Here is a modern Romanian image from the Monastery of the Holy Imperials Constantin and Elena (Constantine and Helen):

It depicts Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu (1654 – August 15, 1714) of Wallachia and his sons Constantin, Stefan, Radu, and Matei. With them at far left is Enache Văcărescu (1654–1714) Grand Treasurer of Wallachia. All suffered and were martyred in a horrific beheading by the Ottoman Turks in Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1714.

First you should know that Wallachia was a principality in what is now Romania. It was known in Romanian as Țara Românească — “The Romanian Land.” Wallachia was south of Transylvania and Moldova, as seen in this map:

Romania has always suffered from invaders.  In 1415 the principality of Wallachia became a tributary state to the Ottoman Empire (the Muslim Ottoman Turks), a condition known as suzerainty.  It remained under Ottoman domination until the 19th century.

Constantin Brâncoveanu  was Prince of Wallachia from 1688-1714.  He is credited with bringing a kind of cultural renaissance to the principality.  During the Russo-Turkish War of 1710-1711, he attempted to create a secret, anti-Ottoman Coalition with Tsar Peter the Great of Russia.  Apparently, Constantin tried to play both sides — hoping for successful Russian intervention against the Ottomans, but having a backup plan to support the Ottoman side if the first plan proved unsuccessful.  Unfortunately the Ottoman Sultan — Ahmed III — discovered what was happening, and had Prince Constantin arrested and taken to Istanbul, along with his sons and his treasurer.  There the Sultan had Constantin tortured to find the location and amount of his wealth.

From the Christian perspective, while under arrest Constantin and his sons and treasurer friend were pressured to abandon Christianity for Islam and thereby save their lives.  It is said that Constantin steadily refused.

His youngest son Matei — then only 11 or 12 — was so terrified at seeing his brothers beheaded that he begged his father in tears to let him become a Muslim and live. His father, however, told him in so many words that it was better to die than convert, and so Matei was killed as well.  Thus Prince Constantin, Stefan Radu and Matei and the treasurer Enache Văcărescu were all beheaded.  The bodies were tossed into the Bosporus but were later retrieved by Christian fishermen and placed in a monastery.

If we look closely at the depiction of Matei, we see that he holds the cross of martyrdom is his right and and in his left a scroll that reads in Romanian, Vreau si eu să mor creştin! — “I too want to die a Christian.”


Constantin and his sons and treasurer were “glorified” — declared saints — by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992.

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