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Staretu Stefan



THE TOWER AND THE COAT OF ARMS









     Trying to get the meaning of the Romanian Orthodox heraldry specificity, I noticed among other particular aspects, a constant issue, whose causes cannot be accidental.

   The royal coats of arms in the monastic units founded in Wallachia or Moldova are placed exclusively on towers: at Dealu, Putna, Dragomirna, Cetatuia, Galata, etc ...

   Without exception. Why are these coats of arms so placed?

   I identified a way to solve this mystery through the presence at Bistrita of the same situation, but in a more cryptic manner: Stephen the Great’s coat of arms is placed on the steeple bell in the tower too, above the main entrance.

   At Cetatuia it is the same, where the national coat of arms is placed on the main bell. It is an image featuring a beautiful imperial crown.

   What is the deep meaning of this situation? It must be related to the special character of Romanian heraldry.

   That is why I would like to highlight the idea of Orthodox heraldry in the context of a church.

   The only and the first places in the Orthodox world where heraldry appears in churches are in Serbia, where various noble foundations have the founder’s coat of arms carved at the entrance.

   However, such cases are very rare. In the case of a royal foundation like Lazarica, the royal palace church of the Saint Tsar Lazar from Krusevac, the coat of arms is carved somewhere on some marbles that protect the church porch, on its sides.

   The situation is repeated during the reign of the St.Tsar Lazar becoming a specific feature of the Morava style: at Hilandar, Kalenic, and Ravanica the situation is the same.

   The coat or coats of arms owned by the family of the Duke, the future martyr, the Hrebleljanovic crest, and the double-headed Nemanid eagle, along with two dragons kissing, or a cruciferous set, whose origin is unclear, are present on the right or left side of the porch. There are as well surprising images, like the enigmatic coat of arms at Ravanica, depicting two lions kissing, coat of arms with obvious meanings related to knight initiation rites, which however fit the porch as location.

   It seems that this is a subsidiary role of heraldry, imposed by the Orthodox Church rituals and principles related to human equality and the prohibition of the initiation rites within the liturgical space of the church, implicitly related to heraldry. Heraldry symbolizes investiture or initiation obviously of Christian nature, aimed at protecting the Church and the Christian state or empire, meanings acquired since the Labarum of Constantine the Great.

   Meanings are much deeper: actually, we can speak about kind of humility of heraldry, which has specific features in the Orthodox world, and which relates Orthodox heraldry to the essential meaning of heraldry.






   Let us expand this idea with some details.

   If the case of Bistrita coat of arms, you can see the full structure of the coat of arms called The Necked Aurochs, specific to its structure for the crest and the personal coat of arms with its symbolism already analyzed [1].

   The problem is that our nobles’ heraldry itself is one that keeps fresh the European heraldry of the 11th - 12th century, having somehow primitive, subtle shapes, with old boyar emblems, with animals or Ruthenia specific signs in Moldova, not exquisite structures that sometimes emphasize dynastic alliances, as it happens in the West.

   In our case only the primary initiation is displayed, because, as Professor Stefan Gorovei says, heraldry is a science showing the possession of certain initiation powers [2], which in the Orthodox world can only be Christian, related to the bravery and the confession of Christ.

   If Stephen or a herald of his, could ever hold his heraldic shield from Bistrita over his chest, under initiatory powers, as Professor Gorovei [3] says, it would have been to witness the glory of Orthodoxy, and to scary the enemies.

   However, humility was the spirit that made the discreet, humble hermetic aspect of Stephen’s heraldry.

   Heraldry is a hermetic science, indeed. [4]

   Nevertheless, humility is an Orthodox heraldry hermetic aspect. Orthodox hermetic tradition means humility, different from the indiscretion of the West, which often causes intrigues, envy, and passion, without peace, courage, and solidarity in the fight.

   Freemasons call themselves discrete, but they are intrusive, because their discretion is not humble.

   Our heraldry is discrete! It has a unique dimension, which makes it noble compared to the Western one, as it is humble. Its hermetic tradition is reflected in its usage with humility.

   What did Luca Arbore get from displaying his family coats of arms (still unclear in their duality-is it one of his wives’ coat of arms to explain their duality?) at his tomb, somewhere where they could be seen, on the royal Putna canopy at the imperial tomb?

   Was it an emphasis of a dynastic power, or of a power of prayer?

   The mortuary image that depicts him as founder providing the ark, gives clearly the answer to the question. It was the sense of prayer for himself and his ancestors, condensed in the coat of arms displayed which for the first time in the world explicitly changes the endemic contribution of the Orthodoxy to international heraldry. Its meaning shifts from a military sense, hijacked in the social sense, in the West, to the sense of remembrance.






   Through this meaning, our boyars’ genealogies become commemoration and the coats of arms are commemoration expressions.

   The same meaning is noticed in the case of the bell in Bistrita.

   There is no coat of arms carved in the center area of the grave carved by Stephen the Great, in Radauti, but in the early inscriptions, the aurochs can be discretely seen.

   Isn’t it a remembrance meaning too?

   Yes, it is, and there is a unique Moldovan contribution to the universal heraldry. It is the remembrance meaning, which includes everything from state to nation, parenting, affiliation, and obedience.

   Our heraldry has a hesychast meaning. The bell from Bistrita could be metaphorically Stephen's heart that glorifies the name of Christ by tolling the bell, which is his heart, symbolized by the coat of arms.

   It also has a defensive meaning. It is situated in the main defense tower of Lavra, where there is, for a clear reason, a chapel of St. John the New, Moldovan defender against two formidable traditional foes, Catholicism, represented by cunning Latinism, and Islam.

   It is the conspiracy idea found in the legend of Roman and Vlahata, through the so-called Golden Fabric and against whom Stephen the Great protested in an exemplary and absolute manner, as confessor of Orthodoxy in chivalry and discernment. This is how the codex of Louis the Holy expresses the meanings of the lily on Stephen’s coat of arms and which fits him so well, according to Stefan Gorovei [5].

   Proper heraldry in the Orthodox world can be found only in Serbia, Wallachia, Moldova, and Russia.

   In Serbia, the first dynasty that has coat of arms is called Lazarevic. These coats of arms can be seen on some porch stones, not above the entrance.

   In Moldova, there is only one church with noble coat of arms on the ​​framing (it is mentioned by Mrs. Szekely in the book with Petru Rares counselors).






   In Russia, until Peter the Great, there are no frame coats of arms.

   What does it mean? It means an egalitarian conception, by the gospel, through which family glory does not have to be displayed.

   The Orthodox conception about family is clear. It does not admit the nobility in the metaphysical sense of a nation, based on equality.

   The only concession involves the founders, who can paint and write at the entrance, and whose descendants still help the church.

   Descendants of the chancellor Tautu are mentioned at the church of Balinesti.

   However, the Orthodox Church does not accept the idea of noble lineage, except the royal family, with Western royal lineage influence, very democratized through the possibility of accession to power of an illegitimate son or of collateral relatives.

   The most obvious sign related to the attitude of the Orthodox Church to nobility is the prohibition of investiture ceremonies in the church, a fundamental difference from the Catholic heresy.

   The Church tolerates a social hierarchy, but it does not confer sacredness to the noble rank.

   This caused a discontinuity in the history of the Romanian boyars, not biologically, but in the sense of not founding a hermetic class of nobles, properly kept.

   Any rich Greek could become a boyar, based on universal equality between people, and it was a church gift, impossible in the Catholic world.

   He was received in the service of Christ's truth in the Christian state Moldova and Wallachia.

   Orthodox societies did not tolerate displaying heraldic insignia, on seals, developing hidden heraldry, passionate, romantic, with no state, or royal functions like in the West.

   In the early Middle Ages, as in the Nemanid Serbia heraldry was about to penetrate in mature Western sense, but the Orthodox Byzantine idea of absolute equality triumphed.

   The crest became state coat of arms and the family coat of arms slowly disappeared, as in the case of Moldova where already after Lăpuşneanu its usage disappears (in Wallachia much earlier) [6].

   The state as a militant collective in the struggle for redemption of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire is accepted, but the person or the person's family is not underlined.

   There is a broad concept, which favors the community of the militant church, represented by the state at the expense of a heroic prince or nobleman individuality.






   Radu cel Mare’s coat of arms at Dealu Monastery is on the tower, as Moldovan coat of arms at Moldovita, Dragomirna, Cetatuia, Galata, Putna, etc ...

   There are coats of arms on the tower, not on the church, as the bell coat of arms in Bistrita. The tower has defensive meaning, symbolizing the power of the founder, as messenger through the bell and defender of the church through the liturgical space structure.

   The state coat of arms is displayed, but only its crest is left. Rulers’ personal coats of arms, for example Stephen’s are not displayed publicly.

   In Bistrita the personal coat of arms is placed on the bell, where nobody can see it.

   It is the humility of heraldry, in the case of Christian Orthodox people, Serbs, and Stephen the Great.

   At Athos, the coat of arms is placed on a book seen only by monks (if it is even designed for the Zograf since the beginning I don’t know), and in the Tetraevangel of Humor there is no coat of arms and the Tsar title is not highlighted, it does not belong to an entrance inscription in adorned lettering.

     Old boyar and Christian ruler. Here is a sequence showing the noble hierarchy in the Orthodox world. Boyar, ruler, and Christian.

   On tombstones, there are no coats of arms, but crosses.

   Nobody went to heaven thanks to a dynasty, but to his or her actions.

   No national icons were painted.

   The national coat of arms is also rarely placed above the entrance. Sometimes there is only an entrance inscription where the name of the founder is not highlighted, so it is lost between the lines of pious remembrance.

   Everything is humble.

   Matei Basarab is the only one who displayed his coat of arms as dynastic emblem (although the old Basarab shield is lost forever) on the tomb, but the tomb is made by a Westerner.

   In the 19th century, the Russian influence is obvious.






[1] Stefan Gorovei, Coat of Arms of Moldova and of its Rulers /Stema Moldovei si a voievozilor ei Stema Moldovei si a voievozilor ei, in Herb, Iasi, 1999, p.15

[2] Stefan Gorovei, Coat of Arms of Moldova and its Rulers/ Stema Moldovei si a voievozilor ei Stema Moldovei si a voievozilor ei Stema Moldovei si a voievozilor ei, in Herb, Iasi, 1999, pp. 16-17

[3] Ibid, p 18-19, and Stephen and the Catholic World, in Stefan cel Mare. Portrait in History /Stefan si lumea catolica, in Stefan cel Mare. Portret in istorie, Putna, 2003

[4] Ibid, page 17

[5] Ibid, page 16

[6] Constantin Moisil, An old Romanian Heraldry Page/ O Pagina de Heraldica Romaneasca Veche, in Herb, Iasi, 1999, pp. 4-5







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