Martyr Voivode Brâncoveanu

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 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 ungoing 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 the execution place called Ialy Chisc (the Kiosk of the Sea).

Among those present were Sultan Achmed the 3rd, Grand Vizir 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 thus: “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 who was 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 small 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, 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.


Photo: Biserica Sf. Gheorghe Nou, Bucuresti * * * St. George’s Church, Bucharest Built by Martyr Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu (1654 – 1714)

9 thoughts on “Martyr Voivode Brâncoveanu

  1. Sarah says:

    What a terrible story and indeed a terrible page of Roumanian history. I have sat many times at Sf. Gheorghe Nou in Bucharest – it’s one of my favourite places (a close call with Radu Voda and that lovely little church on Batistei) – thinking of the courage and loyalty of Constantin Brancoveanu, the depth of his faith as he watched his sons murdered before his very eyes… though most of my thoughts and the lump in my throat are for his wife – what agonies of the soul did this woman survive, for what was left to live for? Like a Roumanian Antigone, I imagine her waiting, waiting, for her day to come so she could be enfolded by her husband and sons once again, communing only with the deasd for there was noone left alive…

    Sf Gheorghe Nou is a haven of peace amongst the ringing trams and screeching traffic – a little oasis of garden and shady trees and the church itself is a gem. Oh Mihaela, how I miss Bucharest… your post has hushed me into a reverie! Thank you!

    • Valahia says:

      Dear Sarah, your comment is very poignant – an aspect that I think should be so obvious, yet so many overlook it. Thank you for it. In the hope that you will come back to Bucharest before long, I’m sending you my hugs, from a distance. Doamne-ajută!

  2. Dan Ghelase says:

    Este de remarcat ca acest centru al credintei de suflet romanesti coincide cu centrul geografic al Tarii, in curtea Bisericii existand monumentu “Kilometrul 0 al Romaniei” de Const.Baraschi (alt Constantin!)

  3. Daniela Peters says:

    Unfortunately, I can not recall much of my native country’s history that I have learned as a child. So, I am grateful for articles that I can find on line, like this perticular one about Constantin Brincoveanu. I remember him as one of the few good leaders, so I googled his name. I am interested to find out more about him. I remembered that the Turks were going to war with the Russians led by Peter the Great, and Brincoveanu was supposed have thousands of solders plus supplies ready for the Sultan. However, at the last minute Brincoveanu changed sides with the Russians in an attempt to get rid of the Turks that have oppresed Wallachia for hundreds of years. If I remember correctly, the Sultan did not kill him right away for his “treason”, but reather waited a few years. Am I wrong? But if I am right, why did the Sultan wait a few years and exactly how did he bring Brincoveanu and all his sons and son-in-law to Istambul? Was it by force, or was it by some trickery?
    Your reply would be gratly appreciated. Multumesc antecipat.

    • Valahia says:

      Dear Daniela, thank you for your comment. I am not a historian yet I would say that the expression “a few good leaders” is a bit too strong… :) From the history knowledge I have, I know that the Wallachian rulers – and the rulers of any Romanian province in general – would be “taken” and “held” by the Porte by some sort of arrangement – read it “trick”, as you aptly called it – which would compel these families to send some members of their family to Istanbul. I’m thinking of Vlad the Impaler, for instance, who spent several years there together with Radu the Handsome, his brother – as a “lien” for their father’s “good behaviour” at home. The threat was that otherwise he would have been overthrown or else that his country would have been attacked. As you know, Wallachian and Moldavian rulers (and not only them in the Balkan region and Eastern Europe in general) had a long history of vassalage to the Ottoman Empire and therefore they had to be careful how they dealt with it. I would not be surprised that a similar thinking and circumstances surrounded Voivode Brâncoveanu being taken as a hostage. I don’t know the detailed story but I will try to look it up.
      Best wishes,

    • Valahia says:

      Dear Daniela,
      Here is a link I found that speaks briefly about several cases of treason in our history:
      Apparently, it is not the rulers, but the “boyars” who have always been the problem…

      “Un boier ruda cu el, spatarul Toma Cantacuzino, fara stirea si permisiunea domnitorului, ii ajutase pe rusi in razboiul acestora cu turcii (1711), lucru care ii suparase pe acestia din urma si ii facuse sa-l suspectezea pe domn de necredinta fata de ei. O alta ruda, unchiul sau, stolnicul Constantin Cantacuzino, ravnind sa-l puna pe tron pe propriul sau fiu Stefan, a uneltit la Poarta, tesand intrigi care i-au alcatuit domnului o reputatie proasta in ochii turcilor. Iar acestia, desi ii dadusera domnuia “pe viata”, n-au ezitat sa-si incalce promisiunea: l-au mazilit, ispititi pesemne si de marea avere pe care voievodul o adunase in timpul lungii sale domnii.

      Brancoveanu, pe atunci in varsta de 60 de ani, si cei patru fii ai sai au fost adusi la Stambul si inchisi. Turcii l-au torturat pe batranul voievod pentru a afla unde-i sunt bogatiile apoi, la data de 26 august 1714, Brancoveanu a fost decapitat, dupa ce turcii il silisera sa asiste la executia celor patru fii. I-a urmat la tron Stefan Cantacuzino, asa cum dorise (si uneltise) tatal acestuia dar, dupa cum scrie Nicolae Iorga: “Ca o rasplata dumnezeiasca, i-a venit aceeasi pieire silnica, dupa doi ani singuri de domnie. Fu gatuit in temnita la Constantinopol, impreuna cu tatal sau foarte batran.”

      Should I find anything else, I’ll let you know. Best wishes.

  4. Eline van der Ploeg says:

    I am a research assistant in the Netherlands. For one of our scientists I am looking for information about the onlookers at the execution. Especially about the Dutch Ambassador, was he present as well ?

    • Valahia says:

      Hello, Eline,

      Thank you for your question. I do not have that information; I only know that many representatives of the Western countries were there. I will try to find this out and let you know.

      Best wishes,

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