Stephen the Great of Moldavia – a Medieval Ode To Business Class

You can’t always help who you’re related to…...

Stephen the Great of Moldavia in Northern Romania was considered by most Romanians and even Pope  Sixtus IV as the greatest Romanian who ever lived.

For me, the greatest Australian that ever lived in Romania (for 8 days) is Adrian from Maribyrnong. He got me into Business Class on our trip to Romania in March. He, like Stephen, saved our group from Hell.

But back to Stephen the Great.

Considered a “true champion of the Faith” in the 1400’s, he won 46 out of 48 battles he fought to keep the Hungarians, Tartars, and most importantly the Ottoman Turks out of Moldavia.

Following each of his 46 victories, Stephen had monasteries built in Moldavia and Bucovina. Many of these survived and have become Unesco World Heritage sites. They are like no other monastery I have seen before (excuse my parochialism) as every inch inside and outside is painted in original vibrantly coloured frescoes painted in the Middle Ages at Stephen’s bequest.

They depict Heaven and Hell and the lives of Saints of course in homage to the God who saved Stephen and made him victorious each battle.

Many scenes depict the martyrdom of saints (I can’t believe how many of them were decapitated! Every second depiction is of a headless saint spurting blood and gore out of the hole in his neck. It seems to be the favoured M.O. of the godless infidel in this era)

In the Hell section of the wall

  •  Turks are depicted with harsh faces and fierce looks.
  • There are fragments of human torsos torn to pieces by wild beasts.
  • Strange, blackened malformed animals, incubus, snakes and terrified sinners writhe in the fire of hell which is a grand funnel of live coals opening at the feet of Jesus.

Heaven of course has the customary St Peter, keys to gates, angels, apostles, lutes, wings and smiles all round. As one would expect from such a devout King

Stephen’s first cousin was the famous Vlad the Impaler (yes, that does strike me as odd too) Vlad Dracul or Count Dracula,  ruled with a pointy wooden stick rather than an iron fist and impalement and penetration was his preferred form of justice.

This dear little 15th C woodcut  shows Vlad having lunch amidst his impalees which either suggests his perversion or maybe just a general acceptance and insouciance towards capital punishment and torture at that time.


All of which got me a-thinking: if I were Stephen the Great and I had commissioned a monastery to be built as a tribute and a warning I would depict Hell as 24 hours in Economy Class , cramped and land-locked, spastic-backed, being kicked by the dickhead in the seat behind me, the person infront’s seat in my face, eyes closed feigning sleep which never comes or queuing for an hour for the toilet, or inflating my neck pillow to support my ruined neck whilst watching a TV the size of a postage stamp with red, watery straining eyes…..

On the other side of the main church portal I would paint Heaven in which I depict myself lying horizontal in Business Class slumbering peacefully in my Business Class pyjamas, playing happily with the chair whatsit to get my padded seat elevated to just the right angle and tilt for sipping French champagne, or sitting upright with my feet elevated eating lobster, crepes and pistachio ice-cream  on a tablecloth with real cutlery  and wishing for another 24 hours on the plane.

Like Vlad I would depict me snickering and supping smugly whilst the Povs in Economy writhed behind the Business Class curtains unable to believe that only 3 minutes had passed since they last looked at their watches. I would slumber the sleep of the well-endowed whilst they sat in unnatural positions, tomb-breathed, longing to be horizontal and dreaming of FRESH UNDERPANTS…..

[My greatest respeck to Adrian the Great of Qatar airways. Great man, great trip.]


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