August 16

St. Stephen the Great

St. Stephen the Great

Commonly known as Stephen the great, Stephen III of Moldavia was bornsometime between1433 and 1440 and he died on the 2nd of July 1504. Hewas the son and co-ruler with Bogdan II. Stephen’s father was murderedin 1951 when his brother and Stephen’s uncle, Peter Aaron III conspiredagainst him. Peter III Aaron went on to become the king.

St. Stephen the King

After the death of his father, Stephen fled to Hungary and then toWallachia. He then returned to Moldavia in 1457 forcing Aaron to seekrefuge in Poland as Stephen had support from Vlad III Tepes and Voivodeof Wallachia.

Stephen then went on to attack Poland forcing the Polish king not tosupport Peter Aaron. In 1462 Stephen decided to recapture thepresent-day Kiliya in Ukrain formerly known as Chilia and this broughthim into conflict with Hungary and Wallachia. He was seriously woundedduring this siege but he managed to capture the town two years later.

In 1467 the king of Hungary invaded Moldavia but Stephen defeated him inthe battle of Baia. In 1470 Peter Aaron attacked Moldavia with thesupport of Hungary but he was also defeated resulting in his execution.

Stephen restored old fortresses and built new ones and this improvedMoldavia’s defence system as well as the central administration. Duringthat time, Ottoman was the suzerain but Stephen stopped paying tributeto him and launched a series of campaigns against Wallachia in order toreplace it rulers who had accepted Ottoman’s suzerainty.

Stephen eventually defeated a large Ottoman army in the Battle of Vasluiin 1475 and he was referred to as Champion of Christ by Pope Sixtus IV.In 1476 the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed invaded Moldavia but retreated due toa plague and lack of provisions. From 1486, Stephen again paid yearlytribute to the Ottomans.

Throughout his time as a ruler, Stephen fought many wars most of whichhe won.

After 1486, many stone churches and monasteries were built in Moldaviaand this contributed to the development of a specific Moldavianarchitecture. During his last years, his son and co-ruler Bogdan IIIplayed an active role in the government.

The Family Man

He is known to have had numerous wives with some of the women havingtheir legitimacy as wives questions. For example, the woman namedMarusca who gave birth to his first legitimate son known as Alexandru isnot really known if she was a legitimate wife or not as there areconflicting reports.

He also had many children including two or three sons named Alexandru.However, it is not known if the first legitimate son is the one who wenton to be Stephen’s co-ruler of he died in infants as there are alsoconflicting reports.

Stephen had either three or four legitimate wives who bore him childrenas well as other illegitimate children. He is also reported to have hadextra-conjugal rights with peasants as his wives were from royalfamilies.


He was canonized by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992.

He is venerated as Stephen the Great and Holy. He is the patron saint ofdeacons, headaches, horses, coffin makers, and masons.

5 Interesting Facts About St. Stephen the Great

  1. St Stephen was the first Christian Martyr.
  2. St Stephen’s long rule represented a period of stability in the
    history of Moldavia.
  3. Modern Romanians regard him as one their greatest national heroes.
  4. He fathered two or three sons named Alexandru
  5. The treaty which Stephen ratified at Harlau in 1499 put an end to
    Polish suzerainty over Moldavia.

Prayer to St. Stephen the Great

Let us begin, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HolySpirit. Amen.O glorious St. Stephen, first Martyr for the Faith, filled withcompassion for those who invoke you, with love for those who suffer,heavily laden with the weight of my troubles. I kneel at your feet andhumbly beg you to take my present need under your special protection …

(Mention your request here…)

Vouchsafe to recommend it to our Lord Jesus. Cease not to intercede forme until my request is granted. Above all, obtain for me the grace toone day meet God face to face, and with you and Mary and all the angelsand saints praise Him through all eternity. O most powerful SaintStephen, Deacon and martyr, do not let me lose my soul, but obtain forme the grace of winning my way to heaven, forever and ever.Saint Stephen, pray for us.