Stephen III of Moldavia, known as Stephen the Great was voivode and prince of Moldavia from 1457 to 1504. He was the son and co-ruler Bogdan II of Moldavia, who was murdered in 1451. With the support of Vlad the Impaler, Voivode of Wallachia, he returned to Moldavia after many years of living in Wallachia.
In 1457, Teoctist I, Metropolitan of Moldavia, anointed him prince of Moldavia. The Stephen’s reign was one of the most significant domination on Moldavian territory.
Stephen continued to pay a yearly tribute to the Ottoman Empire. He broke into Poland and prevented Casimir IV Jagiellon, King of Poland, from supporting Peter Aaron, but acknowledged Casimir’s suzerainty in 1459.
He was by his own account victorious in thirty-four of his thirty-six battles, and was one of the first to win a decisive victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Vaslui, after which Pope Sixtus IV named him Verus Christianae Fidei Athleta (Latin: “Faithful Champion of Christ”) . He was a man of faith who displayed his piety when he paid the debt of Mount Athos to the Ottoman Sultan, ensuring the continuity of Athos as an autonomous monastic community.
With Wallachia and Transylvania, Moldavia was historically one of three principalities that shared Romanian identity.
The years following Stephen’s wars against the Ottoman Empire can be described as a “period of great architectural upsurge”. Stephen’s long reign brought considerable cultural development; many churches and monasteries were erected by Stephen himself. Some of which, including Voronet, are now part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
Stephen was seen as holy by many Christians, soon after his death. He has been canonized a saint by the Romanian Orthodox Church under the name “The Right-believing Voivod Stephen the Great and the Holy.”
The important masterpieces that was built by Stephen’s order are: St. George Church at Hartau, Voronet Monastery, Saint Nicholas Princely Church, Holy Cross Church in Volovat, “Michaelmas” Church. The monasteries were built in byzantine and gothic architecture and mixed with elements of local tradition.
Stephen commissioned votive paintings and carved tombstones for many of his ancestors’ and other relatives’ graves. The tomb room of the Putna Monastery was built to be the royal necropolis of Stephen’s family. Stephen’s own tombstone was decorated with acanthus leaves which became the featuring decorative element of Moldavian art during the following century.
Stephen also contributed to the development of historiography in Moldavia. After he ordered the collection of the old records of the history of the principality, at least three chronicles were written during his reign.
Throughout his reign, Moldavia was one of the most powerful region. Stephen the Great is until now a model of ruler for everyone.