Venerable Anthony the Abbot of Siya, Novgorod

Saint Anthony of Siya, in the world Andrew, was born into a family of rich farmers in the village of Kekhta near the North Dvina river. In childhood he received a fine education, read much and learned iconography. After the death of his parents, Andrew went to Novgorod, and for five years worked for a boyar [nobleman] there. He later married, but his wife died after a year.

Then Andrew decided to devote himself to monasticism. He distributed his goods to the poor and as a wanderer came to the Pachomiev wilderness monastery at the River Kena. St Pachomius tonsured him with the name Anthony. Soon he was ordained a hieromonk, and Anthony, with the blessing of the igumen, celebrated the divine services by himself.

He went out with the other monks of the monastery to work for the monastery’s needs. Out of love for solitude St Anthony eventually left the Pachomiev wilderness, after choosing two companions from the monastic brethren, and he settled upon Mikhailov Island, on the one side washed by the River Sii, and on the other, by encircling lakes.

In this harsh frontier within the dense thickets Anthony built a chapel in 1520. But to clear the forest required difficult work, and Anthony’s companions began to grumble against him. Then quite unexpectedly an unknown man furnished them with the means of subsistence, offering money for good measure. The Siya monastery became famous, and inhabitants of surrounding villages often visited it. And again St Anthony, taking one disciple, withdrew to a still more remote place on Lake Palun. There, in a solitary cell, he dwelt for three years. When the igumen Theoctistus refused to guide the Siya monastery any longer, the brethren tried to persuade St Anthony to return to them. He finally acceded to the request of the monks, again became igumen and piously guided the monastery until his death in the year 1556, when he was seventy-nine years old.