The venerable Sergius of Radonezh (ca. 1314 – 1392), the greatest Russian saint, founder of the Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, the “hegumen of the Russian land”, was born in Rostov Veliky into a boyar family of Kirill and Maria, his baptismal name was Varfolomei (Bartholomew). In ca. 1328, his family moved to Radonezh. Together with his widowed brother Stefan he found a secluded place to live on Mount Makovets. Varfolomei took monastic vows taking the name Sergius and built a church dedicated in honor of the Holy Trinity. His elder brother Stefan was not able to endure hardship of secluded life and moved to the Epiphany Monastery in Moscow. Over time, other monks started coming to Sergius seeking his spiritual leadership. When the hermitage community grew in number, bishop Athanasius ordained Sergius a bishop and in the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky. With the blessing Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople the monastery introduced a monastic charter. When the monks started to express discontent with too ascetic life in the monastery, Sergius moved to a new place and found there the Annunciation Hermitage in Kirzhachi. However, on the insistence of the monks and Metropolitan Alexis, Sergius came to the Trinity Monastery. Prior to the Kulikov battle Prince Dimitri Donskoi visited Sergius to ask for his blessing. However, this fact being mentioned in the 17th century chronicles, it is disputed by some researchers. The venerable Sergius was honored with the appearance of the Mother of God in his lifetime. His disciples and followers founded more than 40 monasteries. St. Sergius’ relics were uncovered in 1422 during the construction of the stone St. Trinity Cathedral.

The earliest redaction of the Life of St. Sergius was compiled by his disciple Epiphanius the Wise. In the second half of the 16th century the hagiography was revised by Pachomi the Serbian who also authored the liturgy to St. Sergius and the Panegyric. In the 1640s, a cellarer of the Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, Simon Azaryin compiled a redaction of the Life with new miracles, published in 1646 at the order of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. The earliest hagiographic icons dating back to the first third of the 16th century and credited to Theodosius, the son of Dionysius was formerly housed in Dmitrov’s Assumption Cathedral (now kept in the Andrei Rublev Museum).

St. Sergius is commemorated twice, on October 8 (September 25, O.S. – repose) and July 18 (July 5, O.S. uncovering of the relics).

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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