Moldoviţa Monastery was founded in 1532 by Prince Petru Rareş, an illegitimate son of Stephen the Great (the Romanians have a romantic word for bastard children: copil florilor, child of the flowers). Rareş reigned twice in Moldavia, between 1527-38 and from 1541-46. During his first reign he tried hard to save Moldavia from Turkish in suzerainty but by the time he
returned to the throne he had to accept the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent as overlord and pay a tribute to maintain his position on the throne.
In order to boulster his family’s name (and his own claim to the independent leadership of Moldavia) he put a great deal of energy into commissioning new monuments and restoring and embellishing some of the existing churches which his father had founded.
Petru’s life was one of hectic political intrigue but after trying unsuccessfully to regain his country’s longed-for independence, he died an Ottoman vassal.
Today Moldoviţa Monastery nestles in a green and tranquil setting between the Obcina Mare and Obcina Feredeu on the edge of the village which bears its name, where its high walls protect it from the weather. In Petru’s day, the peace was considerably more fragile and the monastery walls came into their own as a defence against military attack.
The greatest continuous threat to Moldavian independence at that time came from Ottoman Turkey and the Bucovina monasteries played a vital role not only in providing spiritual refuges for the local populace but as rallying points as well. Stephen the Great relied on the yeomenry for support in times of war and the tradition of the farming soldier carried on under Petru.
Having married a Serbian princess whose family had fled from the Turks, Petru was acutely aware of the dangers of giving in to Sultan Suleiman.
As on the external walls of Voroneţ, his church at Moldoviţa is covered in paintings that invoke the help of the Christian god and of Christ against the fear of Islam. The most striking of these is the sequence that purports to show the Siege of Constantinople in 626 AD but is in fact a direct reference to the Turkish invasions of eastern Europe.