Stephen the Great
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Revision as of 07:15, November 2, 2006
The holy and right-believing Voievod (which roughly translates into English as Prince) Stephen the Great, or Dreptcredinciosul Voievod Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt in Romanian, was ruler of Moldova from 1457 to 1504. He was a great statesman and military tactician as well as being extremely devout and was responsible for defending Moldova against the Ottoman invasion, building a church or monastery in thanks to God after each victory. This resulted in his founding almost 50 houses of worship, some of which are now found in the neighbouring states of the Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.
Stephen the Great was officially glorified, along with his spiritual father St. Daniel the Hermit of Voroneţ (Sf. Daniil Sihastru de la Voroneţ) and many other Romanian saints by the Synod of the Church of Romania in 1992. His feast day is July 2.
St. Stephen (also spelled Stefan) is honored as a saint throughout the Orthodox Church. Despite his earthly failings (somewhat comparable to the Psalmist and Patriarch David), he was a great defender of the True Faith against the onslaught of the Ottoman-Muslim empire during the last half of the fifteenth century.
St. Stephen defeated Mehmet at a famous and decisive battle in a place called Vasi Lui (not far south of Iasi in the province of Moldova). Had he not done so, little would have stood between Mehmet and the Ukraine -- and the obliteration of the rest of the Orthodox world. Mehmet met his match after shortly after having sacked Constantinople. With the rest of the Balkan penninsula falling to Islam's sword, Mehmet must have seemed unstoppable to Christians everywhere, yet none of the Western powers nor the Western Church would lift a finger against the Ottomans. Thus, Stephen stood more or less alone in defense of Christianity and his homeland.
Perhaps of equal or greater significance to this great saint’s life is that he built many churches and monasteries -- one after each of his 47 successful battles against the Ottomans, including many of the most beautiful monuments to Orthodoxy in the entire world. These monasteries still stand today and despite over 500 tumultuous years, including 50 years of Communist persecution of the Faith, they continue to thrive as a home to thousands of monastics. Stephen's monasteries include the famous "painted" monasteries, referring to the fact that the outsides are frescoed and, remarkably, have survived 500 years of weather - except on the north sides! These include the fabulous painted monasteries of Voronet, Moldovitsa, and Suceavitsa, as well as Putna (where Stephen reposes) and Neamst. At the west end of the south exterior wall of Voronet, interestingly enough, is a vibrantly colored fresco of the siege of Constantinople. Based undoubtedly on his zeal for the Church, he was commonly referred to as “holy,