St Alypius the Iconographer of the Kiev Near Caves

Saint Alypius of the Near Caves, one of the first and finest of Russian iconographers, was a monastic disciple of St Nikon (March 23). From his youth he pursued asceticism at the Kiev Caves monastery. He studied the iconography of the Greek masters, and from the year 1083 beautified the Caves monastery church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

If he learned that the icons in some church had become worn, he took them with him and restored them without charge. St Alypius also painted icons for those who were not able to pay him. If they did pay him for his work, he set aside one third to purchase the materials he needed for painting, then he gave one third to the poor, keeping only one third for himself.

St Alypius was never famous, and he painted icons only to serve God. He was ordained a hieromonk and was known for working miracles even in his lifetime. St Alypius healed a man from Kiev who suffered from leprosy and decay of the body by anointing his wounds with the paints he used to paint icons.

Many icons painted by the saint were glorified with miracles. There was one instance when angels of God painted icons for him. A certain man of Kiev, having built a church, entrusted two monks of the Caves to commission the icons for it. The monks concealed the money and said nothing to St Alypius. After waiting a long time for the icon to be painted, the man went to the igumen to complain about the monk. Only then did they discover that he had not been told of the commission. When they brought the boards given by the customer, they found that beautiful images had already been painted on them.

When the church built for the icons was consumed by fire, all of the icons remained unharmed. One of these icons (the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos) received the title Vladimir-Rostov (August 15), was taken by Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125) to a church he had built at Rostov.

Another time, an angel painted an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, when St Alypius lay deathly ill. The angel accepted the soul of St Alypius (he died on August 17 not earlier than the year 1114). He was buried in the Near Caves. On the right hand of St Alypius the first three fingers were folded perfectly alike, and the last two were bent to the palm. It seems that he died while signing himself with the Sign of the Cross. One of the icons of St Alypius, the Most Holy Mother of God with the Infant-Savior, surviving from the time of Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves is now preserved in the State Tretyakov Gallery (named the Sven, and celebrated May 3 and August 17).