Constantin Brâncoveanu (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.
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.
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.