300 Years Since the Martyrdom of Saints Brâncoveanu
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The Saint Voivode Martyr Constantin Brâncoveanu belonged to the patrilineality of the Brâncoveanu boyars, while his mother, Lady Stanca, belonged to the well-known family of Cantacuzino. His father, Matei, also named Papa Brâncoveanu, died in a battle to defend the Hill of the Metropolitan Church in 1655, during the uprising of the hired foreign warriors. The upbringing of the one-year-old child is taken over by the high steward Constantin Cantacuzino, who had returned from studying in Padova, Italy.
During Şerban Cantacuzino’s reign, his uncle, the young future voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu is invested with his first high office, that of second chamberlain, at the age of only 18. A succession of several hierarchical stages follows, such as chancellor, great agha, high chancellor at the age of only 26, and, only one year later, that of chamberlain. When ruler Şerban Vodă died, the boyars, along with the Ottoman Empire, confirmed Constantin Brancoveanu as the voivode of Wallachia. It happened in 1688, when he was 34 years old. At the age of 20 (1674), he had married Maria, the granddaughter of the former prince, Antonie Vodă from Popeşti. With his wife, the future voivode had 11 children: four boys and seven girls.
Speaker of Turkish, Greek and Slavonic, Constantin Brâncoveanu was known as a renowned and active personality in Europe, establishing during his 26-year long reign (1688 - 1714) a period of blessings for Wallachia in all areas.
The legacy of Constantin Brâncoveanu’s reign is drawn from what he represented as a valued personality: he was a politician, diplomat, administrator, reformer, supporter of culture, shelter and school founder, a man who shaped his times and brought to bear an artistic current (“the Brâncoveanu style”), Christian voivode and martyr of the Romanian people. During Brâncoveanu’s reign began a period of cultural renaissance, influencing greatly the Royal Academy in Bucharest, established by Şerban Cantacuzino, but reorganised by the new voivode.
In 1714, on Easter’s eve, Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu was captured by an Ottoman envoy and brought under arrest to Constantinople together with his four sons: Constantin, Ştefan, Radu and Matei, his brother-in-law the counsellor Ianache Văcărescu, and a part of his fortune. Locked in the grim prison of Yedikule from Istanbul for four months, they underwent torture and were urged to give up Christianity to regain freedom. The Voivode’s refusal was punished by the Sultan with the death penalty. On August 15th, 1714, as he turned 60, the voivode along with his counsellor and his four sons were beheaded. Their bodies were thrown into the sea, but Christians recovered and buried them on the island of Halki. In 1720, after numerous and dangerous attempts, Lady Maria, the voivode martyr’s widow, recovered the remains of her husband and put them into Saint George’s New Church in Bucharest.
For their unflinching faith, the exemplary way in which they faced death, remaining Christians to the end, in 1992, the Romanian Orthodox Church has consecrated the six martyrs among the group of Saints.
The issue of postage stamps 300 years since the Martyrdom of Saints Brâncoveanu brings a homage to Saint Brâncoveanu’s supreme sacrifice, who remains in the history of the nation and in the consciousness of the Romanian people as the last voivode of the Middle Ages, the first voivode of the modern era and “The Dusk” of the House of Basarab.
The postage stamp with the face value of lei 2.40 reproduces the image of Constantin Brâncoveanu in an engraving from that period, next to his emblem.
On the postage stamp with the face value of lei 5.00 is illustrated the icon from the Church of Hurezi Monastery, depicting the Brâncoveanu Saint Martyrs next to Ianache Văcărescu.
The postage stamp with the face value of lei 14.50 presents the image of Saint George’s New Church in Bucharest, illustrated after a 19th century lithograph. Saint George’s New Church is Brâncoveanu’s last voivodal foundation and shelters his grave and remains.
Technical DetailsIssue Date: 16.08.2014
Designer: Mihai Vamasescu
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 33 x 48, 150 x 111 mm
Values: 2.40 Lei, 5 Lei, 14.50 Lei