This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Principality of Moldavia

Last modified: 2008-08-30 by alex danes
Keywords: moldavia | wallachia | romania |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:

Principality of Moldavia

Alternative local name: Moldovia

The principality of Moldavia was located in what is now Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. At its peak, it reached from the Dniester River to the Siret River and from Bukovina to the Black Sea.

The principality emerged as a distinct and independent principality in the mid-14th century. By 1512, it was a part of the Ottoman Empire and the object of occupation by Russian forces for parts of the 18th and 19th century. In 1812, Bessarabia was acquired by Russia, but southern Bessarabia was restored to Moldavia in 1856 under the Treaty of Paris.

Moldavia merged with Wallachia in 1859 and the name Romania was applied to the country in 1862.

The Bessarabia portion of the principality was integrated into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became the countries of Moldova and Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Princely standards, XIV-XIX Century

[Princely standard]  image by Alex Danes, 2 May 2008

[Princely standard]  image by Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

Princely standards, XIV - XIX c. - We have very little information on ancient Moldavian and Wallachian flags. For Moldavia the most important symbol has always been the wild ox head, which is still to be found on the flag of the new Moldavian republic (Moldova). In early times the red prevailed on other colours: on standards, the wild ox head appeared on the recto, while the verso represented St George killing the dragon. It seems that this standard was adopted by Bogdan I and maintained by Stephan the Great and successors. In the following century (XIX) the blue was added. According to an 1813 document, under prince Scarlat Calimachi the princely standard was red, yellow and blue on the recto (without any symbol), while on the verso was St George riding a horse on a blue field. Another document, dated 1814, again reports a red standard. Michael II Sutu (1819-21) had a blue flag with the wild ox head on the recto and red with St George the verso. The two Moldavian flags above from the XV-XVI c. are in Bucharest museum.
Mario Fabretto
, 8 September 1996

The earliest information regarding the color of the Moldavian flag (including the elements of it) comes from a book of documents published in Krakow in 1533: "The grand flag had a red field on which was nicely painted with gold the coat of arms of Moldavia" ("banderim magnum sericeum, coloris rubri, in quo arma terrae Moldaviae pulhre auro depicta erant").
The coat of arms, representing an aurochs head, can be found on every official seal, e.g.

Also, two engravings shows us the image of the flag: Alex Danes, 2 May 2008

Princely standard, 1601

[1601 flag] by Alex Danes, 2 May 2008
Drawn after:

Another flag of Moldova is one during the reign of prince Ieremia Movila (1595-1600, 1600-1606), a flag captured by Prince Michael the Brave in 1601. This, among with 109 others was sent to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. All these flags were painted by an Austrian artist in a manuscript found later in Landesbibliotek from Dresda. The flag of Moldavia is shown above. It is rectangular, proportion ca. 7:12, red, with a golden border. In the middle, the argent coat of arms of Moldavia: an aurochs head, with an 8 pointed star between horns and two crescents above the ears. The coat of arms is surrounded by an argent circle with a cross on top. In the canton, on an argent field, with black Cyrillic letters, is written the title of the prince (in Old Church Slavonic) and the year 7109 (that is 1601 AD).

Source: Enciclopedia Romaniei
Author: collective work under the supervision of Dimitrie Gusti, Constantin Orghidan, Mircea Vulcanescu and Virgiliu Leonte.
Publisher, place: Imprimeriile Statului, Bucharest
Edition date: 1938 - 1943.
Alex Danes, 2 May 2008

War flags of 15th and 16th centuries

[1467 War flag] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

Two contemporary engravings show us the image of the Moldavian flag: Battle of Baia (1467), by I. Kukullo in 1488 (above), based on

Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

[1531 War flag] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

Battle of Obertyn (Sep. 22, 1531), by Marcin Bielski in 1564: In this image there can be seen another Moldavian flag with a big cross on it.
Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

Other Moldavian war flags have religious subjects on them and resemble closely to the Orthodox Church flags.

[Moldavian War flag] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

One of them is rectangular and realized by the technique of embroidery with golden, silver, white, red and green silk on cherry-coloured (initially red) Indian satin. Dimensions: 120 x 90 cm. In the middle of it stands Saint George of Capadoccia on a throne, smashing the devil. Two angels bring him gifts: the right one a sword, the left one a shield with lots of precious stones. Both of them put a crown on the saint's head. This religious depiction is bordered by an inscription in Church Slavonic: "Oh, patient and victorious one, great martyr George, who, at trouble and needs you are a sudden defender and devoted help, and great joy to sad ones, please accept the supplication of your humble servant, prince Io Stephan Voivode, by God's mercy hospodar of Moldavia, and keep him unharmed in this life and the other one, with the prayers of those who honour you, so we can praise you forever, Amen! Made in the year 7008, and of his reign the 43rd." (in Romanian, for perhaps a better future translation: "O, indelung rabdatorule si de biruinti purtatorule, mare mucenice Gheorghe, cela ce la nevoi si in napaste esti grabnic aparator si fierbinte ajutator, si celor intristati bucurie nespusa, primeste de la noi si aceasta rugaminte a smeritului robului tau a domnului Io Stefan Voievod, cu mila lui Dumnezeu domn Tarii Moldovei, si-l pazeste pe el neatins in acest veac si in cel viitor, cu rugaciunile celor ce te cinstesc pe tine, ca sa te proslavim pe tine in veci, amin! Si s-a facut in anul 7008, iar al domniei lui anul al 43-lea"). This flag was made during the reign of Stephen III the Great, and send in 1500 (7008) to Zograf Monastery in Mt. Athos. In 1917, with numerous approvals, the flag was going to return into Romania. It was taken first by the Romanian consulate at Salonic and then transported with a French vessel at Paris, where it remained until 1919. In December that year it has been shipped to Bucharest, where it stands today, in the National Military Museum.

Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

[Moldavian War flag] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008
[Click on image for larger version.]

The second war flag with religious subjects is approximately 100 x 100 cm, excepting the three extensions. It is also made by embroidery on red Indian satin. In the middle, Saint George kills the devil (on obverse) and Jesus is baptised by John the Baptist (on reverse). The inscription in Church Slavonic bordering Saint George says: "As a saviour of those enslaved and useful to poor ones, doctor to powerless, help to the emperors, oh victorious great martyr George, pray Christ-God to redeem our souls." (In Romanian: "Ca un izbavitor al celor robiti si saraci folositor, neputinciosilor doctor, imparatilor ajutor, purtatorilor de biruinta mare mucenice Gheorghe, roaga pe Hristos Dumnezeu, sa mantuiasca sufletele noastre").

The original flag (or perhaps a copy of it) can be seen at

Source: Enciclopedia Romaniei
Author: collective work under the supervision of Dimitrie Gusti,
Constantin Orghidan, Mircea Vulcanescu and Virgiliu Leonte.
Publisher, place: Imprimeriile Statului, Bucharest
Edition date: 1938 - 1943.

Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

Naval Ensign before 1830

In the XIXth century (until 1830), in Moldavia, Prince Grigore M. Sturdza brought an Italian engraving from the 16th century showing a Moldavian small ship: This image, corroborated with monastery frescoes in northern Moldavia depicting vessels, helped historians to establish the details and color of the Moldavian naval ensign:

[Pre-1830 naval ensign] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

A red rectangular cloth, with an aurochs head in the middle. The aurochs is flanked by a crescent sinistrally and a five pointed star dextrally and has another, smaller, five pointed star between its horns. The color of celestial heraldic elements is argent, while the aurochs head could be either in natural colors (close to sable) or in argent itself.

[Pre-1830 naval ensign] image by Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

The monasteries' frescoes also showed that the masthead pennant was usually a long triangular or rectangular, ending in a swallowtail, red cloth.
Name: Corabii strabune (in English: Ancient ships)
Medium: Book
Author: Cristian Craciunoiu
Publisher, place: Editura Sport-Turism, Bucuresti
Edition date: 1983
Remarks: A book depicting old Romanian (Moldavian and Wallachian) ships, with some of their ensigns.

Alex Danes, 27 July 2008

Moldavian flags, 1834-1859

The Treaty of Adrianople (1829) between Russia and Turkey, besides recognising Greek independence and Serbian autonomy, also established free trade for Moldavia and Wallachia with the reopening of their ports to the shipping of all nations. At the same time the creation of a Moldo-Wallachian fleet (both mercantile and military) began. Colours were stated for the two principalities, and at the beginning they were mainly used as lance pennons (red and blue for Moldavia and yellow and blue for Wallachia). This induced some authors to assign horizontal bicolored flags to the two countries (Deppermann and Ruschke, Hamburg, circa 1840), but there is no evidence for their existence.
Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

War flag and naval ensign, 1834-1859

It must be said that all these war flags had a similar red-blue design on reverse, but the red squares contained the golden monogram of the prince (M and A respectively) and the blue field had the icon of Saint George, on a white horse, killing the devil, and below it, with golden letters, the name of the military unit.
Alex Danes, 13 August 2008

Army Flag, 1834

[War flag and naval ensign]  image by Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

By imperial decree, Sultan Mahmud II allowed Michael Sturdza (1834-49), Prince of Moldavia, to adopt a flag for the army, one for merchant ships and one for the navy. On 8 November 1834 the army got the first flags: a blue field with red squared cantons, each with a white 8-pointed star. In the center was a wild ox head with an 8-pointed white star between its horns, surmounted by a princely crown, all flanked by two green olive branches joined in base. This flag was also used by the navy and must also be considered as the princely standard and state flag.
Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

The 1834 flags were made of taffeta. Only two of them have been made, for each of the existing units:
a) The infantry unit had a bigger square flag (144 cm the entire cloth; little red squares: 40 cm each). The text on the reverse is incomplete ("Al Militiei Principatului Moldovei..." meaning "Of the Militia of the Principality of Moldavia...")
b) The cavalry unit had a smaller standard (115 cm). The text on the reverse is "Al Militiei Principatului Moldovei I-iul de cavalerie Regiment Iasan 1834" meaning "Of the Militia of the Principality of Moldavia, First cavalry Regiment of Iasi 1834".

The reverse had the monogram M, of prince Mihail (Michael) Sturdza, like here:
These two flags have been designed by the prince and approved by the Turkish sultan. They were handed to the Army on November 8, 1834, in Iasi (Jassy).
Both of them survive in the National Military Museum of Romania. They had been sewn in tulle in 1930-1934 for better preservation1.
Alex Danes, 13 August 2008

Army Flag, 1848

[War flag and naval ensign, 1849]  image by Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

After the 1848 revolution, with the new prince Gregor V Ghica X (1849-53 and 1854-56), the previous flag was modified. In 1849 the stars in the cantons become gold and six-pointed. In the center the head, silver, and the star (6-pointed and silver), were placed on a gold-bordered blue shield and flanked by two silver dolphins. A princely crown and two branches of laurel and oak joined with a red ribbon completed the whole.
Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996

In 1849 Prince Grigore Alexandru Ghica replaced the old flags with new ones, made of silk:
a) Two square flags for the 2 infantry units (a new one was created before), measuring 135 cm.
b) One square standard for the cavalry unit, measuring 65 cm.

The reverse of the flag had, in the middle of the red squares, the monogram A.
These flags are preserved in the National Military Museum of Romania, sewn in tulle1.
Alex Danes, 13 August 2008

Army Flag, 1858

[War flag and naval ensign, 1858]  image by Mario Fabretto, 8 September 1996; modified by Alex Danes, 24 August 2008

After 1856 the flag was further modified. The cantons become triangles, so the central blue field become a lozenge; the arms were placed on a purple mantle lined with ermine and gold crowned between two golden oak branches. This flag had a very short life.
Mario Fabretto
, 8 September 1996

In 1858 three new flags were made. They had a different design (first of all, the cloth was a rectangle, 150 cm width, 126 cm height) and were made of silk. In the Romanian archives is kept the order Nr. 20 from 1858, of defense minister Konaki Vogoride which approved the manufacturing of these flags, meant to replace the flags of Ist, IInd and the newly formed IIIrd infantry unit. This written order established the design of the flags and designated three ladies, wives of high officials, to manufacture them: Ecaterina Konaki-Vogoride, Ecaterina Bals, and Elena Ghica. The old flags, from 1849, were assigned to other units. Because in 1858 the Moldavian throne was vacant (the country was ruled by a regent), the reverse of the flags did not have any monograms, but stars, I presume. They were used until 1863.
These flags are preserved in the National Military Museum of Romania, sewed in tulle1.
Alex Danes, 13 August 2008

1Source: Enciclopedia Romaniei
Author: collective work under the supervision of Dimitrie Gusti, Constantin Orghidan, Mircea Vulcanescu and Virgiliu Leonte.
Publisher, place: Imprimeriile Statului, Bucharest
Edition date: 1938 - 1943.

Civil ensign, 1834-1861

[Civil ensign, 1834]  image by Mario Fabretto, 9 September 1996

This flag had a longer life than the other Moldavian flags. Following original models, the flag was blue with a white shield on which was a wild ox (or sometimes a bison) head, surmounted with a five-pointed star between its horns; over the shield a princely crown and the whole flanked by two dolphins as supporters. The flag had a red canton bearing three white stars (5- or 8-pointed) placed 2-1. This canton stood for Ottoman sovereignty. At first, this flag was also flown on government buildings on land together the Turkish one.

[Civil ensign, 1858] image by Mario Fabretto, 9 September 1996

Although we don't have any official documentation, it seems that the flag changed over time: in the Le Gras album of 1858 the shield had disappeared, as well as the star, the crown and the dolphins, while the stars in the canton were placed in fess.

After the union of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859, the Wallachian and Moldavian merchant vessels provisionally retained their old flags. This was due to the fact that the joining of the two principalities was initially realized in the form of a personal union under Prince Alexander John Cuza, each country retaining its own council of ministers, army and institutions.

Mario Fabretto, 9 September 1996