Back in the late seventeenth century, Mihail Cantacuzino (1640-1716), son of the great Chamberlain Constantin Cantacuzino, was a great steward of Muntenia. As a matter of fact, he came from a noble Cantacuzino family, one of the oldest in Europe, documented since 1094, with origins in Byzantium -a family that played an important role in the national history. His father married Elena- the last member of the great family of boyars Mărgineni, the daughter of Prince Radu Serban Basarab that was Michael the Brave’s son-in-law. He would be a close adviser of Matei Basarab (1632-1654) and due to the wealth inherited by his wife, he welcomed years of prosperity, being highly appreciated by the ruler.
An excellent diplomat, influential and in good terms with the Ottoman Porte, he will have a crucial role in saving the country from the imminent danger of becoming an Ottoman province, successfully managing to help Prince George Ghica come to throne, in 1659. Nevertheless, the seneschal Constantin Cantacuzino had a tragic end, being assassinated in 1662 in the Snagov monastery’s refectory, at the command of Prince Grigore Ghica (1660- 1664).
Constantin Cantacuzino, the first in the family established in Muntenia, together with his wife, Elena, had 12 children, of whom 6 were boys: steward Draghici, steward Constantin, Prince Serban Cantacuzino, steward Michael, Aga Matthew and steward Iordache. Soon after the seneschal’s death, his sons suffered many persecutions from the enemies, one of them- Stroe Leordeanu, being the moral author of their father’s murder. Yet, the persecutions ceased once Serban Cantacuzino acceded to throne in 1679.
Mihail Cantacuzino lost his father at the age of 13, and despite those years when he could only silently witness all sufferings of his family, being imprisoned and subjected to torture, being forced to flee to Transylvania, he benefited, along with his brothers, from the special care of their mother, Elena Cantacuzino. Thus, under the tutelage of his mother, he completed his education in the West, like his brother- steward Constantin Cantacuzino (1639-1716), and becomes a representative of humanism in the Romanian culture. His studying years in Padua, help Michael Cantacuzino acquire a distinguished culture and a refined taste for genuine beauty, a taste that will visibly define all his future projects.
During the reign of his brother – Serban Cantacuzino (1679-1688), Mihail Cantacuzino was appointed royal adviser and led the Romanian army in the siege of Vienna (1683). He was head of the army during the reign of his grandson, Prince Martyr Constantin Brancoveanu (1689 – 1714) and an adviser of him, as well as he was for Stefan Cantacuzino (1714 – 1716), his brother’s son, Steward Constantin.
Unfortunately, Mihail Cantacuzino was caught in the intricate web of fights and rivalries, from which the Ottoman Empire had greatly benefited, and got beheaded in Constantinople in 1716, together with Prince Stefan Cantacuzino, steward Constantin Cantacuzino and Radu Dudescu- the ruler’s brother-in-law.
Steward Michael Cantacuzino is represented in the votive painting of the old church of the monastery of Sinaia, his first project, nest to his two wives: Teodora and Maria (Marga), surrounded by 18 children, 12 of whom are adopted children. He had one natural son, the equerry Mihail Cantacuzino, who died shortly after the loss of father in 1722.
Actually, it was after visiting the monastery of the Transfiguration on Mount Sinai, in 1682, that Mihail Cantacuzino builds Sinaia Monastery, with his mother- Elena, and his sister- Stanca, between 1690-1695.
Helped by his nephew – Prince and Martyr Constantin Brancoveanu, Michael Cantacuzino builds the Holy Assumption Monastery in Ramnicu – Sarat (1691-1697). Stanca Brancoveanu, the sister of steward Mihail Cantacuzino was in fact married to Papa Brancoveanu, father of the future ruler of Wallachia. Moreover, steward Cantacuzino himself rebuilds in Oltenia the Titireciu hermitage, which had initally been founded by Michael the Brave. In Bucharest, he founded „Fundenii Doamnei” Church and Colţea Monastery.
By donations, he supported the construction and adornment of Dealu Monastery (Targoviste) and gave an iconostasis to the chapel dedicated to the Holy Apostles, which is situated in St. Catherine monastery, Mount Sinai.