Dracula’s Grave… Or Is It?

Dracula’s Grave… Or Is It?

A blog post by Greg

Sat here in early-March 2022, as we are busily planning our upcoming travel documentaries and some more wildlife based documentaries, it seems very difficult to comprehend that it was two years ago that Felicity and I were in Romania filming ‘Romania: Seeking Dracula’s Castle’ (to watch the documentary, see the links at the bottom of this post).

In some ways, with everything that has happened with the pandemic, it seems like so much longer ago than that. Yet at the same time, as it was our last travel documentary and our last trip abroad, it still feels so fresh that is seems it couldn’t possibly be that long ago that we finished our search for significant places in the life of Vlad Dracula III of Wallachia by visiting his grave site at the Snagov Monastery in Transylvania.

It was the end of a confusing journey, and one which has continued for me throughout the edit, and right up until today. Just the other night I was being interviewed by the ‘Winging It Podcast’ all about our travels and our documentaries, and even after all this time I couldn’t give a clear point of view on whether I think of Vlad Dracula III as more of a ‘folk hero’ or as a ‘historical villain’ (to get an overview of Dracula’s life, have a read of Felicity’s blog post HERE). In very simple terms, in brutal times Vlad used brutal means to protect his country. Of course, then the questions become just how brutal was he, was he more brutal than others of his time, and were these actions justified in order to protect his country? These are questions we struggle with throughout the documentary, and I still do today.

Parking up on the streets near Snagov, we then crossed the bridge over onto the small island which holds the monastery, wondering what we would find inside, how clearly marked the grave of Vlad Dracula would be.

The island itself was very picturesque, and, in keeping with what we had found so far in Romania, a few dogs ran over to greet us as we arrived.

Sat almost in the centre of the small island in the middle of the lake was the main monastery itself, an ornate chapel, with the door at the front open and a young girl waiting to welcome people on the way in. We were asked on the way in not to film inside the monastery, but that we could pay a few Euros on top of the entrance fee to get a permit to photograph the inside, which is why there is no filmed footage of us inside the monastery in the documentary, and we had to do the ‘pieces to camera’ on the outside, using still photography to show the interior.

The entrance room of the chapel at the Snagov Monastery.

On entering the monastery we were greeted with an entrance room ahead of the main chapel area. This was the room where we paid for our entrance tickets and photography permit, but also the room where our question was answered about how Vlad Dracula, Vlad the Impaler as he is often called, would be presented in this particular monastery.

We may have been struggling with the ethical dilemma that Vlad III could present, but here there was no question, no debate. In Snagov Monastery, Vlad III of Wallachia is a hero. A display filled one wall, with pictures, writing and articles about Vlad, all clearly presenting him as the Romanian folk hero that we had heard about throughout our journey. We were about to visit the grave of a hero, and as we walked through into the main room of the chapel this was confirmed.

We found ourselves in an intricately decorated chapel, with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and artwork (I want to say ‘frescoes’ from the time I spent studying art history as a minor segment of my history degree, but I will honestly admit that I really would struggle to tell the difference between a fresco and any other method of wall painting). This was not a humble country church, it was a church which suggested royalty to me.

A blue strip of carpet ran down the centre of the room, leading towards the main focus of the room, a rectangle of concrete on the floor, with a picture of Vlad’s head at one end, and a candle. The grave of Vlad Dracula.

From the entrance hall to this room, although this was a monastery and therefore the chapel was clearly dedicated to the Christian God, I think that it was also fair to say that this was a shrine for Vlad III.

I have said many times that when we create our travel videos, I always feel like there are more ‘characters’ on the journey than just Felicity and I. Very often this is the country, and certainly Romania had been a third character in this documentary. More than that, however, we had travelled with Vlad III along with us each step of the way. We had visited the place of his birth. We had been to the venues of his triumphs and failures, we had been to places where he had taken brutal action against his enemies. We had struggled with the morality of his worst actions, and felt sorry for him for his upbringing and losses along the way.

Regardless of our mixed views on his actions, I felt that it was right to be here at Vlad’s grave to pay our respects to our historical travel companion for our time in Romania, and I am very glad that, although it wasn’t a castle, we took the time to visit his grave.

Our search for Dracula’s Castle, and the true man lurking beneath the muddle of history and legend, ended knelt beside the last resting place of Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia.

Except, of course, being Vlad Dracula, it isn’t quite as simple as that.

For starters, it is quite possible that Vlad’s head was not buried with his body.

After he was killed in an ambush (or possibly killed by some of his own people if you believe a different version of events, his head was, according to stories, taken to the Ottoman rulers in Constantinople. According to the stories which put his body at Snagov, some monks recovered his body and returned it to be buried in their monastery).

We were, therefore, likely paying our respects to Dracula’s body, but not his head, the location of which, according to these stories, would be unknown.

Except, of course, it isn’t even that simple. Some of the places we visited to try to find Dracula’s Castle, in particular in Bran Castle and in Corvin Castle, we felt the actual presence slip through our fingers in favour of legends and stories, with no hard evidence of Dracula’s presence there at all.

Surely, however, here at the grave of Dracula, there was some proof beyond local folklore that we were genuinely at the last resting place of Vlad III. Perhaps the grave had even been excavated at some point by archaeologists to prove, once and for all, that this was Dracula’s grave.

The good news is that such an excavation was carried out by the archaeologist Dinu V Rosetti. The bad news is that although he found bones under the supposed grave site, they were not human, and not of the right era.

“Under closer examination I found here a pre-historic pit, ceramics and … many bones of animals.”

Of course, the tradition couldn’t go that easily, and alternative suggestions for why no body was found in the grave were offered. With so many people knowing the location of Vlad III’s grave there was the risk that it could become the target of his enemies intending to desecrate his body, and so the monks dug it back up and moved it elsewhere. A body found in a wooden coffin with fragments of a purple veil and silver buttons has been offered as possibly being the body of Vlad moved to a new location, although other evidence points away from this.

What we end up with, whether because Vlad was never in the grave, or because he was moved, is a symbolic grave, more of a memorial than a last resting place.

It is fitting, considering the blend of legend, folklore and history which had made up our journey through Vlad’s life, that even at his grave we are left not being sure whether we have visited his true grave, or merely a grave crafted from local tradition. Like much about Vlad III, unless more information comes to light in the future, you will have to decide what you believe is most likely to be true.

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

P.S.

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There are various places you can watch our documentaries and series!

Seeking Cetaceans In Scotland: A two-part documentary about the work of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit as they work to help whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Moray Firth in Scotland:

Free in the USA on Tubi TV at:

https://tubitv.com/movies/678018/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

Free Worldwide on PlexTV at:

https://watch.plex.tv/movie/seeking-cetaceans-in-scotland

With a library card on the Hoopla service where applicable:

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/15313766

Free in the USA on Xumo at:

https://www.xumo.tv/channel/99991731/free-documentaries?v=XM00ILOFXCKLUC&p=74071

Buy it without ads Amazon’s Prime Video at:

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RVWVFCV

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09RVWJGY1

(Greg and Felicity are donating half of our streaming income on this documentary to support the CRRU).

Available to buy on DVD (with £5 from each donated to the charity): https://ko-fi.com/s/73e469d114

ROMANIA: SEEKING DRACULA’S CASTLE: Our travel documentary looking into the history, legend and castles connected to Vlad Dracula III, sometimes known as Vlad the Impaler, and a journey around Romania:

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/romania-seeking-draculas-castle

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579192/romania-seeking-dracula-s-castle

Prime Video (From £1.99, no Ads) (UK): https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B08RDPZP14

Prime Video (From $1.99, no Ads) (USA): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RDJR4F2

TURKEY: FAIRY CHIMNEYS AND UNDERGROUND CITIES: A travel documentary across Turkey, from the Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities of Cappadocia to the ancient Greek ruins of Ephesus and Hierapolis:

Prime Video UK (From £2.49, no Ads): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KKSZLRW

Prime Video USA (From $1.99, no Ads): https://www.amazon.com/Turkey-Fairy-Chimneys-Underground-Cities/dp/B09KK6VDJB

Free Worldwide on Plex: https://watch.plex.tv/movie/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Free (USA) on Tubi: https://tubitv.com/movies/579225/turkey-fairy-chimneys-and-underground-cities

Greg Chapman’s Magic Show: An eight-part series of magic and entertainment with Greg:

Free in the USA on Tubi at: https://tubitv.com/series/300008713/greg-chapman-s-magic-show

Free worldwide on Plex:  https://watch.plex.tv/show/greg-chapmans-magic-show/season/1

Available to buy on DVD: https://ko-fi.com/s/7c1bc10a08

Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty: Filmed on our honeymoon in Mexico in 2019, our first travel documentary took us through the ancient sites of Teotihuacan, Uxmal, El Tajin, Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul, and then on to see the whales of Magdalena Bay, whale sharks of La Paz, and more.

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yfMpD868MHU

The Isle of Man: Railways, Castles and Seals: Our second travel documentary took us to the Isle of Man!

Watch free on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uCpUa6XEkbg

 

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