December 6, 2013

The Right Hand of Saint Nicholas in Bucharest

In the fifteenth century Church of New Saint George (Sf Gheorghe Nou) in Bucharest, which was rebuilt in 1699 by the Wallachian prince and Neomartyr Saint Constantin Brâncoveanu (r 1688–1714) to be the largest church in Bucharest, there is kept the right hand of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Documents of the time indicate that the right hand of Saint Nicholas was dedicated to this church in 1599 by Prince Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazu). The holy relic was gifted to the Prince by the Archbishop of Bari with the mediation of a rich merchant. In this way the Catholic bishop wanted to honor Michael as a protector of Christianity in Europe following his ferocious battles with the Ottomans. He was considered the "Prince of Christendom". Michael sent him two purses of gold coins as a donation to the Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari. This event is mentioned in a chrysobull located in the Monastery of Simonopetra on Mount Athos, where Michael is commemorated as one of its founders.

Michael the Brave highly revered Saint Nicholas, and it is said that he had asked for the hand out of gratitude. By a miraculous intervention the Saint had saved him from certain death. Prince Alexander the Evil had condemned him to death out of fear for his throne. On the way to his execution he asked the guards to enter the church and pray before the icon of Saint Nicholas. After his miraculous rescue he built Mihai Voda Monastery in Bucharest, and he donated the right hand of Saint Nicholas to the Church of Saint George. This sacred relic was worn by the brave prince on his chest and over his heart in the battle of Călugăreni on August 23, 1595, before being donated to the Church of Saint George in Bucharest.

Michael the Brave

Church of New Saint George