Sergius of Radonezh. A fragment of the icon St. Sergius of Radonezh with scenes from his life. The icon originates from the Cathedral of the Dormition in Dmitrov (Moscow area)

Sergius of Radonezh

A fragment of the icon St. Sergius of Radonezh with scenes from his life. The icon originates from the Cathedral of the Dormition in Dmitrov (Moscow area)

Theodosius (?). Moscow. Around 1510




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St. Sergius of Radonezh. 1314-1391

St. Sergius (secular name Bartholomew) was born in 1314 into a family of Rostov boyars, St. Cyril and St. Maria, who moved from Rostov to a settlement Radonezh to be closer to Moscow.

It was evident even before his birth and at a very early age that Bartholomew was not ordinary. Once during the liturgy when he was still in the womb he gave a cry at the most important moment of the service and he did not suck milk on Wednesdays and Fridays even if his mother fed him.

At the age of 7, Bartholomew was sent to learn reading and writing. With all his heart he craved to learn, yet he could not. He grieved about it and day and night prayed God “to open the door of book understanding”. Once looking for missing horses in a field he saw an elder in a black chasuble sitting under an oak tree. He listened to the boy with sympathy and started praying. Then he gave the boy a little piece of a host and said: «Take it and eat: it is a sign of God’s grace and understanding of Holy Writ.” Indeed grace descended on him and God granted him memory and understanding and the boy easily mastered the book wisdom.

After this miracle young Bartholomew’s desire to serve only God became stronger. He wanted to seclude himself following examples of ancient hermits but only the love for his parents kept him in his family. Bartholomew was shy, quiet and taciturn; he was humble and gentle with others; he never lost his temper and obeyed his parents. He usually had only bread and water and abstained from food on fast days.

When his parents died, Bartholomew left the fortune to his younger brother Peter and settled down with his older brother Stephen in a dense forest, 10 versts (about 11 km) from Radonezh. The brothers built a cell and a small church there. It was consecrated in the name of the Holy Trinity by a priest sent over by Metropolitan Feognost. That is how the cloister of St. Sergius, the future Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra started.

Shortly afterwards, Stephen left his brother and became the hegumen of the Epiphany Monastery in Moscow and the confessor of the grand prince, while Bartholomew took the tonsure with the name of Sergius and spent about two years alone in the forest. His life was difficult and dangerous: there was a dense wood full of wild animals around him; he fed only on roots and herbs; the devil repeatedly intimidated him by sending his hordes in different shapes. But with God’s help St. Sergius overcame everything.

No matter how hard he tried to conceal his heroic deeds, the fame about him spread and attracted other monks who wanted to save themselves under his guidance. The saint tried to dissuade everyone pointing out the hardships, privation and inconveniences of the desolate life. But they persistently begged him promising to endure everything with humility. There were 10 of them who asked Sergius to be ordained and to become the hegumen. Sergius refused for a long time but then he saw in the relentless entreaty a calling from God and said: “I would have preferred to obey than rule but fearing the divine justice, I rely on God’s will”.

When he was ordained hegumen, Sergius did not change his life, only increased his spiritual labours. He was the first to come to the church in the morning, made candles and baked hosts on his own. St. Sergius set an example of strict temperance, deep humility and firm reliance on God's help. He was the leader in labour and heroic deeds and the monks followed him.

St. Sergius’s life and labour are of great importance for the history of Russian monasticism because he initiated the monastic life by setting up a coenobitic cloister away from people. For his great deeds St. Sergius was granted divine grace and people’s esteem. When monks complained that the water source was far away, he created with a prayer a spring in the nearest forest which is still there. He raised from the dead the son of a villager and predicted Dmitry Donskoy’s victory over Tatar Khan Mamai. “Go bravely, Grand Prince, and rely on God’s help” – said the elder and gave him two of his monks Peresvet and Oslyaba who heroically died in the Battle of Kulikovo.

Once the Theotokos with apostles Peter and John appeared in St. Sergius’s cell and promised to protect the cloister. Another time he saw an unusual light and heard a great number of birds filling the air with harmonious singing and had a revelation that great many monks will gather in his monastery. The Patriarch of Constantinople Philotheos sent him a gift (a pectoral cross) from Byzantium.

Metropolitan Alexius wanted to present him a gold cross as an award for his labour, but Sergius said: “I did not wear gold when I was young and now, that I am old, I want to abide in poverty all the more”, and declined the honour. “You want to give me the burden I cannot bear.”

St. Sergius of Radonezh died quite old in 1391. He foresaw the day of his death and appointed his successor.

At the moment of dying his face radiated and his body exhaled sweet smell. 30 years after his death (23 September 1392) St. Sergius’ relics “opened up”.

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Aristotle Fioravanti (Fioravanti del Albertini, Rudolfo)

Cost of works

Dionisy and Andrei Rublev

Dionisy’s sons Theodosius and Vladimir

Fresco technique

Genealogy of Icon Painter Dionisy

Milestones of the St. Ferapont Belozero Monastery

St. Cyril of Belozero

St. Ferapont of Mozhaisk (Belozero), Miracle-worker from Luzhki

St. Joseph, Hegumen of Volotsk

St. Martinian of Belozero

St. Paphnutius of Borovsk, Hegumen and Miracle-Worker

St. Paul Of Obnorsk and Komelsk. Vologda miracle-worker

St. Sergius of Radonezh

Team painting

The Simonov Monastery



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