Mara Brankovic-Valide Hatun


Many sources have been used to write this short article! It might be safer to let the sources speak about themselves. However, I think that interpretation is a must here, as we, in many cases and certainly in the case of Mara Brankovic, have to do with the souls that are still mingling with and around us! If I say that something extraordinary has happened to me recently, you might think something is wrong! And if I say that the particular happening was followed by the mail from one of the 13th Century Monastery asking me to send them this article, then there is definitely something! Coincidences? I do not think so! Especially when the soul is clean and in its place! That is my impression and genuine feeling! The same feeling I had when visiting Monastery Hilandar at Mount Athos some years ago!
That feeling got enhanced when the driver who came to the dock to take us and supplies to Hilandar Monastery conveyed to me when I presented him with the paper, permission to visit Mount Athos with my son, then 13 years old: ” Throw that! You are in yours now!”
Mara Brankovic, so the legend says, was one of few women to visit Mount Athos and some of the Monasteries! Then I did not know if her soul, combined with the divine vigor, made me kneel down in front of the wonderworking icon “Trojerucica” ( Three-handedTheotokos- Virgin Mary)!? This can not be explained! It can be felt!
To mention that the Icon was taken in 1347 by Tsar Stefan Dusan to Studenica Monastery in Serbia and stayed there till the early 15th century when it went back to Hilandar! Coincidence?

How many of our rulers think what could happen after they retire, die, or lose power, instantly? How many are working for the future and for their fame after they are gone? How many of them are really leading, knowing that to lead is to sacrifice your personal life for the good of the people you lead! Are they concerned only about fulfilling their dreams and policies, thinking that they will live forever? How do they make decisions about various matters concerning and affecting the future of their citizens? Where do they stop, or can they be prevented? What this has to do with Mara Brankovic? It has if at the end of this reading you start thinking about above questions, projecting them in todays world.
Could it be that history is repeating itself at the times when no one is expecting it?

When Tsar Stefan Dusan* died suddenly on the 20th of December 1355, just a month after Pierre Thomas and Bartholomew of Traù than, for nearly one year on a pontifical mission to Serbia, decided to abandon it, things started to change rapidly!
The letters of Pope Innocent VI indicate that Serbian Sovereign Stephen Dusan had manifested desires for the churches’ union. This what is said in St. Pierre Thomas’s biography and supported by mentioning the above letters merely is far from the truth. Except, maybe, if Tsar Dusan would be installed and accepted as the supreme ruler?
But it is the writers feeling that they wanted to give one more try to save Tsar Stefan Dusan first from himself! Everybody wanted a leader like he was and Pope Innocent VI needed friends. Christian friends. Catholic Christian friends to organize and lead the Crusades against Muslims.
For the history, Pierre Thomas was informed that the Tsar, the Sovereign of Serbians and Romans(Greeks), will never become a follower of Rome’s western Catholic church. Tsar Dusan confirmed that in his “Dusan’s Code,” which came to life in 1349, referring to Roman Catholic Church as the “Latin heresy” prohibiting Orthodox conversions to Catholicism, marriages between Orthodox and Catholics etc…
So, it took some time analyzing, organizing, waiting for the right time, and persons who would inspect and try to overwrite the Code and give a hand of friendship, or some other “gift” to Tsar Stefan Dusan. One way or another. That is where common sense is taking us to!
In November 1355, they( Pierre Thomas and Bartholomew of Traù) left the court of Tsar Stefan Dusan. In December 1355, Tsar Dusan the Mighty, the Sovereign of Serbians and Romans(Greeks), died suddenly. Coincidence?
Laura Pedersen said: “Coincidence is a God’s way of being anonymous.”

In this case and after so many years, one could say that Tsar Stefan Dusan became a liability to both Eastern and Western parts of Christianity. He was excommunicated by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinopole Callistus I in 1350. Curiosity is that the Patriarch, in his “Hagiography of Gregory of Sinai,” mentions two persons living and writing simultaneously in Serbia. One Jakov of Seres and one Romylos of Vidin! Did they had a contact with the Patriarch Callistus I? How did they feel about Tsar Stefan Dusan The Mighty?
Another coincidence?
He, Emperor Stefan Dusan, was, as William Miller in his extremely educational book “The Balkans: Roumania, Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro stated: “..Tall of stature and of fine presence, he had already proved himself to be a leader of men….The devotion of his followers to his person was only equaled by the terror of his enemies at his approach…Even the wild Albanians were docile at his command, and rich and cultured communities like Ragusa were proud to own him as their protector…” That made many people around jealous, envy, evil-eyed!

From the distance of some centuries, one could say that leaders like Imperator Tsar Stefan Dusan, as well as personalities like Aleksandar the Great, Napoleon, Pyotr Alekseevich-Peter the Great, Abraham Lincoln, King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic of Yugoslavia, Mihailo Obrenovic of Serbia, had many admirers and as many followers. But also they were followed and many times advised by secret and very dangerous opponents. Coincidences? For you, dear readers, is to find out!

Tsar Stephan Dusan would not even dream that some of his descendants would be in such a misfortune and give their daughters to followers of some other religion, that of Prophet Muhamed. However, there are some indications that Tsar Stefan Dusan wanted to marry his daughter Theodora to one of the sons of Sultan Orhan, the father of Sultan Murad I, who was killed in the battle of Kosovo 28/6/1389.
But those are just rumors which are taking us to the title of this article and Princess Mara Brankovic or Despina Hatun or Sultana Maria!

Mara Brankovic or Sultana Marija or Despina Hatun was Serbian Despot Djuradj Brankovic’s daughter and stepmother of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. When at a young age, future Sultan Mehmed lost his mother, Mara Brankovic got in charge of his education. Mara was something like Jelena Gencic to Novak Djokovic. Mentor and second mother. Teaching him poems, languages, and virtues needed for the person who was destined to lead or die. There was also a strong love towards Mara Brankovic from Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror. He used to call her “mama” – mother.
That never changed till Sultan Mehmed II lived!

Mara Brankovic was born 1416 in the Vucitrn northern part of Kosovo and Metohia. The Holy Land of Serbs.
Vucitrn got the name from the plant, Ononis spinosa(Latin Onos-Donkey, Oninemi-to use- giving the meaning Donkey grass), widespread in the area. English translation of Vucitrn would be Wolf’s Thorn!
“Wolf’s Thorn,” commonly known as restharrow, is the bush with tough well-developed root and lateral shoots ending with thorns for protection. The flowers are single, rarely in pairs with glossy alluring pink crown leaves streaked with darker colored veins.
That plant radiates overwhelming beauty combined with firmness, strength, steadiness, and above all, deep instincts. You can cut it, but it will harm you if you do not know how to use it!
Or you can leave it and observe the beauty, and wait to be rewarded for that stance. Somehow this is what Mara’s life was, or became!
She had the character which her father wanted his sons to have! He adored Mara in all. Her way of thinking was scarce in those days. We are on the safe side to say that her way of thinking is unique in our days also. Even without instant means of communication, Mara had sharp instincts covered with the Princess’s manners, enabling her to disarm her interlocutors and make them eager to say more and more, just to have the pleasure to stay in her surrounding. She definitely could read between the lines, which is a very rare trait even today! Those VIRTUES combined showed how to analyze many prominent figures’ behavior in her time, thus predicting future events!
But all the glory of one Great Lady, making her immortal, came after a lot of suffering and pain. That is how life is and is teaching us never, ever, to give up!

One night in early 1431 in Smederevo Castle near Belgarde, Djuradj Brankovic, the Despot of Serbia, talked to his daughter Mara!
“Mara, I know that this might be a lot that I ask you to do! I also know that I would not ask you to sacrifice your future if I had some other choice! After so many sleepless nights and internal fight of my soul and heart, I concluded that this would be the only available move for the good of Serbia and our family. I am asking you, my child, to marry Sultan Murad II and be one of his wives. I am begging you, dearest, for the highest sacrifice of a living person! To give life and continue living! I know deep inside of me, my loving daughter, that you have courage, vitality, nerve, that you are armed with deep instincts, patience, and knowledge, which will be of extreme help to our family and our state! God bless you, dearest! May HE THE CREATOR be with you at all times!”
Mara, who was raised with total, undisputed, unconditional love for her family and Serbia, accepted her father’s request!
She said: Father, I completely understand that I am giving my life, my dreams! At the same time, I am proud that I will be doing something good for my country and my family! And let the divine GOD decide if I will have moments of love and respect! I am convinced that you thought of Olivera, the sister of my grandmother Mara who went as a slave with Bayazid and became his loving wife. I am sure that this might be a sacrifice in this life, but it will be a rise in the Kingdom of heaven! That Kingdom which our Tsar Lazar chose! The Kingdom of Heaven that takes this earthly life to present you with immortality! However, until the Kingdom of Heaven, I will have many things to do for our family and our Serbia, Mara said with open eyes, smiling with a full heart! “And I might get my life back,” she concluded in herself without sharing the thought with anyone.

That night she read the poem of Saint Sava


“I blended into witless mob 
and levelled with them, being destitute of good deeds 
and rich in desire, 
filled with shame, 
deprived of God’s freedom, 
condemned by God, 
mourned by angels, 
laughed at by furies, 
shaped by my own consciousness, 
disgraced by the evil deeds of mine. 

Even before death I am dead, 
even before Judgment Day I judge myself, 
before endless torment 
I torment myself with despair.”

She made a promise to her self that whatever the torment she will face, she will always stay positive, have faith and patience and be ready to give her love towards all who suffer! That was, maybe, the reason to have such a deep relation with young Price Mehmed, as he himself was facing torment and pain.

Her marriage to Sultan Murad II was celebrated at the beginning of September 1435 in Edirne ( Adrianople).
Mara went to the harem, and immediately, having all the virtues she obtained in her family understood how things work. She was satisfied that she did not abandon her faith. Mara treated Sultan Murad II first wife with moderation and respect, as she gave birth to the Price Mehmed three years before Mara’s marriage, in 1432. Future Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror, knew Mara all his life, and after the death of his mother in 1449, he became even more connected to Mara, calling her mama. Try to put your self in Mara’s shoes! Women in the harem with fear and loneliness to preside, Mara should have Vulcano of love and maternal instincts! This is what she tried to pass to Prince Mehmed, teaching him, as I mentioned at the beginning, poems, languages, history, geography, the traditions of her faith, always with great care and love! She passed to him the love she felt for Constantinopole, which was so intense that little Prince Mehmed had dreams about that remarkable city! She thought him about Agia Sofia and her powers! Sofia is a Greek word for wisdom! Prince Mehmed was “weaponized” with vision and inspired with Constantinopole to have continuous dreams about it!
Prince was extraordinarily clever, and his mind could comprehend many things immediately. He did not understand then that educating the children is not about the amount of information one will receive but the seeds that the educator will plant and then “just” be there to review from time to time how the digestive process and growing goes on. That is what Mara gave to Prince Mehmed! It was a copy of the education she received in her father’s court, plus pure maternal love!
When Prince Mehmed became the Sultan Mehmed II, he introduced the Serbian language as one of the Ottomans’ official languages and took excellent care of her!
That might also be politically motivated as, after the death of her husband Sultan Murad II, the father of Sultan Mehmed II, Mara refused two marriage proposals. The first was from Constantine XI Paleologos, the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor in 1451. The second marriage proposal was immediately after the fall of Constantinopole, in 1454, that of Jan Iskra, the Czech mercenary who would later arrest Vlad Dracula.
Mara refused both as she swore that if she would be free again, she would never marry! But she did not go into the monastery!
How the time passed, Mara Brankovic had more influence over Sultan Mehmed II, The Conqueror, managing to build and maintain many Orthodox churches and monasteries throughout the Ottoman Empire!
She fulfilled herself by helping the people in need! Especially people in today’s Seres and Dafni(Than called Jezevo) in Greece, where you can find today the ruins of Mara Tower, the place where she lived! After death, her immovable belongings passed to the monasteries of Mount Athos.
Her influence was significant as Mara knew what is enough and when to stop or when not to get involved at all. She even helped with the choosing of Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchs! Her title, given to her by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, was Valide Hatun, like Queen Mother.
Some say that the coast between Salonica and Kassandra peninsula has been named “KALAMARIJA” after her, which means MARA THE GOOD!
After the death of her husband, her sister Katerina came to live with her. They organized a kind of diplomatic office to help make peace between the Ottoman Empire and Venice. Also, there is another curiosity or could be called controversy! Namely, in 1463, she is said to recover the bones of the Luke The Evangelist from Bosnia to Venice! This was a help for the project that new Dodge of Venice Christoforo Moro. He was rebuilding the church of San Giobbe and wanted to have Saint Luke the Evangelist bones!

Mara Brankovic, as we said, was born in “Wolf’s Horn” Vucitrn in Kosovo and Metohia. Holy land for Serbs.

One of the friends of the writer with experience and roots from Kososvo and Metohia shared the feeling stating that there is a strange vitality of the people being born and living there! He compared them with the wild rose! Wild, beautiful and indestructible!

As you can see, Mara Brankovic is mentioned here as much as it is needed! Now is your turn, dear readers! Dream about this wise, wild, beautiful and indestructible Lady! She might come to your dreams showing you that whatever difficulty you are facing there is always a way! There is always another way!

  • Serbian Tsar Stefan Dusan was born 26/7/1308 and died, suddenly, 20/12/1355.
    He was a King of Srbija from the 8th of September 1331. From the 16th of April 1346 till his death 20th of December 1355, he was crowned as Emperor and autocrat of the Serbs and Romans (today known as Greeks).

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First Published 22/2/2020 and extended and republished 13/10/2020


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