Saint Demetrius of Priluki, Wonderworker, was born into a rich merchant’s family in Pereyaslavl-Zalessk. From his youth the saint was uncommonly handsome. Receiving monastic tonsure at one of the Pereyaslavl monasteries, the saint later founded the St Nicholas cenobitic monastery on the Sts Boris and Gleb Hill at the shore of Lake Plescheevo near the city, and became its igumen.
In 1334 St Demetrius first met with St Sergius of Radonezh, who had come to Pereyaslavl to see Metropolitan Athanasius. From that time, he frequently conversed with St Sergius and became close with him. The fame of the Pereyaslavl igumen was so widespread that he became godfather to the children of Great Prince Demetrius Ioannovich. Under the influence of the Radonezh wonderworker, St Demetrius decided to withdraw to a remote place, and went north with his disciple Pachomius.
In the Vologda forests, at the River Velika, near the Avnezh settlement, they built a church of the Resurrection of Christ and they prepared to lay the foundations for a monastery. The local inhabitants were fearful that if a monastery were built there, their village would become monastery property. They demanded that the monks leave their territory, and wishing to be a burden to no one, they moved farther away.
Not far from Vologda, at the bend of a river in an isolated spot, St Demetrius decided to form the first of the cenobitic monasteries of the Russian North. The people of Vologda and the surrounding gladly consented to help the saint. The owners of the land intended for the monastery, Elias and Isidore, even trampled down a grain field, so that a temple might be built immediately. In 1371 the wooden Savior cathedral was built, and brethren began to gather.
Many disciples of the monk came there from Pereyaslavl. St Demetrius combined prayer and strict asceticism with kindliness. He fed the poor and hungry, he took in strangers, he conversed with those in need of consolation, and he gave counsel. He loved to pray in solitude. His Lenten food consisted of prosphora with warm water. Even on feastdays, he would not partake of the wine and fish permitted by the Rule. Both winter and summer he wore an old sheepskin coat, and even in his old age he went with the brethren on common tasks. The saint accepted contributions to the monastery cautiously, so that the welfare of the monastery would not be detrimental to those living nearby.
The Lord granted His servant the gift of clairvoyance, and he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. St Demetrius died at an advanced age on February 11, 1392. The brethren approaching found him as though asleep, and his cell was filled with a wondrous fragrance.
Miracles from the relics of St Demetrius began in the year 1409, and during the fifteenth century his veneration spread throughout all Rus. And no later than the year 1440, the Priluki monk Macarius recorded his Life (Great Reading Menaion, February 11) based on the narratives of St Demetrius’s disciple Igumen Pachomius.