The Bran Gorge, as one of the most important trans-Carpathian passages, had a dynamic history. Its story has been characterized by two major components: the trade routes of its crossroads, and the recurring military invasions that utilized them. The first concrete events attesting to the importance of the Bran region were the military conflicts of antiquity, the Dacian-Roman wars. It is clear that some of the Roman legions coming from the Moesia Inferior would pass through the Bran Gorge on their way to the South-eastern region of Transylvania. The strategic importance of the gorge remained for the Roman military campaigns that followed. Roman military troupes were evidently stationed in the Cumidava (Râsnov) camp. Their task was to watch over and regulate the Bran passage.
In 1211-1225, Teutonic Knights built the wooden castle of Dietrichstein as a fortified position in the Burzenland at the entrance to a mountain valley through which traders had travelled for more than a millennium, but in 1242 it was destroyed by the Mongols.
The first documented mentioning of Bran Castle is the act (“birth certificate”) issued by Louis I of Hungary (1326-1382, was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1342 and King of Poland from 1370 until his death) on November 19, 1377, giving the Saxons of Kronstadt (Braşov) the privilege to build the stone citadel on their own expense and labor force; the settlement of Bran began to develop nearby. The inhabitants of Bran were exempt from paying taxes to the state treasury for centuries.
In order to achieve his strategic aims, Louis I relied on the large Transylvanian cities (Brasov, Sibiu and Bistrita), which he considered capable of counteracting the autonomous tendencies of Transylvania. He ordered the construction of fortresses in Talmaciu (1370) and in Bran (1377) in order to form, alongside the Severin Fortress, a chain of defence alongside the southern border of Transylvania. In fact, his plan to build Bran Fortress dates as far back as 1364, according to recovered documents from that time.When the Fortress' construction was finished (1377), it would become the property of the Kingdom of Hungary and was supervised by a Chatelaine, whom the King would appoint. It was the Chatelaine's duty to form a garrison, which included mercenaries, archers, and ballista men.
Documents concerning the years 1395, 1398 and 1406 expressly show that Bran Fortress (and, implicitly, the territory around it) was in possession of the Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387–1437, was King of Hungary, of Croatia from 1387, of Bohemia from 1419, and Holy Roman Emperor for four years from 1433 until 1437, the last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg).
This is a file from bingfotos.blogspot.com, Author: Marco Cristofori
In 1438-1442, the castle was used in defense against the Ottoman Empire, and later became a customs post on the mountain pass between Transylvania and Wallachia. It is believed the castle was briefly held by Mircea the Elder of Wallachia during whose period the customs point was established. The Wallachian ruler Vlad Ţepeş (Vlad the Impaler) 1448-1476 does not seem to have had a significant role in the history of the fortress, although he passed several times through the Bran Gorge. Bran Castle belonged to the King’s of Hungary but due to King Vladislas II’s failure to repay loans, the city of Brasov gained possession of the fortress in 1533. Following the town of Brasov's management of Bran Fortress, Bran began to flourish. The Fortress' income increased considerably. This income allowed the residents to pursue some construction and fortification projects in the Fortress. The eastern tower was doubled in size using boscage parchment (lining material), the inner loggia was arranged, and the enclosure wall was elevated, thus creating two rows of ramparts: lower ones for the artillery, and upper ones, on the guard line, for light weaponry. The central tower, the dungeon, and the double-armed columns were also erected during the renovation, and the shingles that had formerly covered the roofs were replaced by tiles.
Another series of renovations of the castle was conducted by the Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, in 1622–1625. During that time, the gate tower was rebuilt, along with the dungeon, which was refurbished in the style of the Renaissance. The main tower was embellished with double semi-circular arches, topped by a “Polish-Lombard Attic crown.” It was also, most likely, during this renovation that the progressive ramparts were added to the dungeon and to the front of the tower building (on the North-West side of the Castle).
Bran played a militarily strategic role up to the mid-18th century. In 1888-1918, the Bran Fortress was in the possession of the Brasov Forestry. In 1920, the castle became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania. It became the favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie. The castle was inherited by her daughter Princess Ileana and was later seized by the communist regime with the expulsion of the royal family in 1948.
In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as Bran, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, the son and heir of Princess Ileana.
On May 18, 2009, the Bran Castle administration was transferred from the government to the administration of Archduke Dominic and his sisters Maria-Magdalena Holzhausen and Elisabet Sandhofer. On June 1, 2009, the Habsburgs opened the refurbished castle to the public as the first private museum of the country and disclosed with Bran Village a joint strategic concept to maintain their domination in the Romanian tourist circuit and to safeguard the economic base in the region.