Vallachia and Moldavia

In the fourteenth century, the territories in the south and east of the Carpathians united. Apart from Transylvania, two other states, Vallachia and Moldavia, appeared. Transylvania remained independent of Hungary until 1541, and for centuries these three states were at war with the expanding Ottoman Empire, attempting to preserve their ethnic uniqueness and their Orthodox faith.

In the second half of the fourteenth century, the Ottomans conquered several Greek-Byzantine states in the vicinity of the Romanian ones. The Byzantine Empire was finally taken by the Turks in 1453, and Constantinople became Istanbul. The conquests were eventually followed by large-scale conversions to Islam. At the end of the fifteenth century, only the Romanian states had maintained their independence and their own political, economic and administrative structures. But from this period the Romanian states were forced to recognize Turkish Ottoman control and pay a yearly tax (haraciu), although this demand met strong armed resistance under rulers such as Mircea the Old, Vlad the Impaler, Stephen the Great, Peter Rares and later, Michael the Brave. No conversion to Islam was enforced in the Romanian countries. The Ottomans effectively ruled over Dobrudja (1417-1878), the northern part of the territory between Prut and Nistru, Buceag (1538-1812), and some smaller territories near the Danube, such as Braila.

Under such political circumstances, the Church in Vallachia and Moldavia evolved somewhat differently from the Church in Transylvania. When Vallachia and Moldavia became feudal states, the two churches were also united. The hierarchs in each local court were replaced with a metropolitan. According to the ecclesiastical canon, which stipulated that church organization should adapt to political organization, ecclesiastical union naturally followed the political one. Moreover, in feudal times, in both Vallachia and Moldavia, the relation between state and Church was close, similar to that existing in the Byzantine Empire until 1453. More specifically, the bishop's residence was near the ruler's residence, and the voievods (princes) considered themselves the protectors of the Orthodox Church in their country. The voivods built churches, granted them lands and exempted them from certain taxes. In turn, the bishops enthroned rulers in metropolitan cathedrals, and became their private counsellors. Apart from spiritual activity, bishops were entrusted with education, book editing, social assistance, and, at times, even with external political missions. Sometimes they took over the voievod's functions, if he died or was deposed.

It is also worth mentioning that the Orthodox Churches were, to a certain degree, independent of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, especially after 1453, even if, officially, their autonomy was recognized only in 1885. This relative autonomy derived from the fact that the metropolitans were all Romanians. They were elected in the country by an electoral body made up of abbots, magnates (boyars), and they were appointed in office by the ruler. They maintained contact with the other Orthodox Churches, especially with those in the countries under Ottoman rule, they used the national language in church services, they canonized saints, instituted religious celebrations, introduced local elements in ecclesiastical painting, architecture and music, without asking for permission from the Ecumenical Patriarch.

In 1359, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople officially acknowledged the existence of the Metropolitan See of Vallachia in Curtea-de-Arges (Targoviste after 1517, and Bucharest after 1668). A second see (Severin) existed east of the River Olt from 1370 to 1401. In the early 1500s (probably 1503), two bishoprics were founded in Ramnicu-Valcea and in Buzau, and in 1793 another one was founded in Curtea-de-Arges.

The Metropolitan See of Moldavia was not attested in documents until 1386, even if it might have existed before. The Ecumenical Patriarch only acknowledged it in July 1401 (after years of negotiations), when a Greek hierarch had been unsuccessfully imposed.

By the mid-fourteenth century, two bishoprics were established in Moldavia, in Radauti and in Roman. In 1598, another see was established in Husi. In the Romanian territories occupied by the Ottomans, two eparchies directly subordinated to the Ecumenical Patriarch and ruled by Greek hierarchs were founded: the metropolitan seat of Proilavia (Braila) and the seat of Dristva (nowadays Silistra in Bulgaria). They functioned until 1828 and 1878, respectively.

Several bishops in Vallachia were important figures in the history of the Church in this period. Maxim Brancovici, of Serbian origin, founded the Krusedol Monastery in Serbia; Macarie founded the first printing-house in Vallachia; Eftimie was an envoy abroad on several occasions; Luke of Cyprus was an esteemed copyist and miniaturist as well as an envoy. Bishops Teophilos and Stephen founded several printing-houses and authorized the printing of Romanian and Slavonic prayer books. Varlaam and Teodosie also supported printing, such as the first Romanian version of the Bible in 1688. Antim Ivireanul, born in Georgia, was one of the most outstanding Romanian scholars. A former monk and printer, he guided the editing of over 60 books in Romanian, Slavonic, Greek, Arabic and Georgian. He was the genuine creator of the liturgical Romanian language, which has been used, with slight alterations imposed by the very process of linguistic change, until nowadays. Other important cultural and editorial figures were Daniil, Neofit the Cretan, Grigorie II and Dositei Filitti.

Similar important bishops functioned in Moldavia: Teoctist I and Gheorghe, during the reign of Stephen the Great, Teoctist II, Teofan I, Grigorie Rosca, who all adhered to the spiritual and cultural life in their country. Gheorghe Movila and two of his brothers (future rulers) founded the Sucevita Monastery, Anastasie Crimca founded the Drago-mirna Monastery and a hospital in Suceava. He also edited theological and judicial books. Varlaam was another outstanding scholar who edited several theological and judicial books, and published a homiliary based on Greek and Slavonic sources. Dosoftei, who was canonized in 2005, was considered the first Romanian poet (The Psalms in Verse) and prose writer (The Saints' Lives and Deaths). He translated foreign theatrical plays and had printed the first prayer books in Moldavia.

In the eighteenth century, Iacob Putneanul fought for his believers' rights in Moldavia. Gavriil Callimachi (previously Metropolitan of Thessaloniki) and Iacob Stamati also patronized printing and education.

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