Saint Maximus, successor of Metropolitan Cyril III of Kiev (1243-1280), was a Greek by birth, and he arrived in Rus, then suffering under the Mongol (Tatar) Yoke, in 1283 as Metropolitan. The saint decided to remain at Kiev, but the city was completely devastated by the plundering incursions of the Tatars. Metropolitan Maximus withdrew to Briansk, and from there to Suzdal. During his visit to Volhynia the saint met with St Peter the igumen of the Rata monastery, (December 21), who would succeed him as metropolitan.
In 1295 the saint deposed James from the bishop’s cathedra at Vladimir and replaced him with Simon. During these terrible times the throne of the Great Prince was first at Vladimir, then at Pereslavl, then at Tver.
Apprehensive lest he insult the South Russian princes by moving to the north, the saint offered fervent prayers to the Mother of God, and She indicated Vladimir as the place of his residence.
In the year 1299 Metropolitan Maximus went to Vladimir, and in the following year he established St Theoctistus (December 23) as Bishop of Novgorod. In 1301, Metropolitan Maximus was in Constantinople for a Patriarchal Council, where at the urging of St Theognostus, Bishop of Zaraisk, he set forth questions concerning the needs of the Russian Church to be resolved by the Council.
Recognizing the need to build up the strength of subjugated Rus, the saint urged Prince Yuri Danilovich of Moscow to make peace with the holy Prince Michael of Tver. He also advised Yuri to journey to the Horde to receive the throne. In 1304, the saint installed St Michael of Tver (November 22) upon the Great-princely throne of Vladimir.
Setting an example of intense spiritual life for others, Metropolitan Maximus was concerned about the spiritual growth of his proverbial flock. Thus, the saint established rules for fasting for other times in addition to Great Lent. He ordained it for the Apostles’, Dormition and Nativity lenten periods, and he defined when fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays is allowed (in Russia until the fourteenth century they did not fast on the Midfeast and Leave-taking of Pascha).
The holy metropolitan was particularly concerned with upholding lawful marriage: “I write, therefore, about this, so that you my children, born and newly-sanctified in the baptismal font, will take your wife from the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the woman is for the salvation of the man. If you cleave to them in promiscuity without marriage, does it benefit you? No, but rather beseech and implore them, whether young or old, to be married in the Church.”
The saint reposed on December 6, 1305, and his body was buried in the Dormition cathedral in Vladimir. A gilded covering was built over the saint’s grave, on which was written in gold letters: “Maximus, a Greek, was ordained in the year 6791 from the creation of the world. He came to Kiev in the year 1283 after the Birth of Christ. Because of the Tatar onslaught, he moved from Kiev to the Great Russian city of Vladimir. Maximus shepherded the Church of Christ for twenty-three years, and he reposed in the year 6813.”
The Maximov Icon of the Mother of God (April 18) was placed on the wall above the grave of the saint. It was painted in the year 1299 following a vision to Metropolitan Maximus. A description of this vision was inscribed on the left side of the crypt.