The venerable Euphrosinus of Pskov (born as Eleazar, the late 14th – late 15th century) was the founder of the cinebatic St. Elizar monastery upon the river Tolba (Tolve) dedicated to Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, 27 kilometers to the North of Pskov. He was famous for austere righteous life and many miracles.
Little is known about St. Euphrosinus. The only source of his life is his hagiography dated not later than 1510. Though the account begins with the words “Life and exploits of our venerable father Euphrosinus, the labor-loving hermit…” it is in fact dedicated to debates between Euphosinus and the Pskovian priest Job on the singing of Hallelujah. Euphrosinus’s monastic rule and his legacy have survived to this day. His posthumous miracles are reported in the Saint’s Life compiled by the priest Vasily (Varlaam) after the canonization of the saint in 1547.
According to these accounts, St. Euphrosinus was born in ca. 1386 in the village of Videlebye, 40 km to the east of Pskov, in the family of a wealthy peasant, and was baptized Eleazar. Coming of age, Eleazar left his parents and went to the Snetogorsky Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God in the vicinity of Pskov on the banks of the river Velikaya where he was tonsured a monk under the name of Euphrosinus. At that time the theologians at Pskov argued how many times – two or three – they should sing the word “hallelujah” in the prayer “Hallelujah, hallelujah, glory to Thee, o God!” The liturgical books sent by Metropolitan Cyprian in the late 14th century prescribed to sing “hallelujah” three times but the monks sang it twice. To resolve this dispute, St. Ephrosinus made a heavy trip to Constantinople that some historians believe to have happened in the 1520s. In Constantinople the saint got a blessing from the Patriarch to stick to the old version and sing “hallelujah” twice. However, the Church of Constantinople recognized both practices thus leaving the theological dispute unresolved.
Upon return from Constantinople St. Euphrosinus, wishing to live in seclusion, settled on the river Tolva (Tolba), 30 km to the north of Pskov. After a time, other people wanting to lead an ascetic life began to settle nearby. The venerable offered the monks to found a community fearing robbers he had been warned of by the local residents. He introduced the monastic rule for the monks. One of the first disciples of Euphrosinus was the venerable Serapion of Pskov who led an austere ascetic life – he acquired the Great Schema and spent 55 years in silence. His disciples also included Savva Krypetsky, Dosipheus Verkhneostrovsky, Onuphrius Malski, Joachim Opochsky, Ilarion Gdovsky, Khariton Kudinsky – the future founders of new monasteries.
The venerable Ephrosinus had been honored with visions of Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. They commanded the venerable to build the Church in the Name of the Three Saints with a side-altar dedicated to Onuphrius the Great and later the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.
St. Ephrosinus reposed on May 15, 1481 (O.S.) at the age of ninety five and was buried between the two churches. In the second half of the 16th century the saint’s relics were re-buried in the new stone-built cathedral of the Three Saints. The saint was canonized by the Zemsky Sobor in 1549.
In iconography the venerable Ephrosinus of Pskov is commonly depicted as an old man with gray hair and a chest-long beard, split at the edge, wearing monastic vestments. The first icon of the venerable placed above his tomb in 1547 (lost in the 19th century) was painted on the vellum from a lifetime drawing of the saint. One of the earliest surviving depictions of St. Ephrosinus is embroidered on a cloth dating back to the second half of the 16th century. The cloth, formerly housed at the Church of the Midpentecost in the courtyard of St. Eliazar Monastery in Pskov, is now located at the Pskov State United Museum of History, Architecture and Art. St. Ephrosinus is encountered on both individual icons and among the Pskovian wonderworkers such as on the late 19th century icon of The Synaxis of the Pskovian Wonderworkers from the Church of the Holy Spirit at the churchyard of Tolbitsy near Pskov. In some icons the saint is represented against the background of Spaso-Eliazarov Monastery such as on a 17th century icon from the collection of the State Museum of History of Religion.
St. Ephrosinus of Pskov is commemorated on May 28 (May 15, O.S.) and in the third week after the Pentecost in the Synaxis of the Pskovian saints.
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.
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