Vlad the Impaler

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Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431-1476; r. 1456-1462, also 1476), became a Romanian national hero for his defense of the Orthodox Christian faith against the Turk. He fought for Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus against Sultan Mehmet II ("the Conqueror").

He is also known as Vlad Ţepeş ("the Impaler") for his infliction of certain bodily mortifications against his enemies; as well as Vlad Drăculea ("Son of the Dragon") after his father Vlad II Dracul, a member of the Order of the Dragon (established in commemoration of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo).

Bram Stoker's Dracula

During the nineteenth century, Irish writer Bram Stoker wrote the novel Dracula associating Vlad III with vampirism (a widespread Balkan folk belief concerning the undead). This remains his predominant image outside of Romania.

Conversion rumors

Some sources allege that Vlad III concerted to Catholicism as a result of his association with Corvinus and several popes. [1] However, these rumors appear to be baseless:

"According to Russian diplomat Fedor Kuritsyn, Dracula spent many years in the dungeon. He reportedly refused to convert to Catholicism despite King Matias' numerous offers which included freedom, reinstallation to power, and Matias' cousin as a bride. Vlad II was eventually set free by King Matias. The Russian chronicler suggested that Dracula had converted to Catholicism in return to his freedom. However, the latest studies show that Vlad II never betrayed his orthodoxy. King Matias released Dracula for practical reasons only." [2]

In a rare example of interfaith cooperation, he fought under the blessing of both Catholic and Orthodox churches. He founded some fifty churches and monasteries in Moldavia. [3]