The holy righteous Tsarevich Dimitri of Uglich (of Moscow) (1582 − 1591) was the son of Ivan the Terrible and Maria Nagaya. Dimitri was born on October 19, 1582 (O.S.) in Moscow on the day of Saint Varus’s death and baptized in honor of the grand martyr Demetreus of Thessaloniki. After Ivan the Terrible’s death he was sent with his mother and her family to the Tsarevich’s appanage city of Uglich. Dimitri tragically died on May 15, 1591 (O.S.), at the age of seven. The first theory is that the boy died accidentally during an epileptic seizure. The second theory is that Dimitri was stabbed by the assassins sent by Tsarina Irina’s brother Boris Godunov. Tsarevich Dimitri had been originally buried in Uglich.

After the death of the barren Tsar Feodor Ioannovich in the late 16th century, a dynastic crisis broke out in Russia during which several impostors claimed to be Tsarevich Dimitri who had supposedly escaped an assassination attempt. One of them – False Dimitri I – occupied the Russian throne. After the killing of False Dimitri I Vasily Shuisky, who took his place as Tsar Vasily IV, announced that Tsarevich Dimitri had been killed by the order of Boris Godunov. Dimitri’s relics were solemnly transferred from Uglich to Moscow and placed in the shrine of the Archangel Cathedral at the Moscow Kremlin. Shortly thereafter Dimitri’s tomb began to produce healing miracles. Tsarevich Dimitri was canonized in 1606.

In Russian art the holy righteous Tsarevich Dimitri is commonly depicted as a teenager dressed in royal vestments, with a crown on the head, holding a cross or a scroll. Other iconographic versions show Tsarevich Dimitri holding things (a knife or nuts) he had shortly before his death. Other, popular icons, show Tsarevich Dimitri in a prayerful pose, individual images are also encountered. The earliest known image of St. Dimitri is an early 17th century tomb icon of the saint from the Archangel Cathedral (the Moscow Kremlin Museum). Tsarevich Dimitri is depicted both individually and collectively, along with other saints. One such example is an embroidered image of Dimitri’s and St. Varus on a pall dating back to the third quarter of the 17th century from the Archangel Cathedral (now located in the Moscow Kremlin Museum).

St. Dimitri Ioannovich is commemorated on May 28 (May 15, O.S.) and on June 5 (May 23, O.S.) during the celebration of the Synaxis of the saints of Rostov and Yaroslavl; on June 16 (June 3, O.S.), on June 16/3 (the translation of Dimitri’s relics from Uglich to Moscow) and on Sunday before September 8 (August 26, O.S.) during the Synaxis of the Saints of Moscow.

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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