Saint Adrian of Poshekhonye was born at Rostov the Great at the end of the sixteenth century, of pious parents named Gregory and Irene. St Adrian received monastic tonsure at the monastery of St Cornelius of Komel (May 19).
Among the brethren gathered around St Cornelius were some capable builders and iconographers, so the monastery churches were constructed and adorned by the saints themselves. In the final years of St Cornelius’s life, Kazan Tatars invaded the territory around the monastery, and he led all the brethren to the River Ukhtoma. But the Tatars did not touch the monastery, being frightened off by the sight of the many soldiers defending it, and they soon withdrew from the Vologda district. St Cornelius returned to the monastery with the brethren and reposed there on May 19, 1537.
Three years after the death of St Cornelius, St Adrian, then a hierodeacon, greatly desired to go into a wilderness place and found a monastery in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. The Lord helped him fulfill his intention. A certain unknown Elder of striking appearance came to the Corniliev monastery. St Adrian asked him his name, and the Elder referred to himself as “the lowly one.”
When St Adrian invited him to his own cell and asked him to say something beneficial for the soul, the Elder said that he would show St Adrian the spot where he should build the church and monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos.
St Adrian immediately went to the Superior, Igumen Laurence, and sought his blessing to live in the wilderness. Recalling St Cornelius’s order that any monks who wished to withdraw into the wilderness should be released from the monastery, Igumen Laurence did not hinder St Adrian but gave him his blessing. He also sent with him his assistant, Elder Leonid. After they prayed at the grave of St Cornelius, St Adrian and Elder Leonid went on their way, led by the mysterious black-robed monk. St Adrian carried with him an icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which he also painted.
On September 13, 1540, the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord, St Adrian and Elder Leonid arrived in the wild Poshekhonye forest, near the settlements of Belta, Patrabolsha, Shelshedolsk and Ukhorsk.
They halted at the banks of the River Votkha. There the Elder leading them suddenly became invisible. The astonished travelers began to chant the Canon and service of the Feast, with tears of thanks to God. Indeed this was a portent of the future fame of the monastery, a place where God would be glorified.
For three years St Adrian and the Elder Leonid survived in the wilderness solitude, suffering want, overcoming temptations from the devil and the whisperings of wicked folk, and then they began to fulfill their intention. Choosing a suitable moment, the ascetics went to Moscow to ask the blessing of Metropolitan Macarius to establish a monastery and church in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the Poshekhonye side of the River Votkha.
St Macarius gave his blessing to the ascetics to build the monastery, and he gave them a written document to that effect. He ordained Adrian to the priesthood and elevated him to the rank of igumen. In the document he had given to St Adrian, the hierarch bade “priests, deacons, monks and laymen to listen to him and obey him in everything, as befits a pastor and teacher.”
At Moscow the Poshekhonye ascetics found generous benefactors who gave the monks abundant offerings to build their church. Returning to their wilderness spot on May 31, 1543, St Adrian laid the foundations for the church with a trapeza, in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Having embellished and consecrated the new church, St Adrian began the construction of the monastery. The strict monastic Rule of St Cornelius was introduced at the monastery. Having nothing of their own, a little being sufficient for everyone, the saints devoted a large portion of their time to prayer, both in church and in their cells, and no small time was allotted to the reading of Holy Scripture. This reading was done “not in an elegant voice, nor for effect, but in a humble and mild voice. One reads, and another speaks of what is read.” They also read in private.
In addition to his duties as igumen, St Adrian also occupied himself with painting icons. When his holy soul longed for complete silence, he withdrew into the depths of the forest into the cell and chapel he had built one verst away from the monastery.
Six years after the founding of the monastery, Elder Leonid reposed. St Adrian and the brethren buried him with reverence. The number of the brethren had increased during this time. They built three cells as dwellings, and a fourth for preparing food and baking bread.
St Adrian began to make plans for the construction of a large stone church, and he gathered a sum of money for this purpose. One year after the repose of Elder Leonid, during Great Lent of 1550, on the eve of the commemoration of the 42 Ammoreian Martyrs (March 6), armed robbers burst into the monastery and murdered St Adrian after beating him.
The holy relics of St Martyr Adrian were uncovered on December 17, 1626, solemnly transferred into the monastery church and placed in an open crypt by the right kliros (choir). Many miracles occurred at the grave of St Adrian.