A SERBIAN PRINCELY
GRAVE IN ROMANIA
Developed since mediaeval times, the relations between Serbia and the Romanian Principalities (Walachia and Moldavia) are reflected by various sources - monuments and artifacts - which are still preserved in today’ Romania.
An argument for such historic links is the fact that Walachia was a constant refuge for the members of Obrenovich ruling house of Serbia. As a consequence of the troubled Serbian history of the period, Obrenovich family tried constantly to reach a good situation in the North of the Danube. As example, Prince Milosh Obrenovich bought different estates here, among them the most important was the estate of Nasturel family of Herasti (in the County of Vlasca) where he ordered great works of reconstruction. Also, it is important to emphasize that two brothers of Milosh were both buried on Romanian ground. The first was Milan Obrenovich, who died in 1810 in Bucharest and was lately buried near the church of Herasti. The other was Jefrem Obrenovich (*1790 +1856), past regent of Serbia and the grandfather of King Milan I of Serbia.
Just like his elder brother Milosh, Jefrem Obrenovich acquired land in Walachia. In the very middle of Wallachia’ best agricultural area (the Baragan field, in the County of Ialomita), he bought properties in the villages Manasia, Uluiti and Racoresti, three pieces of land which formed in 1842 the commune Manasia. It is not exactly known when he bought land for the first time in the area. Because the name “Manasia” (which seems designated after the homonymous 15th c. Serbian monastery) is firstly mentioned in 1827, presumably that Jefrem Obrenovich has already become a landlord here. The whole estate remains in the property of his descendants, and in 1868 a map mentioned as landlord “Milan M. Obronevici IV, the Ruling Prince of Serbia”.
In Manasia, Jefrem erected a manor and a church. The manor has not survived in the initial form, being altered by a late 19th c. reconstruction. Started in 1838 and finished in 1842, the church was dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord, probably for illustrating his anti-ottoman aim. The church is a large monument having a neoclassic appearance, with many neogothic details introduced according to the artistic taste of the period. From the time of Jefrem Obrenovich survived a stone carved bilingual founding inscription (in Serbian and Romanian), put above the main entrance, but practically illegible now. An interesting neogothic altar screen has also survived from the time of Jefrem Obrenovich.
The tomb is situated at the entrance of the nave, in the right side. Being entirely carved in red marble, the tomb consists in a sarcophagus and a stele, the latter bearing a cross inscribed with the “ИC-XC-NИ-KA” in gold letters. A silver votive light is hanged over the grave. The tombstone has the following bilingual inscription, in gold letters:
“Here rest the mortal remains of Jefrem Obrenovich, the youngest brother of Milosh Obrenovich I, prince and ruler of Serbia, born in 1790, the feast of St. Theodor on Saturday, passed over in 1856, September 10th, to whom this monument is erected by his wife Tomania, with his son Milosh and his daughter Anca”
(the English translation after the Romanian text).
Above the text is represented – in under relief – the coat of arms of the Principality of Serbia, namely the shield with the cross between four fire-steels, the shield surrounded with a wreath of olive branches, under a mantle bearing a princely crown (of Austrian type). Above the coat of arms is represented a large cross pattée convexed.
The stele displays a hybrid decoration with two classic columns carrying a neogothic arch, and the following inscription also bilingual, in gold letters:
“The bones of the Hero are today covered by the ground
But the living Glory is flying upon distant fields
Today Neboisa Tower is narrating to the posterity
What a Serbian can suffer for the sacred liberty”
(the English translation after the Romanian text).
Generally speaking, the tomb is quite unusual for a Romanian church, because the common type of a funeral monument was a simple stone plate embedded in the floor. The sarcophagus is rarely met with, one contemporary exception being the sarcophagus of Alexander D. Ghica, Prince of Walachia between 1834 and 1842. On the other hand, Jefrem Obrenovich’ older brother Milan was also buried under a sarcophagus, at Herasti. The emplacement of the tomb is also significant, because it was placed in front of a window (that is to say in full light), in the part of the nave which walls were painted with the images of unidentified saints connected with Serbia (perhaps St. Sava, St. Spyrdon, St. Jefrem, St. Nicodim etc.). This part of the painting was preserved over time (while the rest was modified), but the inscriptions are unfortunately illegible. The saints were probably put here as a link between past and recent Serbian history. Finally, the precious carved red marble can be considered as a claim to the Byzantine imperial heritage.
Jefrem Obrenovich died only two years before his brother Milosh was recalled to the throne of Serbia. His descendants wanted to erect a special monument, in order to emphasis his souvenir. Perhaps that the inscription was added between 1858 and 1860, because Milosh is styled as “Prince and Ruler of Serbia”. The quatrain is touched by the romantic patriotism of the period, and mentioned the Neboisa Tower, a historical place in Belgrade (which is quoted on paraphrasing someone’ heroic behavior). The coat of arms is exactly the same with the one put by Milosh Obrenovich above the entrance of his manor of Herasti, as it is confirmed by an old photographic detail. Consequently, it is difficult to suppose who had been the owner of an anonimous princely Serbian seal, now preserved in the History and Archeology Museum of Ploiesti. Perhaps that this object belonged to Jefrem Obrenovich, rather than to his brother Milosh, because the latter was alternatively using as supporters a lion and a snake (which were taken from the arms of boyars Nasturel, a Walachian family from which Milosh bought the estate of Herasti).
There are many things which can be told about the historical links between Serbia and Romania, especially from the dynastic point of view. Two of the brothers of Milosh the Great died and were buried in Walachia. Mary Obrenovich (*1831 +1879), mother of Milan, the first King of Serbia, belonged to an ancient Moldavian family (Catargiu), and the King himself was born in Iasi. King Milan’s wife Natalia (*1859 +1941) was born in Bassarabia, having as mother a princess Sturdza, from another ancient Moldavian family. A much recent connection is the marriage between King Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Mary (Mignon) of Romania (*1900 +1961). It is important to underline the fact that Serbia always found in Romania an ally and a friend, thing which is demonstrated by dynastic connections. Various sources - as the tomb Milosh the Great’ brother - are still waiting to be known and understood.
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Tudor Radu Tiron