Two hundred and ninety years were commemorated on August 15, 2004 since the martyrdom, in Constantinople, of Constantin Brâncoveanu, Voivode of Wallachia (*southern province of Romania) – together with his four sons: Constantin, Ştefan, Radu, Matei, and his son-in-law, treasurer Ianache Văcărescu -, one of the most terrible tragedies in Romanian history. Having come to the throne in 1688, Constantin Brâncoveanu reigned for over a quarter of a century, leaving behind him, for his nation and Church, numerous religious edifices (among which the Monastery of Hurezi), protecting culture, alongside Metropolitan Antim Ivireanul, and defending Orthodoxy on Romanian, as well as foreign, lands. We will herein try to recall the Martyrdom of the Brâncoveanus.
On March 25, 1714, Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu is deposed by the Turks, taken with his family to Istanbul and emprisoned at Edicule (lit. the prison of the ”Seven Towers”). Until the summer of that year, he will be subjected to ongoing torture in order to confess where his wealth was, as the Turks had surnamed him ”Altân Bei” (“the Prince of Gold”). After terrible tortures, they managed to get his signature for the gold he had deposed in Venice. On August 15, 1714, on the Feast of the Holy Theotokos, just when the Voivode turned 60 and his Lady, Maria, celebrated her nameday, Constantin Brâncoveanu was taken to an execution place called Yalı Köşkü (“the Sea Kiosk”).
Among those present were Sultan Achmed the 3rd, Grand Vizier Gin Ali, representatives of Western Christianity (from France, England, the Hapsburg Empire, Russia – who had not refused the invitation even if it was the Feast of the Holy Theotokos (mentions Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga), as well as many other onlookers. The family were allowed to say one last prayer, after which the Sultan offered them their lives if they accepted to convert to mahomedanism. Del Chiaro noted the Voivode’s reply: “Your Highness. My wealth, as much as it was, you have taken it from me, but my Christian faith is something I will not relinquish. I have been born in it and I have lived in it, it is in my faith that I shall die. I have filled the land of my country with Christian churches and now, you would have me worship in your Turkish djamies? No, Your Highness. I have defended my land, I have watched over my faith. It is always in my faith that I wish to close my eyes, me and my sons.” Then he encouraged his sons: “My sons, be brave. We have lost everything we had in this earthly world. All we have left is our souls. Let us not lose them, too, but bring them pure before our Saviour Jesus Christ. Let’s wash our sins with our blood.”
The Sultan gave the signal for the execution. The first to be decapitated was treasurer Ianache Văcărescu, followed by the Voivode’s four sons: Constantin, Ştefan, Radu, and then the youngest one, Matei (11). Horrified by his brothers’ death, the youngest one got scared and faltered. His father told him: “There has never been anyone in our family who lost their faith. If it is possible, one should rather die a thousand times, than deny the faith of his ancestors, for a few years more on earth”. Then the child put his head on the stock and said to the executioner: “I want to die a Christian. Strike.” Petrified with pain, the Voivode murmured: “Lord, may Thy will be done”, after which they beheaded him, too.
The six decapitated bodies were thrown into the Bosphorous and the heads were carried on sticks along the streets of the city, and then stuck at one of the gates of the Serai and left there for three days, after which they were thrown into the sea. Pious Christians fished the bodies out of the sea and hid them secretly in the Dormition Church in the Island of Halchi. The remains of the martyred Voivode were brought back to the country by his wife, Lady Maria, in 1720 and secretly buried at the Sf. Gheorghe-Nou in Bucharest. The tomb was covered by a white marble slate with no inscription.
Photos: Biserica Sf. Gheorghe Nou, Bucuresti * * * St. George’s Church, Bucharest, built by Martyr Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu (1654 – 1714)