Dracula’s relationship with the Orthodox Church is one of the least known but most significant aspects of his reign as Prince of Wallachia (1456-1462). In the aftermath of the fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Vlad the Impaler changed the traditional practice whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople named Metropolitan of the Wallachian Church, thereby establishing the independence of the Orthodox Church in his land. This marked a decisive moment in the history of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Vlad’s great great grandfather, Prince Nicholas Alexander, established the Metropolitanate of Wallachia in May of 1359 to counterbalance Hungarian influence in the young principality. He received recognition from Constantinople on the condition that the church would only be governed by a hierarch appointed by the Patriarch. With the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Dracula, established a new rule whereby the abbot of the Monastery of Cozia, founded by his grandfather Mircea the Old, became the metropolitan of the country. This calculated move of installing Iosif, abbot of the Monastery of Cozia, as the new metropolitan of Wallachia formed part of his determined policy to strengthen the prince’s control over the institutions of the state. Thus, Dracula can be credited with strengthening the autonomy of the Church, which he would have regarded as equivalent to strengthening the autonomy of the state, a policy he pursued throughout his reign.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. It marked a radical change in the structure of the religious hierarchy governing the country. The Church in Wallachia went from being under external control on its way to becoming a national institution. By creating a sovereign Church in his country, Dracula essentially laid the groundwork for a Romanian Orthodox Church. This should be recognized as one of his greatest achievements as prince of Wallachia.
For more on Vlad’s relations with the the Orthodox Church see Dracula: Essays on the Life and Times of Vlad the Impaler, from Histria Books. Dracula: Essays on the Life and Times of Vlad the Impaler is available from Amazon and at HistriaBooks.com.
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