VIII, 2012, 1

The Heraldic Flags of Stephen the Great. Certainties and Hypothesis in the Light of Newer and Older Information | p. 71–92

head of a bovid, Johannes de Thurocz, Moldavian flag, Stephen the Great, vexillology


Among the symbols associated with the reign of Stephen the Great, the heraldic flag received less attention from the specialists, being “overshadowed” by the liturgical one, which depicts the Holy Great Martyr George. The only contemporary iconographic testimony about the heraldic vexillology of Stephen’s epoch is the vertically striped flag with the head of a bovid depicted in one of the gravures which adorn Johannes de Thurocz’s work Chronica Hungarorum. The image, which occurs several times in the text, illustrates an episode from the Moldavian-Hungarian fights from 1467, or even 1469. Known only in the monochromatic variant, the flag determined various chromatic interpretations all of them originating from the coat of arms of Stephen the Great depicted in the Four Gospel Book from 1502.

The discovery of a painted copy of Johannes de Thurocz’s work, in which the aforementioned gravure, through repetition, offers five different images of the same flag, differently coloured, lead to the formulation of new observations. Since the copy was prepared for the library of King Matthias of Hungary, in the “Corviniana” collection, one supposes that the artist, who coloured the gravures, including the flag, had seen some real Moldavian flags, like the ones captured in the battle and taken to Buda, as various Hungarian chroniclers mention. Anyway, these are the first colour images of a Moldavian flag.

The chromatic variety of the Moldavian flag can be explained from the perspective of the military organization of the time. Among the five depictions of the flag, the one with the head of the bovid on red linen appears also in the description of the Kolomyia ceremony (1485). The other flags, differing only in colours, seem to display symbols of Moldavian military units and subunits, their different aspect helping to their correct identification on the battlefield.