I can’t believe I missed the story about the alleged discovery of Dracula’s tomb—in Italy! What a crock. The supposed discovery was made by a student researcher named Erika Stella as part of her thesis work and supported by so-called medievalist Raffaello Glinni. Glinni is in fact a lawyer and an amateur historian with a conspiratorial view of the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and all the usual subjects. But of course! It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an amateur historian in possession of a conspiracy theory, must be in want of Knights Templar.
So what do Stella and Glinni have to say about the tomb of Dracula? According to the Daily Mail, the researchers believe that Vlad III Tepes of Wallachia, better known as Vlad Dracula (Wladislaus Dragwlya), did not die in battle against the Turks in 1476 as most historians believe. Instead, he was taken prisoner, and his daughter Maria Balsa ransomed him from the Turks and transported him to Italy to live with her and her Neapolitan husband, the Count of Muro. There he eventually died and was buried in the church of Santa Maria Nova in a grave on whose stone appears an image of a serpentine dragon.
They further believe that small carvings of griffins on either side of the central dragon are really sphinxes and reference the Greek city of Thebes, which they identify with “Tepes.” “The dragon means Dracula and the two opposing sphinxes represent the city of Thebes also called Tepes,” Glinni said. “In these symbols, Dracula Tepes, the very name of the count is written.”
Except that it wasn’t his name.
The word Tepes literally means “Impaler” in Turkish, but the researchers see it as a Romanian to Italian pun because in Italian Thebes is “Tebe,” which if you squint is sort of like Tepes. Of course in Romanian Thebes is “Teba” and in Hungarian “Theba,” both from the Latin “Thebas,” but that ruins everything—as does the fact that the Tepes nickname wasn’t used in his lifetime. Vlad would never have called himself Dracula Tepes (“Little Dragon the Impaler”) since “Tepes” was, obviously, an insult.
Worse, Dracula wasn’t a count, as Glinni should have known. Vlad was in fact voivode of Wallachia, equivalent of a prince. Even Bram Stoker got that right in Dracula. Dr. Van Helsing announces that the man masquerading as a “count” in modern times “must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land.”
Glinni also identified Dracula’s family as the “House of the Carpathians,” confusing the mountains of Transylvania with the Draculesti family of Wallachia.
The BS Historian has an excellent breakdown of the many different ways the story makes no sense and the complete lack of historical evidence to support the claims. Among the highlights:
Now since Vlad is thought to have died in 1476 according to conventional history, and his “daughter” didn’t get around to renovating churches and building crypts until the 1520s, we have almost five unaccounted for decades. Vlad’s son was born around 1460, and any alleged daughter would likely have to have been born before his captivity in Hungary (1462), or else she would have been too young after his release in 1474 to have known him at all before his final defeat in 1476, let alone to ransom him that year. That would mean that Maria would have been 62 when she was renovating Acerenza, which doesn’t seem in accord with Italian records.
Now, I can do the BS Historian one better and tell you exactly what is on the so-called Dracula tomb at Santa Maria Nuova. The image you see is the crest of the Ferillo family, specifically the arms of Matteo Ferrillo, Count of Muro, the father of Maria Balsa’s husband. As described in Arthur Charles Fox-Davies’s Art of Heraldry (1904), Matteo Ferrillo’s arms were as follows, taken from his known tomb site:
Arms of Matteo Ferrillo (Conte de Muro), from his monument in the Monastery S. M. la Nuova in Naples (end of fifteenth century): Argent, a chevron, and in chief three mullets gules. Crest: a dragon’s head and neck, with wings addorsed.
They were carved on the tomb in 1499 and are attributed to the sculptor Jacopo della Pila. It was not a secret. Although photographs are not clear enough for me to read the inscriptions myself, his name is apparently inscribed on the tomb itself.
There you have it. The tomb is that of a known Italian noble, with recognized arms. Just to put a nail in the coffin, so to speak, on the same page Fox-Davies gives two more examples of Italian nobles who also had nearly identical dragon’s head arms on their tombs: Buffardo Cicinella of Florence (died 1455) and Ludovico de Caccialupo of Bologna (died c. 1451)—both before Dracula’s death. It was not a unique or secret symbol.
It took me less than five minutes to discover this.
Screw you Italian mystery-mongers and lazy British newspapers.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.