History of the Orthodox Church in Moldova

Middle ages

The first attested Christian organization the territory of the later Principality of Moldavia was the Catholic Diocese of Cumania
Diocese of Cumania
The Diocese of Cumania was a Roman Catholic diocese in Hungary.The diocese was founded in 1227 with its seat in Milcov, serving the Cumans and the Teutonic Knights in the Burzenland. The diocese was destroyed during the course of the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241.It was a suffragan of the...

 in the southern part of the region, dating from 1227, and is connected with Hungarian
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 attempts to control the region. However, as early as 1234, Orthodox Vlachs, having their own "pseudobishops" (or rural bishops), are mentioned in the diocese. The diocese was soon destroyed by the Mongol invasion
Mongol invasion of Europe
The resumption of the Mongol invasion of Europe, during which the Mongols attacked medieval Rus' principalities and the powers of Poland and Hungary, was marked by the Mongol invasion of Rus starting in 21 December 1237...

 of 1241, and only beginning with the late 13th century did Catholic missionaries become active again in southern Moldavia.

In the early stages of its statehood (14th century), Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 was under the authority of the Orthodox bishop of Halych
Halych is a historic city on the Dniester River in western Ukraine. The town gave its name to the historic province and kingdom of Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, of which it was the capital until the early 14th century, when the seat of the local princes was moved to Lviv...

. Around 1371, during the reign of Laţcu, the court passed to the Catholicism, and a Catholic diocese was founded at Siret
Siret is a town in Romania, Suceava County, one of the oldest towns in, and a former capital of, the former principality of Moldavia. It is located 2 km from the border with Ukraine, being one of the main border passing points in the North of the country, having both a road border post and a...

. However, the conversion was reverted soon after, and voivode Roman I of Moldavia
Roman I of Moldavia
Roman I was Voivode of Moldavia from December 1391 to March 1394. He was the second son of Costea Muşat, the first ruler from the Muşatin family....

 put a local cleric as bishop. By 1391 a new Orthodox metropolitan, Joseph of Belgorod
Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi is a city situated on the right bank of the Dniester Liman in the Odessa Oblast of southwestern Ukraine, in the historical region of Bessarabia...

, had been ordained by the archbishop of Halych. The move was opposed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who in 1391 named Theodosius as Metropolitan bishop
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 of Moldavia. Around 1392, the same position was given by the Patriarch to Jeremiah. The Moldovan rulers however refused to accept either and banished the latter from Moldavia, action resulting in an anathema against Moldavia issued by the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, another two patriarchal missions were sent to Moldavia in 1395 and 1397, to try to regain the authority over the local church. As the Mitropolitan see remained canonically vacant in 1394, a Moldavian priest, Peter, was named exarch over Moldavia by Constantinople, a move that probably was not accepted by the local rulers either.

In 1401 the voivode Alexandru cel Bun
Alexandru cel Bun
Alexander cel Bun was a Voivode of Moldavia, reigning between 1400 and 1432, son of Roman I Mușat. He succeeded Iuga to the throne, and, as a ruler, initiated a series of reforms while consolidating the status of the Moldavian Principality....

, obtained from the Patriarchate of Constantinople the recognition of Joseph, whose anathema has been raised on the occasion, as head of an autonomous Metropolitan See at Suceava
Suceava is the Suceava County seat in Bukovina, Moldavia region, in north-eastern Romania. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1388 to 1565.-History:...

, with 3 bishoprics and jurisdiction over the entire territory of the Principality of Moldavia. The Catholics were also favoured by Alexandru, and in 1417 a new Roman Catholic bishop was ordained at Baia
Baia is a commune in the Suceava County, Romania with a population of 6,793 . It is composed of two villages, Baia and Bogata. Located on the Moldova River, it was one of the earliest urban settlements in Moldavia, originally inhabited by Germans...

, with authority mainly over Hungarian and German merchants in that market town. Moldavia also sent delegates to the Catholic Council of Constance
Council of Constance
The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Three-Popes Controversy, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.The Council also condemned and...

 in 1421. All these caused problems for the Metropolitan of Moldavia, who called to Constantinople in 1415, and was not received by the patriarch, having to wait until the new patriarch was named in 1417 to have his position reconfirmed. The princes' of Moldavia extensive diplomatic relations with the Pope, did not contribute to good relations with their direct superior, the Patriarch of Constantinople. Towards 1436, the Pope named a Moldavian, Gregory, as Archbishop of Moldavia, however he was never recognized by the rulers of the country, and disappeared from history. Moldavian delegates were also present at the Council of Florence
Council of Florence
The Council of Florence was an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It began in 1431 in Basel, Switzerland, and became known as the Council of Ferrara after its transfer to Ferrara was decreed by Pope Eugene IV, to convene in 1438...

, where Damian, the Orthodox metropolitan, rejected the Union of the Western and Eastern Churches.

From the 15th century the Patriarchate of Constantinople was forced to content itself with being responsible to the Ottoman Sultanate, the Metropolitan of Moldavia being ordained since by the Archbishop of Ohrid
Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid
The Archbishopric of Ochrid was an autonomous Orthodox Church under the tutelage of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople between 1019 and 1767...


Modern times

The 17th century saw the adoption of the national language in the church (when many religious texts were translated in Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

, especially during the time of Metropolitan Dosoftei
Dimitrie Barilă, better known under his monastical name Dosoftei , was a Moldavian Metropolitan, scholar, poet and translator....

), which replaced Old Slavonic language.

19th century

Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

, the eastern half of the Principality of Moldavia, was annexed
Bessarabia Governorate
Bessarabia was an oblast and later a guberniya in the Russian Empire. It was the eastern part of the Principality of Moldavia annexed by Russia by the Treaty of Bucharest following the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812...

 by the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 in 1812, including the territory constituting the Chişinău
Chișinău is the capital and largest municipality of Moldova. It is also its main industrial and commercial centre and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc...

 Eparchy, which was reorganized and placed under the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

. Its first Metropolitan was Gavril Bănulescu-Bodoni
Gavril Banulescu-Bodoni
Gavril Bănulescu-Bodoni was a Romanian clergyman who served as Metropolitan of Moldavia , Metropolitan of Kherson and Crimea , Metropolitan of Kiev and Halych , Exarch of Moldo-Wallachia , and Metropolitan of Chişinău , being the first head of the church in Bessarabia after the Russian...

, a popular promoter of the Romanian language
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 and culture. Its last metropolitan was Anastasios, the future first-hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

20th century

In January 1918 Bessarabia proclaimed independence as Moldavian Democratic Republic
Moldavian Democratic Republic
The Moldavian Democratic Republic , a.k.a. Moldavian Republic, was the state proclaimed on by Sfatul Ţării of Bessarabia, elected in October-November 1917 in the wake of the February Revolution and disintegration of the political power in the Russian Empire.Sfatul Ţării was its legislative body,...

 and in April 1918 it united
Union of Bessarabia with Romania
On , the Sfatul Ţării, or National Council, of Bessarabia proclaimed union with the Kingdom of Romania.-Governorate of Bessarabia:The 1812 Treaty of Bucharest between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empires provided for Russian annexation of the eastern half of the territory of the Principality...

 with Romania
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

. The territory of modern-day Republic of Moldova was then made a part of the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia, under the Romanian Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...


After World War II, Bessarabia was occupied by the USSR, which was hostile to the church. The body of the church was downgraded to a "Bishopric of Chişinău and Moldova" under the Russian Orthodox Church.

After 1991, the Bishop of Bălţi
Balti can refer to:* Balti language, a language spoken in Baltistan in Pakistan and Ladakh in Kashmir* Balti people, Muslims of Ladakhi/Tibetan origin from Baltistan in Pakistan and Ladakh in Kashmir...

, Petru, led a movement that re-instated the former Metropolitan See of Bessarabia, reviving the one existing in the interwar period, and placing it under the authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church, but retaining a larger degree of autonomy than the other Metropolitanates of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

In October 1992, the Bishopric of Chişinău was elevated to Metropolitan Church of Chişinău and all Moldova
Moldovan Orthodox Church
The Moldovan Orthodox Church is an autonomous church under the Russian Orthodox Church, whose canonic territory covers the Republic of Moldova....

 and granted autonomy by the Russian Orthodox Church. Later the state re-registered the churches and refused to register the Metropolitanate of Bassarabia, which led to a lengthy court action that lasted until the European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is a supra-national court established by the European Convention on Human Rights and hears complaints that a contracting state has violated the human rights enshrined in the Convention and its protocols. Complaints can be brought by individuals or...

ordered the Moldovan state to register it in 2004.

An uneasy peace exists nowadays between the two Churches. The majority of the population remains under the Metropolitan Church of Chişinău and all Moldova, while ca. 20% are under the Metropolitan See of Bessarabia.
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