Lives of all saints commemorated on March 14


Venerable Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict, founder of Western monasticism, was born in the Italian city of Nursia in the year 480. When he was fourteen years of age, the saint’s parents sent him to Rome to study. Unsettled by the immorality around him, he decided to devote himself to a different sort of life.

At first St Benedict settled near the church of the holy Apostle Peter in the village of Effedum, but news of his ascetic life compelled him to go farther into the mountains. There he encountered the hermit Romanus, who tonsured him into monasticism and directed him to live in a remote cave at Subiaco. From time to time, the hermit would bring him food.

For three years the saint waged a harsh struggle with temptations and conquered them. People soon began to gather to him, thirsting to live under his guidance. The number of disciples grew so much, that the saint divided them into twelve communities. Each community was comprised of twelve monks and was a separate skete. The saint gave each skete an igumen from among his experienced disciples, and only the novice monks remained with St Benedict for instruction.

The strict monastic Rule St Benedict established for the monks was not accepted by everyone, and more than once he was criticized and abused by dissenters.

Finally he settled in Campagna and on Mount Cassino he founded the Monte Cassino monastery, which for a long time was a center of theological education for the Western Church. The monastery possessed a remarkable library. St Benedict wrote his Rule, based on the experience of life of the Eastern desert-dwellers and the precepts of St John Cassian the Roman (February 29).

The Rule of St Benedict dominated Western monasticism for centuries (by the year 1595 it had appeared in more than 100 editions). The Rule prescribed the renunciation of personal possessions, as well as unconditional obedience, and constant work. It was considered the duty of older monks to teach the younger and to copy ancient manuscripts. This helped to preserve many memorable writings from the first centuries of Christianity.

Every new monk was required to live as a novice for a year, to learn the monastic Rule and to become acclimated to monastic life. Every deed required a blessing. The head of this cenobitic monastery is the igumen. He discerns, teaches, and explains. The igumen solicits the advice of the older, experienced brethren, but he makes the final decisions. Keeping the monastic Rule was strictly binding for everyone and was regarded as an important step on the way to perfection.

St Benedict was granted by the Lord the gift of foresight and wonderworking. He healed many by his prayers. The monk foretold the day of his death in 547. The main source for his Life is the second Dialogue of St Gregory.

St Benedict’s sister, St Scholastica (February 10), also became famous for her strict ascetic life and was numbered among the saints.


St Theognostus the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia

Saint Theognostus the Greek succeeded St Peter (August 25 and December 21) as Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, holding this office from 1327 until 1353. It was through his influence that the Grand Prince Simeon sent money to the Byzantine Emperor John Cantacuzene for repairs to the Great Church of Hagia Sophia.


Right-believing Great Prince Rostislav-Michael the Prince of Kiev

Saint Rostislav-Michael, Great Prince of Kiev, was the son of the Kievan Great Prince St Mstislav the Great (June 14), and the brother of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11, April 22, and November 27). He was one of the great civil and churchly figures of the mid-twelfth century.

His name is connected with the fortification and rise of Smolensk, and both the Smolensk principality and the Smolensk diocese.

Up until the twelfth century the Smolensk land was part of the Kievan realm. The beginning of its political separation took place in the year 1125, when holy Prince Mstislav the Great, gave Smolensk to his son Rostislav (in Baptism Michael) as an inheritance from his father, the Kievan Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh. Thanks to the work and efforts of St Rostislav, the Smolensk principality, which he ruled for more than forty years, expanded and was built up with cities and villages, adorned with churches and monasteries, and became influential in Russian affairs.

St Rostislav founded the cities of Rostislavl, Mstislavl, Krichev, Propoisk, and Vasiliev among others. He was the forefather of the Smolensk princely dynasty.

In 1136 St Rostislav succeeded in establishing a separate Smolensk diocese. Its first bishop was Manuel, installed between March-May of 1136 by Metropolitan Michael of Kiev. Prince Rostislav issued an edict in the city of Smolensk assuring Bishop Manuel that he would provide him with whatever he needed. On September 30, 1150 St Rostislav also ceded Cathedral Hill at Smolensk to the Smolensk diocese, where the Dormition cathedral and other diocesan buildings stood.

Contemporaries thought highly of the church construction of Prince Rostislav. Even the sources that are inclined to report nothing more about it note that “this prince built the church of the Theotokos at Smolensk.” The Dormition cathedral, originally built by his grandfather, Vladimir Monomakh, in the year 1101 was rebuilt and expanded under Prince Rostislav. The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Manuel on the Feast of the Dormition, August 15, 1150. Prince Rostislav was a “builder of the Church” in a far wider sense: he endowed the Smolensk Dormition church of the Mother of God, and transformed it from a city cathedral into the ecclesiastical center of the vast Smolensk diocese.

Holy Prince Rostislav was the builder of the Smolensk Kremlin, and of the Savior cathedral at the Smyadynsk Boris and Gleb monastery, founded on the place of the murder of holy Prince Gleb (September 5). Later his son David, possibly fulfilling the wishes of his father, transferred the old wooden coffins of Sts Boris and Gleb from Kievan Vyshgorod to Smyadyn.

In the decade of the fifties of the twelfth century, St Rostislav was drawn into a prolonged struggle for Kiev, which involved representatives of the two strongest princely lines: the Olgovichi and the Monomakhovichi.

On the Monomakhovichi side the major contender to be Great Prince was Rostislav’s uncle, Yurii Dolgoruky. Rostislav, as Prince of Smolensk, was one of the most powerful rulers of the Russian land and had a decisive voice in military and diplomatic negotiations.

For everyone involved in the dispute, Rostislav was both a dangerous opponent and a desired ally, and he was at the center of events. This had a providential significance, since St Rostislav distinguished himself by his wisdom regarding the civil realm, by his strict sense of justice and unconditional obedience to elders, and by his deep respect for the Church and its hierarchy. For several generations he was the bearer of the “Russkaya Pravda” (“Russian Truth”) and of Russian propriety.

After the death of his brother Izyaslav (November 13, 1154), St Rostislav became Great Prince of Kiev, but he ruled Kiev at the same time with his uncle Vyacheslav Vladimirovich. After the latter’s death, Rostislav returned to Smolensk, ceding the Kiev princedom to his other uncle, Yurii Dolgoruky, and he removed himself from the bloodshed of the princely disputes. He occupied Kiev a second time on April 12, 1159 and he then remained Great Prince until his death (+ 1167). More than once, he had to defend his paternal inheritance with sword in hand.

The years of St Rostislav’s rule occurred during one of the most complicated periods in the history of the Russian Church. The elder brother of Rostislav, Izyaslav Mstislavich, a proponent of the autocephaly of the Russian Church, favored the erudite Russian monk Clement Smolyatich for Metropolitan, and wanted him to be made Metropolitan by a council of Russian bishops, without seeking the usual approval from the Patriarch of Constantinople. This occurred in the year 1147.

The Russian hierarchy basically supported Metropolitan Clement and Prince Izyaslav in their struggle for ecclesiastical independence from Constantinople, but several bishops headed by St Niphon of Novgorod (April 8), did not recognize the autocephaly of the Russian metropolitanate and shunned communion with it, having transformed their dioceses into independent ecclesial districts, pending the resolution of this question. Bishop Manuel of Smolensk also followed this course. St Rostislav understood the danger which lay hidden beneath the idea of Russian autocephaly for these times, which threatened the break-up of Rus. The constant fighting over Kiev among the princes might also lead to a similar fight over the Kievan See among numerous contenders, put forth by one princely group or another.

The premonitions of St Rostislav were fully justified. Yurii Dolgoruky, who remained loyal to Constantinople, occupied Kiev in the year 1154. He immediately banished Metropolitan Clement and petitioned Constantinople for a new Metropolitan. This was to be St Constantine (June 5), but he arrived in Rus only in the year 1156, six months before the death of Yurii Dolgoruky (+ May 15, 1157). Six months later, when St Rostislav’s nephew Mstislav Izyaslavich entered the city on December 22, 1157, St Constanine was obliged to flee Kiev, while the deposed Clement Smolyatich returned as Metropolitan. Then a time of disorder began in Russia, for there were two Metropolitans.

All the hierarchy and the clergy came under interdict: the Greek Metropolitan suspended the Russian supporters of Clement, and Clement suspended all the supporters of Constantine. To halt the scandal, St Rostislav and Mstislav decided to remove both Metropolitans and petition the Patriarch of Constantinople to appoint a new archpastor for the Russian metropolitan See.

But this compromise did not end the matter. Arriving in Kiev in the autumn of 1161, Metropolitan Theodore died in spring of the following year. Following the example of St Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), who supported his own fellow ascetic Bishop Theodore to be Metropolitan, St Rostislav put forth his own candidate, who turned out to be the much-suffering Clement Smolyatich.

The fact that the Great Prince had changed his attitude toward Metropolitan Clement, shows the influence of the Kiev Caves monastery, and in particular of Archimandrite Polycarp. Archimandrite Polycarp, who followed the traditions of the Caves (in 1165 he became head of the monastery), was personally very close to St Rostislav.

St Rostislav had the pious custom of inviting the igumen and twelve monks to his own table on the Saturdays and Sundays of Great Lent, and he served them himself. The prince more than once expressed the wish to be tonsured a monk at the monastery of Sts Anthony and Theodosius, and he even gave orders to build a cell for him.

The monks of the Caves, a tremendous spiritual influence in ancient Rus, encouraged the prince to think about the independence of the Russian Church. Moreover, during those years in Rus, there was suspicion regarding the Orthodoxy of the bishops which came from among the Greeks, because of the notorious “Dispute about the Fasts” (the “Leontian Heresy”). St Rostislav’s pious intent to obtain the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople for Metropolitan Clement came to naught. The Greeks believed that appointing a Metropolitan to the Kiev cathedra was one of their most important prerogatives. This served not only the ecclesiastical, but also the political interests of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1165 a new Greek Metropolitan arrived at Kiev, John IV, and St Rostislav accepted him out of humility and churchly obedience. The new Metropolitan, like his predecessor, governed the Russian Church for less than a year (+ 1166). The See of Kiev was again left vacant, and the Great Prince was deprived of the fatherly counsel and spiritual wisdom of a Metropolitan. His sole spiritual solace was the igumen Polycarp and the holy Elders of the Kiev Caves monastery and the Theodorov monastery at Kiev, which had been founded under his father.

Returning from a campaign against Novgorod in the spring of 1167, St Rostislav fell ill. When he reached Smolensk, where his son Roman was prince, relatives urged him to remain at Smolensk. But the Great Prince gave orders to take him to Kiev. “If I die along the way,” he declared, “put me in my father’s monastery of St Theodore. If God should heal me, through the prayers of His All-Pure Mother and St Theodosius, I shall take vows at the monastery of the Caves.”

God did not fulfill St Rostislav’s last wish to end his life as a monk of the holy monastery. The holy prince died on the way to Kiev on March 14, 1167. (In other historical sources the year is given as 1168). His body, in accord with his last wishes, was brought to the Kiev Theodosiev monastery.


St Euschemon the Confessor and Bishop of Lampsacus

Saint Euschemon the Confessor, Bishop of Lampsakos, lived in Asia Minor on the coastal region of the Dardanelles peninsula, and was known for his virtuous and ascetic life. He suffered for the holy icons under the iconoclast emperor Theophilus (829-842), and having been imprisoned, he was sent into exile and died.


Icon of the Mother of God of St Theodore

The Theodore—Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke and resembles the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

This icon received its name from Great Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), the father of St Alexander Nevsky, and who in holy Baptism was named Theodore in honor of St Theodore Stratelates (February 8).

According to Tradition, the icon was found by his elder brother, St George (February 4), in an old wooden chapel near the city of Gorodets. Later, the Gorodetsk Theodorov monastery was built on this spot. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the Great Prince of Vladimir after his brother St George perished in battle with the Mongols at the Sita River. In the year 1239, he solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Dormition cathedral. He gave the icon which he inherited from his brother to his own son, St Alexander Nevsky.

Yaroslav-Theodore is renowned in Russian history. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle St Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), and of his father Vsevolod III Big-Nest, and he was connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus in the first half of the thirteenth century.

Russia was burned and torn apart by the Mongols in 1237-1238. He raised it up from the ashes, rebuilt and embellished the cities, the holy monasteries and the churches. He restored cities along the Volga devastated by the enemy: Kashin, Uglich, Yaroslavl’, Kostroma, Gorodets.

He founded he church of Theodore Stratelates at Kostroma and the Theodorov monastery near Gorodets in honor of his patron saint. For eight years he ruled as Great Prince, but he had to guide the land through a singularly difficult path, maintaining a military-political balance with the Golden Horde to the East, while mounting an active opposition to Catholic Europe in the West. His closest companion was his son, St Alexander Nevsky, who also continued his policies.

The wonderworking Theodore Icon of the Mother of God was constantly with St Alexander, and he prayed before it. After St Alexander Nevsky died on November 14, 1263 at the monastery founded by his father, the icon was taken by his younger brother Basil.

Basil Yaroslavich was the youngest (eighth) son of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. In 1246 after the death of his father (Prince Yaroslav was poisoned in the capital city of Mongolia, Karakorum when he was only five years old) Basil became prince of the Kostroma appanage-holding, the least important of his father’s domains. In the year 1272, he became Great Prince of Vladimir.

His four years as Great Prince (1272-1276) were filled with fratricidal princely quarrels. For several years he waged war against Novgorod with an unruly nephew Demetrius. In becoming Great Prince, however, Basil did not journey to Vladimir, but remained under the protection of the wonderworking icon at Kostroma, regarding this place as safer in case of new outbreaks of strife.

He had occasion also to defend Rus against external enemies. In 1272, during a Tatar incursion, a Russian army came forth from Kostroma to engage them. Following the example of his grandfather, St Andrew Bogoliubsky (who took the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God with him on military campaigns), Prince Basil went into battle with the wonderworking Theodore Icon. A blinding light came forth from the holy image, and the Tatars dispersed and fled from the Russian land.

The Chronicles say that the Great Prince Basil had a special love for the Church and the clergy. After the martyric death of Bishop Metrophanes of Vladimir during the storming of Vladimir by Tatars on February 4, 1238, the Vladimir diocese had remained widowed for many years. This grieved Great Prince Basil. With his help, a large cathedral was constructed in Vladimir in 1274. This was apparently in connection with the consecration of St Serapion (July 12) as Bishop of Vladimir. He was an igumen from the Monastery of the Caves.

Metropolitan Cyril III (+ 1282) presided over a council of Russian hierarchs. This was the first council in the Russian Church since the time of the Mongol invasion. Many problems and disorders had arisen in Church life, but the Russian Church was just barely beginning to recover from the woe that had befallen it. One of its main tasks was to recover a Russian churchly literacy, and the restoration of the tradition of the ancient Russian “princely order.”

Without books the Church’s salvific activity would be almost impossible. Books were needed for church services, and for preaching, for the monastic cell rule, and for believers to read at home. Through the efforts of Metropolitan Cyril and the Russian bishops and monastic scholars, this important task was begun. The council approved new editions of essential books which formed the canonical basis of Orthodox church life.

In 1276, Prince Basil completed his life’s journey. Most of the important events in his life occured with the blessing of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God. He died at Kostroma, and there he also found his final resting place. Since that time, the holy icon has been in the Kostroma cathedral of St Theodore Stratelates.

Renewed interest in the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God and the spread of its veneration throughout all Russia is connected with events of the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the end of the Time of Troubles. In the year 1613, the wonderworking Theodore Icon from the Kostroma cathedral was used at the proclamation of Michael Romanov as the new Tsar. In memory of this historic event, March 14 was designated for the commemoration of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God.

Numerous copies were made from the Kostroma Theodore Icon, and one of the first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by Tsar Michael’s mother, the nun Martha. From the second half of the seventeenth century, various copies of the Theodore Icon were enlarged with scenes depicting events from the history of the wonderworking icon.

In the year 1670 the hierodeacon Longinus from the Kostroma Hypatiev monastery wrote the “Narrative concerning the Manifestations and Miracles of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God in Kostroma.” Not all the things contained in it agree with things previously stated.

The Theodore Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side is the image of the holy Great Martyr Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a princess. It is believed that the image of Paraskeva on the reverse of the icon is connected with the wife of St Alexander Nevsky.

The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of St Theodore is also commemorated on August 16.


Martyr Chrysanthus of Rome

No information available at this time.