Chiesa di S. Maria La Nova, Mentnafunangann, 2014, CC BY-SA 4.0


Vlad III Voivode of Wallachia, AKA Dracula the vampire, died in battle in 1477, perhaps his tomb is located in Naples in the complex of Santa Maria La Nova. He had a daughter, Maria, who lived in Naples and married a noble Neapolitan.

Vlad III Prince of Wallachia (Romania), nicknamed Dracul (dragon), belonged to the branch Draculesti of the family Balsarab; He was born in January of 1431 in Sighisoara. He was called Tepes (the Impaler) for his habit of impaling enemies he captured in battle. The father Vlad II had founded the Order of Dragon along with other Christian princes to protect Christendom.

Vlad III was Voivode of Wallachia from 1448 to 1476; his land was disputed by the Hungarians, who already ruled over most of Romania, and the Ottomans of Constantinople, led by Mohamed II, who aspired to the conquest of the Balkans; before he struggled allying with the Ottomans to defeat the Hungarians  asserting his power over Wallachia, then won his living space, he formed an alliance with the Hungarians to fight the wish of conquest of Mohammed II.

He had mixed fortunes of war in these his raids, during a battle against the Turks near Bucharest in December 1477, he was killed at the age of 47 years. It is said that his head was brought to Constantinople and handed over to Mohammed II as proof of his killing.

Vlad III became famous as a result of the novel “Dracula” written by Irish Bram Stoker and some films that were inspired by his life; the best known films are “In search of Dracula” of 1975 starring Christopher Lee, “Vlad tepes” in 1979 and “Dracula” shot in 1992 in Basilicata by Francis Ford Coppola, whose family was originally from Bernalda (Basilicata).

Vlad III had a daughter named Maria, who after his death she was given to the family of the Albanian king Skanderbeg, by virtue of the fact that Skanderbeg was member of the Order of the Dragon as Vlad; the order ensured mutual assistance extended to the families of his associates.

In 1479 the widow of king of Albania Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg, Andronica Arianiti Comnena, belonging to a noble family of the Balkans that counts five emperors of Constantinople among its members, after the death of her husband took refuge in Naples guest of King Ferrante of Aragon, also he was a member of the Order of the Dragon as Giorgio Castriota Skanderbeg and as Vlad.

She, in addition to her son Giovanni, was carrying a 7 year old girl, Maria Balsa, in her wake; she appeared as her niece, but Maria was just the daughter of Vlad whose family name was Balsarab the surname of the girl Balsa derived from.

It is not possible that Maria was the niece of Andronica Comnena, as it is historically proven that her niece, also named Maria, was married to Bonifacio III of Monferrato. It is also ruled out, as some claim, that the girl was the last descendant of the family Balsic, Montenegrin branch of the Neapolitan family Del Balzo because, in this case, the child would certainly be welcomed by the powerful family Del Balzo for a question of family honor.

Maria Balsa was adopted by King Ferrante of Aragon; marriageable age was married to a nephew of King, Giacomo Alfonso Ferrillo, member of a noble Neapolitan family of Spanish origin, who had his palace in via Tribunali next to the church of Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio or Purgatorio ad Arco, Church built by Maria; Giacomo Alfonso was also appointed count and he was awarded the possession of Muro Lucano and Acerenza.

The coat of arms of the family Ferrillo was dominated by blazon of Balsa for the most rank of nobility; the blazon of Balsa was represented by a dragon with bat wings, symbol of Prince Vlad Tepes. A confirmation of belonging of Maria Balsa to the family of Vlad, an official document was found in which Maria pointed out some of her properties located in Romania to be allocated to daughter Beatrice who married the Prince Ferdinando Orsini.

A group of academics, including Domenico and Raffaele Glinni, Nicola Barbatelli, and a recent graduate of Naples, Erika Stella, which made it the subject of his thesis, claiming to have found the tomb of Vlad III in Naples, in the cloister of the church Santa Maria La Nova. This monument, which relatively recently was moved inside the church in the cloister of the same. It was built in the late 1400s by the family Ferrillo.

The tomb, which is currently empty, has on the front a bas-relief representing a dragon, a symbol of the family of Vlad III, flanked by two towers as those that symbolize the city of Thebes, “Tepes” in ancient Romanian, that is the nickname of Vlad “Tepes” the Impaler. Inside the church, where the funerary monument was originally located, there is an inscription in an unknown language, which is currently not yet been deciphered; the translation of this inscription could clarify the mystery of the prince’s burial.

Because there is no reliable documentation on the death of Vlad during the Battle of Bucharest, the same, to escape his enemy Mohammed II after the defeat, may have found the secret refuge in Naples, hosted by King Ferrante; or, as an alternative hypothesis, his daughter Maria, after acquiring the status of a countess, could have made to transfer the mortal remains of her father in the church of Santa Maria La Nova.

Immediately to the right of this tomb is another funerary monument with an inscription that indicates to be the tomb of Andronica Arianiti Comnena, the widow of Skanderbeg that brought to Naples little Maria. At the front is clearly carved the name “Maria” as if the tomb had also been used to house the mortal remains of the daughter of Vlad.

This group of experts is waiting for project funding that will allow the translation of the inscription found behind the alleged tomb of Vlad III and positive identification of the remains that were contained in the two tombs.

In confirmation of the original family of Maria, the Cathedral of the town of Acerenza, which was completely restored by the same Balsa and her husband Giacomo Alfonso Ferrillo, presents numerous bas-reliefs representing symbols that recall to mind that the Countess descended from Vlad III; the family crest of Ferrillo, in which there is the coat of arms of Vlad, is reproduced on the front side; a sculpture, that seems to represent the prince Vlad, is in the crypt, along with the bas-reliefs of Maria and her husband Giacomo. Prince Vlad is turned his back to the altar to indicate his excommunication, he has flared nostrils typical of Prince, protruding chin and even teeth out).

Maria and Giacomo Ferrillo had two daughters. The eldest daughter, Beatrice, married Fardinando Orsini, Neapolitan nobleman Duke of Gravina. Ferdinando and Beatrice lived in Naples where they built their palace in via Monteoliveto, today called Palazzo Orsini Gravina or Posta Vecchia, because it was used as the headquarters of the Post Office; It is currently used as the seat of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Naples.

The second daughter, Isabella, was married to Luigi Gesualdo Count of Conza, going to live in the family palace in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, today known as Palazzo Sansevero. Luigi Gesualdo was the grandfather of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, a talented musician, who became famous for the murder of his wife Maria D’Avalos and her lover Fabrizio Carafa, surprised in the bed of the prince in the night.

Today the heirs of these two families are probably in Naples; if the identification of Maria Balsa is confirmed as daughter of Vlad III, this heirs  would be the direct descendants of the prince commonly known as “Dracula”. 

(Photo at the top: Chiesa di S. Maria La Nova, Mentnafunangann, 2014, CC BY-SA 4.0)