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Moldova

Ştefan cel Mare

Moldovan currency: Lei (paper money) and Bani (coins). The exchange ration is around 12 lei to one dollar.

Moldovan currency: Lei (paper money) and Bani (coins). The exchange ration is around 12 lei to one dollar.

While Balti, boasts the largest statue of Stefan cel Mare (pronounced: Steph-an chel mar-ay) in Moldova, there is some bust, statue or monument to Stefan in almost every locality here and he is featured on all Moldovan currency. Stephan III of Moldova or Ştefan cel Mare (translated: Stephen the Great) as he is referred, was the Prince of Moldova between 1457 and 1504.

Stefan is known for strengthening Moldova and maintaining the nation’s independence against Poland, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. He was victorious in 46 of 48 battles and gained fame in Europe for being the first to gain a significant victory over the Ottomans at the Battle of Vaslui.

Statue of Stefan in Chisinau

Statue of Stefan in Chisinau

Stefan was also know as a great benefactor to the church, which in turn ensured political support from the church. It is estimated that he built 44 churches and monasteries, one for each battle he won and endowed many others with money and other benefits. Some of the churches Stefan built are now part of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, including Voronet Monastery.

From a cultural standpoint, the time of Stephen the Great was one of prosperity and both written culture, architecture and the arts flourished. Stefan worked to stimulate craftsmanship and encourage cultural exchanges and workshops with craftsmen from neighboring areas. He invited builders, architects and craftsmen especially from Transylvania and Poland to participate in his construction projects. Also the monasteries he helped to found and support were centers of development and craftsmanship.

There is also a good amount of literature on his personality, all of which suggests he was unusually charismatic and visible, not only internationally, but also to his subjects.  He managed to position Moldova as on of the key points on Euro-Asian trade routes, create alliances or defend the country against the three major regional powers and to create political stability and keep the throne for 47 years.

In 1992, the Romanian Orthodox Church canonized Stefan, giving him the title of Stefan the Great and Holy and marking July 2nd (the anniversary of his death) as his feast day on the Romanian Orthodox calendar.

Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt, (Stefan the Great and Holy)

Ștefan cel Mare și Sfânt, (Stefan the Great and Holy)

 

The picture below is a (clearly doctored) photo showing Stefan cel Mare as the Statue of Liberty. I believe he is in some ways the equivalent in terms of what his icon represents.

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