head of state giving an address to an adoring crowd. If only Ceausescu had adoring crowds, he might have been able to enjoy his palace a bit longer.


Travel to Romania with MIRYou can see the legacy of Nicolae Ceausescu on MIR tours that include Romania, such as Bulgaria & Romania: Frescoes & Fortresses.  You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: David Allen — The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania)

 

PUBLISHED: August 8, 2014

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