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Legends of Neamț Fortress

The Mother of Stephen the Great by Dimitrie Bolintineanu

I

On a dark old mountain, in an ancient keep

Where a brook flows rushing in the valley deep,

The young princess, sighing, weeping in her splendour

Sweet and oh-so-precious, like a flower, tender;

Because in the battle, her beloved prince

Went to lead his army, and he vanished since.

II

An old horologe chiming, splits the night in two

Who’s knocking at the gate, wanting to come through?

“It is I, dear mother, your beloved son;

Coming from the battle wounded and undone.

Our fate was harsh and cruel, merciless this time:

And my little army’s shattered, in the grime.

Open now the gate; the Turks are on my tail…

And the wind is chilly and my wounds are vile!”

Rushing to the window, is the princes, keen.

“What are you doing, young one?”, asks the grand old queen.

She would then descend toward the gate shut tight

With these words to utter through the silent night:

“Who are you, o stranger? Stephen is away;

His strong arm is hurling his rivals to dismay.

Surely I’m his mother, and he is my son;

But I’m not your mother, if you are this one!

Still, if God in Heaven – wishing me to mourn

And my days be saddened and my years so torn –

Had your soul, so noble, in this manner changed,

If indeed you’re Stephen and are thus deranged,

Know that without triumph and the foes repressing –

Here you cannot enter; not without my blessing.

Go back to your army! For your lands to die

And your tomb be crowned with flowers to the sky!”

III

Stephen then returns, and from his horn he roars

While his shattered army from dark valleys soars.

The battle is renewed and the foes are smitten

Like the ears of corn which by the scythe are bitten.

 

(from Testament – Four Hundred Years of Romanian Poetry – Daniel Ionita, Minerva Publishing – 2019)

 

The story of Lady Ruxandra

Lady Ruxandra, the daughter of Vasile Lupu (1634-1653) the ruler of Moldavia was forced by her father to marry Timus Hmelnitchi, the son of the ruling Cossacks. The Princess came to terms with it, trying to understand that this was the only way that she could save her family from invaders, her gesture becoming practically a tribute. The wedding took place in 1652, and 2 years later Ruxandra became a widow, after her husband was killed in battle. When she was only 23 years old and a mother of two children, she retired on the banks of Nistru River, at Râșnov fortress and she flatly refused any other suitors.

After Vasile Lupu, who had been taken prisoner in Istanbul, managed to escape and return in the country, Ruxandra returned to her estate, in the village of Preutești, 15 km far from Târgu Neamț.

She was abducted by Cossack soldiers and brought to Neamț Fortress. Everything was possible after the betrayal of the boyar Crupenschi, who led a group of Moldavian mercenaries, in the service of Polish and Cossack soldiers. Here, she is held captive and tortured by Cossack soldiers to show them where her father’s fortune was hidden. In the end, the young lady gives in and reveals the place of the treasure. The Cossacks take the 19,000 coins and behead the young lady right in front of the gates of Neamț Fortress.

Ruxandra’s story inspired Mihail Sadoveanu to create the historical novel “Lady Ruxandra’s Wedding”. The novel, being a historical one, tells the story of the defeat of the ruler Vasile Lupu and the tribute that the beautiful young lady has to pay – the marriage with a Cossack barbarian, a cruel and repulsive man, mediocre and eager to become king.

The sad story of Ruxandra also raised the interest of other writers like Niculai Gane and Gavril Luca.

 

The fountain in the center of Neamț Fortress

 Tourists visiting the Neamţ Fortress can’t help but notice inside the fortress the presence of a fountain located right in the middle of the medieval courtyard. This is a legendary fountain that is said to have been dug by the Turks who were taken hostages after a battle with the army of Stephen the Great. The Prince of Moldavia promised the Turks that if they dug and reached the water, he would release them. The prisoners dug and found the water of the Neamț River (which was also called the Ozana River). Thus they were released.

But legend has it that this fountain is not an ordinary fountain, like any other. From this start tunnels that go out at the foot of the mountain, in the Oglinzi resort. These were used by those in the fortress if the fortress would have been conquered.

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