Sophia Palaiologina

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Zoe Palaiologina
Grand Princess consort of Moscow
S.paleolog reconstruction01.jpg
Tenure 12 November 1472 – 7 April 1503
Spouse Ivan III of Russia
Issue Vasili Ivanovich
Yury Ivanovich
Dmitry Ivanovich
Syamyon Ivanovich
Andrey Ivanovich
Alena Ivanovna
Feadosiya Ivanovna
Ewdakiya Ivanovna
House by marriage
House by birth
House of Rurik

House of Paleologue
Father Thomas Palaeologus
Mother Catherine Zaccaria
Born c. 1455
Died 7 April 1503 (aged 47–48)
Burial Ascension Convent, Kolomenskoye
Archangel Cathedral, Kremlin (1929)
Religion Eastern Orthodox

Zoe Palaiologina (Greek: Ζωή Παλαιολογίνα), who later changed her name to Sophia Palaiologina (Russian: София Фоминична Палеолог; between 1440 and 1449[1] or c. 1455 – 7 April 1503), Grand Duchess of Moscow, was a niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI and second wife of Ivan III of Russia. She was also the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible.


Ivan III and portrait of Sophia Palaiologina by Viktor Muizhel.

Her father was Thomas Palaeologus, the Despot of Morea. Together with her brothers, she was taken to Rome after the conquest of Morea by Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire in 1460. In Rome, her Greek name Zoe was changed to Sophia. Born into the Orthodox religion, it is possible that she was raised as a Catholic in Rome.[1]

In 1469, Pope Paul II offered to marry her to the Russian monarch in order to unite the Orthodox and Catholic churches. She entered Russia with a grand entourage and was welcomed in the city of Pskov, where she was officially celebrated—it was noticed that she thanked the public herself for the celebrations.[1] The widowed Russian prince married Sophia at the Dormition Cathedral, Moscow on 12 November 1472. The cardinal Johannes Bessarion, sent by the Pope to Moscow, however, did not succeed in his mission.

Over the years, Sophia gained great influence in her husband's decision making. She was described as a "shrewd" character,[1] and it was rumoured that her husband let himself be directed by her suggestions.[1] In 1472, she was affected by the formal tributary gesture by which her spouse greeted the Mongolian representatives, and is believed to have convinced him to abandon the tributary relationship to the Mongols, which was completed in 1480.[1] It is thought that she introduced grand Byzantine ceremonies and meticulous court etiquette in the Kremlin, the idea of Moscow as a Third Rome evidently pleasing her. Sophia was apparently not obliged to follow the custom of traditional isolation which was expected of other Russian noble and royal women at the time; it is noted that she was not confined to the women's quarters, but greeted foreign representatives from Europe similarly as the queens of Western Europe.[1] Shortly before her death she persuaded her husband to pass the throne to her son Vasili, rather than to Ivan's grandson Dmitry, as had been planned earlier. Apart from Vasili III, only her fifth son, Andrey of Staritsa, left issue. Her last known descendant, Maria of Staritsa, wife of Livonia's king Magnus, died in 1610.

Destruction of Sophia Palaiologina grave in 1929



  • Elena (18 April 1474 – 9 May 1476)
  • Theodosia (May 1475 – young)
  • Elena (19 May 1476 – 20 January 1513), married Alexander Jagiellon but had no issue.
  • Eudokia (February 1483 – 8 February 1513), married Peter, Kazan Tsar of the Tartars in 1506 but had no issue.
  • Elena (8 April 1484 – young)
  • Theodosia (29 May 1485 – 19 February 1501), married Vasili, Prince of Kholm but had no issue.


  • Vasili (26 March 1479 – 3 December 1533), became Grand Prince of Moscow.
  • Yury (23 March 1480 – 3 August 1536), died of starvation in prison.
  • Dmitri (6 October 1481 – 14 February 1521), Prince of Uglich
  • Simeon (21 March 1487 – 26 June 1518), fled to Lithuania after being accused of treason. His trace was lost after his escape.
  • Andrei (5 August 1490 – 11 December 1537), married Euphrosina and had issue.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g de Madariaga, Isabel (2008), Ivan den förskräcklige [Ivan the Terrible] (in Swedish) .
Sophia Palaiologina
Palaiologos dynasty
Born: c. 1455 Died: 7 April 1503
Russian royalty
Title last held by
Maria of Tver
Grand Princess consort of Muscovy
Title next held by
Solomonia Saburova