The Eclectic Visual Culture of Medieval Moldavia


Winner of the 2023 Early Slavic Studies Book Prize from the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA) (Best book)

Medieval Moldavia – which was located within present-day northeastern Romania and the Republic of Moldova – developed a bold and eclectic visual culture beginning in the 15th century. Within this networked Carpathian Mountain region, art and architecture reflect the creativity and diversity of the cultural landscapes of Eastern Europe.
Moldavian objects and monuments – ranging from fortified monasteries and churches enveloped in fresco cycles to silk embroideries, delicately carved woodwork and metalwork, as well as manuscripts gifted to Mount Athos and other Christian centers – negotiate the complex issues of patronage and community in the region. The works attest to processes of cultural contact and translation, revealing how Western medieval, Byzantine, and Slavic traditions were mediated in Moldavian contexts in the post-Byzantine period.

Winner of the 2023 Early Slavic Studies Book Prize, awarded by the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA) for the best book published between Sept 1, 2021 and August 31, 2023 in the field of Early Slavic Studies (pre-1800). The awarding committee praised the volume as ‘the first English monograph to provide a comprehensive overview of Moldavia's artistic and architectural landscape during the 15th and 16th centuries, locating the region as a significant facet in the global map of art history.’

Official ESSA announcement.

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Alice Isabella Sullivan, Ph.D. (University of Michigan, 2017) is Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Architecture and Director of Graduate Studies at Tufts University, specializing in the artistic production of Eastern Europe and the Byzantine-Slavic cultural spheres. She is the co-founder of North of Byzantium, Mapping Eastern Europe, and the Sinai Digital Archive project.

List of Figures

Notes on Sources, Dates, Translations, and Transliterations

Table of Key Monuments


1Changing Landscapes
 1 Moldavia and the Ottoman Empire

 2 Defensive Landscape

 3 Sacred Landscape

 4 Fortified Monasteries

 5 Projects beyond Moldavia

2Ideologies and Temporalities
 1 Shifting Identities

 2 Votive Images, Intercessors, and Rituals

 3 Alter Constantinus

 4 New Struggles and Ambitions

3Patterns of Patronage
 1 Patronage of Mount Athos

 2 Reasons for Patronage

 3 Counter-gifts and Holy Relics

 4 Workshops and Scriptoria

4Sacred Spaces
 1 Transitions and Transformations

 2 Peter’s Ecclesiastical Projects

 3 Byzantine-Slavic Forms

 4 Gothic Elements

 5 Stylistic Pluralism

5Images and Rituals
 1 Mural Cycles in the Naos and Altar

 2 The Visual and Spatial Orchestration of the Divine Liturgy

 3 Preparatory Spaces and the Path to Salvation

 4 Exterior Images and Ambulatory Processions

6Burials and Memory
 1 The Moldavian Gropniță

 2 Burials apud ecclesiam

 3 The Graves and Their Props

 4 Social and Symbolic Explanations

 5 Spiritual and Eschatological Dimensions

7Traditions and Transformations
 1 The Patronage of the Movilă Brothers

 2 Transformations in the Local Visual Culture




Medievalists, Byzantinists, and early modern researchers interested in the history, art, and culture of Eastern Europe, cultural interactions between the Latin, Greek, and Slavic traditions, as well as Eastern Christian art, architecture, and visual culture in the post-Byzantine period.
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