Venerable Zosimas the Abbot of Solovki

Saint Zosimas, Igumen of Solovki a great luminary of the Russian North, was the founder of cenobitic monasticism on Solovki Island. He was born in Novgorod diocese, in the village of Tolvui near Lake Onega. From his early years he was raised in piety, and after the death of his parents Gabriel and Barbara, he gave away his possessions and received monastic tonsure.

In search of a solitary place, he journeyed to the shores of the White Sea, and at the mouth of the Suma he met St Herman (July 30), who told him of a desolate sea island, where he had spent six years with St Sabbatius (September 27).

Around the year 1436, the hermits crossed the sea and landed at the Solovki islands. There St Zosimas had a vision of a beautiful church in the sky. With their own hands the monks built cells and an enclosure, and they began to cultivate and sow the land.

Once, in late autumn, St Herman went to the mainland for provisions. Because of the autumn weather he was not able to return. St Zosimas remained alone on the island all winter. He suffered many temptations in struggles with the demons. Death by starvation threatened him, but miraculously two strangers appeared and left him a supply of bread, flour and oil. In spring St Herman returned to Solovki with the fisherman Mark, and he brought supplies of food and rigging for fishing nets.

When several hermits had gathered on the island, St Zosimas constructed a small wooden church in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a trapeza. At the request of St Zosimas, an igumen was sent from Novgorod to the newly-formed monastery with an antimension for the church. Thus the renowned Solovki monastery had its start. In the severe conditions of the remote island the monks knew how to economize. But the igumens sent from Novgorod to Solovki could not stand life in such harsh conditions, and so the brethren chose St Zosimas as igumen.

St Zosimas occupied himself with building up the inner life of the monastery, and he introduced a strict cenobitic life. In 1465 he transferred the relics of St Sabbatius to Solovki from the River Vyg. The monastery suffered from the Novgorod nobles, who confiscated catches of fish from the monks. The saint was obliged to go to Novgorod and seek the protection of the archbishop.

On the advice of the archbishop, he visited the homes of the nobles and asked them not to permit the ruin of the monastery. The influential and rich Martha Boretskaya impiously gave orders to throw St Zosimas out, but then repented and invited him to a meal. At this meal he suddenly saw that six of the illustrious nobles sat without their heads. St Zosimas told about this vision to his disciple Daniel and predicted an immanent death for the nobles. The prediction was fulfilled in the year 1478, when the boyars were executed during the capture of Novgorod by Ivan III (1462-1505).

Shortly before death, the saint prepared his own grave, in which he was buried beyond the altar of the Transfiguration church (+ April 17, 1478). Later on, a chapel was built over his relics. His relics and the relics of St Sabbatius were transferred to the chapel dedicated to them at the Transfiguration cathedral on August 8, 1566.

Many miracles took place when St Zosimas and St Sabbatius appeared to fishermen who were perishing in the depths of the sea. St Zosimas is also a patron of bee-keeping and preserver of beehives, and he is even called “Bee-keeper.”

Those who are sick hasten to St Zosimas, asking to be healed. The many hospital churches dedicated to him attest to the curative