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Constantin Brâncoveanu

Constantin Brâncoveanu

Prince of Wallachia
The basics
Gender male
Birth August 15, 1664 (Brâncoveni, Olt County, Romania)
Death August 15, 1714 (Istanbul, Istanbul Province, Turkey)
Spouse: Doamna Marica Brâncoveanu
Authority ISNI id Library of congress id VIAF id
Constantin Brâncoveanu
The details

Constantin Brâncoveanu (Romanian pronunciation: [konstanˈtin brɨŋkoˈve̯anu]; 1654 – August 15, 1714) was Prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714.



A descendant of the Craiovești boyar family and related to Matei Basarab, Brâncoveanu was born at the estate of Brâncoveni and raised in the house of his uncle, stolnic Constantin Cantacuzino. He soon became involved in the conflict between Constantin and Şerban Cantacuzino, and rose to the throne after the latter died in mysterious circumstances. He was initially supported by Constantin Cantacuzino, but the two ended up facing each other in a violent competition. Cantacuzino was exiled, and began advocating his son's Ștefan's candidacy to the throne, while competing with Brâncoveanu for the support of the Ottoman Empire - Wallachia's overlord.

Death and sanctification in eastern orthodoxy

The circumstances and facts of Constantin's death are recorded in history, and his santification is recognized by all The Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Dragoș Ungureanu, a specialist at the National Patrimony Institute, makes "a clear distinction between the holiness status of Prince Brâncoveanu and the same quality of some European monarchs who haven’t suffered a martyr's death. Brâncoveanu was canonized for his and his sons' martyrdom, just like the Christians martyrdom in ancient Rome, killed for their faith in Christ. And just like other Christian martyrs, Brâncoveanu had to choose between his and his sons' death and the denial of Christ, (in their case, by converting to Islam). His character, the nature of his relations with the others, the unexpected events of life brought, against his will, in this strange, even shocking situation for the year 1714."

On 15 August 1714, the Feast of the Dormition, when Constantin Brâncoveanu was also celebrating his 60th birthday, he and his four sons and his advisor Ianache were brought before Sultan Ahmed III of Turkey. Diplomatic representatives of Austria, Russia, France and England were also present. After all of his fortune has been seized, in exchange for the life of his family he was asked to renounce the Orthodox Christian faith. He reportedly said: ″Behold, all my fortunes and all I had, I have lost! Let us not lose our souls. Be brave and manly, my beloved! Ignore death. Look at how much Christ, our Savior, has endured for us and with what shameful death he died. Firmly believe in this and do not move, nor leave your faith for this life and this world.″ After this, his four sons, Constantin, Ștefan, Radu and Matei and advisor Ianache were beheaded in front of their father.

History also that the smallest child, Matei (12 years old) was so frightened after seeing the bloodbath and the heads of his three brothers that he started crying and asking his father to let him renounce Christianity and convert to Islam as the Sultan Ahmed III had demanded. At that moment, Constantin Brâncoveanu said: "Of our kind none have lost their faith. It is better to die a thousand times than to leave your ancient faith just to live few more years on earth." Matei listened and offered his head. After Brâncoveanu himself was decapitated, their heads were impaled on javelins and displayed in a procession. Their bodies were left before the gate and later on thrown into the waters of the Bosphorus.


The prince took steps in negotiating anti-Ottoman alliances first with the Habsburg Monarchy, and then with Peter the Great's Russia (see Russo-Turkish War, 1710-1711): upon the 1710 Russian intervention in Moldavia, the prince contacted Tsar Peter and accepted gifts from the latter, while his rivalry with the Moldavian Prince Dimitrie Cantemir (the main regional ally of the Russians) prevented a more decisive political move. Instead, Brâncoveanu gathered Wallachian troops in Urlați, near the Moldavian border, awaiting for Russian troops to storm into his country and offer his services to the tsar, while also readying to join the Ottoman counter-offensive in the event of a change in fortunes. When several of his boyars fled to the Russian camp, the prince saw himself forced to decide in favor of the Ottomans or risk becoming an enemy of his Ottoman suzerain, and swiftly returned the gifts he had received from the Russians.

Such policies were eventually denounced to the Porte. Brâncoveanu was deposed from his throne by Sultan Ahmed III, and brought under arrest to Constantinople, where he was imprisoned in 1714 at the fortress of Yedikule (the Seven Towers).

Brâncoveanu's statue in Bucharest

There he was tortured by the Ottomans, who hoped to locate the immense fortune he had supposedly amassed. He and his four sons were beheaded on the same day in August, together with Prince Constantin's faithful friend, grand treasurer Enache Văcărescu.

According to his secretary, Anton Maria Del Chiaro, their heads were then carried on poles through the streets of Constantinople, an episode which caused a great unrest in the city. Fearing a rebellion, including from that of the Muslim population which was outraged by the injustice done to the Prince, his sons and his close friend, ordered for the bodies to be thrown into the Bosporus. Christian fishermen took the bodies from the water, and buried them at the Halchi Monastery, in the city's vicinity.

Cultural contributions

Brâncoveanu was a great patron of culture, his achievements being part of the Romanian and world cultural heritage. Under his reign, many Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Arabic, Turkish, and Georgian texts were printed after a printing press was established in Bucharest - an institution overseen by Anthim the Iberian. In 1694, he founded the Royal Academy of Bucharest.

In his religious and laic constructions, Brâncoveanu harmoniously combined in architecture the mural and sculptural painting, the local tradition, the Neo-Byzantine style and the innovative ideas of the Italian Renaissance, giving rise to Brâncovenesc style. The most accomplished and the best preserved example of Brâncovenesc style architecture is Hurezi monastery, inscribed by UNESCO on its list of World Heritage Sites, where Brâncoveanu intended to have his tomb. Other buildings erected by him are Mogoşoaia Palace complex, Potlogi Palace, Brâncoveanu monastery. Such cultural ventures relied on increased taxation, which was also determined by the mounting fiscal pressure of the Ottomans (adding in turn to Brâncoveanu's determination to strip Wallachia of Turkish rule).


Brâncoveanu left to the secular Romanian spirituality a few fundamental books, printed for the first time in Wallachia; among them, Aristotle's Ethics, the Flower of the Gifts and the Philosophical Examples, the last two being translated and printed by Antim Ivireanul. The neo-Romanian style was born from the style of the monasteries, of the houses and of the palaces of Brâncoveanu and it became, through Ion Mincu and his school, the national style at the time of the affirmation of the cultural identities of the nations of Europe in the beginning of the 20th century.

The architectural Brâncovenesc style is found in the churches of the Monasteries of Hurezi, Râmnicu Sarat, Doicesti and Saint George’s New Church in Bucharest. Among secular buildings, the style can be found in Mogosoaia palace and the reworked Old Court.

The Constantin Brâncoveanu University is located in Pitești, but it also has subsidiaries in Brăila and Râmnicu Vâlcea.

In June 1992, the Sinode of the Romanian Orthodox Church decreed the sanctification of Constantin Brâncoveanu, his sons Constantin, Radu, Ştefan and Matei, and vornic Ianache Văcărescu.


The intrigue marking Constantin's ascension and reign is reflected in chronicles of the time, which are ideologically divided: Letopisețul Cantacuzinesc gives a bleak account of Șerban's rule, as does Cronica Bălenilor; Radu Greceanu's is an official account of Brâncoveanu's rule, and Radu Popescu is adverse to Cantacuzino rulers.

Dimitrie Cantemir's Historia Hieroglyphica is centered on the clash, and reflects Cantemir's preference for Constantin Cantacuzino, who was also related to Dimitrie through marriage (despite the fact that Cantemir and Brâncoveanu have taken the same side in the conflict with the Porte).

Ștefan Cantacuzino's brief rule saw in turn the downfall of the Cantacuzinos; he and his father were executed by the Ottomans, who saw the solution to the risk of Wallacho-Russian alliances in imposing the rigid system of Phanariote rule (inaugurated in Wallachia by Nicholas Mavrocordato, who, through his previous rule in Moldavia, is also considered the first Phanariote in that country).

Through his death, Constantin Brâncoveanu became the hero of a series Romanian folk ballads, as well as being depicted on some of Romania's official coinage. According to the Romanian Orthodox Church, the reason for his and his sons' execution was their refusal to give up their Christian faith and convert to Islam. In 1992 the Church declared him, his sons, and Enache saints and martyrs (Sfinții Martiri Binecredinciosul Voievod Constantin Brâncoveanu, împreună cu fiii săi Constantin, Ștefan, Radu, Matei și sfetnicul Ianache - "The Martyr Saints the Right-Believing Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu, together with his sons Constantin, Ștefan, Radu, Matei, and the counselor [Enache]"). Their feast day is August 16.


  • Letopisețul Cantacuzinesc on Constantin Brâncoveanu's relations with the Habsburgs and Ottomans early in his reign (1690, during the latter stages of the Great Turkish War):

"[...] Then Costandin-vodă [old rendition of his name] as well, arriving to his seat in Bucharest, catching news of the Austrians having entered his country and having reached Târgoviște, immediately left his seat [...] went forth towards Pitariului Bridge, setting camp in the river meadow of Plătăreşti, leaving behind the ispravnic [...] with orders that, when the Austrians were to arrive in Bucharest, he was to provide them with all supplies they would need.
Subsequently [the Austrian General], upon understanding this [action], immediately sent a letter to Costandin-vodă, inviting him to return to his seat and join [the Austrians] in harassing the Turk.
Then Costandin-vodă, upon understanding this, called as soon as he could the Metropolitan Theodosie, as well as all his lower and higher boyars, summoning a great council on what was to be done, whereupon some of the boyars vigorously showed themselves to favor Costandin-vodă's rejection of the Turks and his joining the Austrians; while another bunch of boyars, foremost Costandin [Constantin] Cantacuzino, who has been great stolnic, and Mihai Cantacuzino, the great spătar, believed this not to constitute good advice, as, where such a thing to happen, the nearby Tatars [who were Ottoman allies] would immediately arrive with a mighty force in order to enslave and plunder the country, and the Austrians would prove of no help. And immediately they moved spot and went to the village of Ruși, where the princely fish ponds are located.
Then [the Austrian General] came to Drăgănești, inviting Costandin-vodă to leave Ruși and meet him in Drăgănești, showing himself a great friend towards Costandin-vodă, asking him, in all good faith, to teach him what he should do next. And he told all the truth about how his and his troops' arrival had been brought about by the lies of [a high boyar], and how [the boyar] had boasted that, were [they] to enter the country, all boyars and all country would pay allegiance to [them], but that this had not in fact happened.
Thus Costandin-vodă told him the whole truth, about how the Tatars wished to enter his country, and [he] threw a major banquet in his honor and then returned to Bucharest in great fear. And the Tatars, aware of the Austrian presence, wasted no time in raising troops for the Sultan and sent forth messengers to Costandin-vodă, telling him that they were to come in the country to fight the Austrians.
Thus Costandin-vodă, upon hearing news of this, became very saddened, most of all considering the plight of the poor country, and immediately lifted camp and left for Buzău. And when he arrived there, he sent his Lady and all her ladies-in-waiting to the convent [...], and he rode with a few of his men to meet the Sultan, paying him high allegiance and offering him many gifts.
It is then that the Sultan saw that Costandin-vodă was not being rebellious, but rather [his] honest servant, and gave him assurance that his country would not be enslaved, and that [the Ottomans] were instead to meet the Austrians, who were their enemies."


Brâncoveanu and his wife Marica had seven daughters and four sons. Although all of his sons were murdered, many of his daughters had issue. Brâncoveanu's first born, Constantin II, also had a son who survived exile and rose to be a mare ban (foremost state function in Wallachian political hierarchy, except for the ruler). The male line of the Brâncoveanu family became extinguished in 1932, when Grigore Brâncoveanu died without having any children of his own. Yet he adopted a relative (who was also a descendant of Constantin Brâncoveanu) and thus passed the family name on.

According to a genealogical study, roughly 250 of his bloodline were alive at the middle of the 19th century. Amongst them Gheorghe Bibescu and Barbu Știrbei (rulers of Wallachia and Moldova), famous revolutionary Alexandru Ipsilanti, Romanian Prime ministers Barbu Catargiu, Nicolae Kretzulescu, George Manu and Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino „Nababul” and historians Dan and Mihnea Berindei.

(date of marriage)

Constantin II Brâncoveanu

Beizadeaua Constantin II Brâncoveanu.jpg


Anița, daughter of Ion Balș, Moldavian boyar.
(20 January 1706)

Constantin III
(mare ban)

Constantin II was Brâncoveanu's first son, albeit not his first offspring. He had one son, Constantin III, who was spared by the Ottomans: he later engaged in politics and furthered the family's name.

Ștefan Brâncoveanu

Ștefan Brâncoveanu.jpg


Bălașa, daughter of Ilie Cantacuzino.
(27 February 1709)


Ștefan was noted for his accomplished classical education. He is the author of several books in ancient Greek. His line ended with his daughter, who bore no children.

Radu Brâncoveanu

Radu Brâncoveanu.jpg


Engaged to a daughter of Antioh Cantemir, former Moldavian ruler, but the planned marriage didn't come to fruition in light of the 1714 events.

Matei Brâncoveanu

Matei Brâncoveanu.jpg


At the time of his death 11 or 12 years of age. A number of more and less reliable accounts of the August 1714 martyrdom state that he made a plea for his life, but his father convinced him not to trade his faith for his life. Was killed in front of his father.

Source: If nothing else mentioned, Chiriță 1932
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