Saint Peter (died in 1326) is the metropolitan of All Russia who moved his see from Vladimir to Moscow, the first saint of Moscow.
The earliest accounts of his life are contained in the writing commonly known as “The Death of Metropolitan Peter.” This hagiography is believed to have been written for the Vladimir Synaxis in 1327 at which he was canonized. Later in the 14th century it was used by Metropolitan Cyprian to write his own redaction of the Life of Metropolitan Peter.
According to this writing, the saint was a native of the Volhynia principality. When Peter reached the age of seven, his parents – Theodor and Maria - sent him to school to learn reading and writing. At the age of 12, the boy took monastic vows. At his own desire, Peter learned to paint icons and was a “masterful icon-painter”. He founded a small monastery on the Rata river near Lvov. When Metropolitan Maxim stopped at this monastery on the way to Constantinople, Peter presented him with an icon of the Theotokos he had painted himself.
After the death of Metropolitan Maxim in 1305, a feud flared up between the Prince of Galicia Yury Lvovich, who was displeased with the transfer of the Metropolitan see from Kiev to Vladimir and wanted to have his own metropolitan in Galicia, and the Grand Prince Mikhail Yaroslavich of Tver who sought to advance his own candidate for this position. The Prince of Galicia sent to Constantinople a Rata hegumen Peter, while the Prince of Tver dispatched there hegumen Herontius. Patriarch Athanasius of Constantinople, not wishing to divide the Russian see, ordained Peter Metropolitan of all Russia in May-June 1308. The saint’s hagiography reports that the Patriarch blessed Metropolitan Peter with an icon that Peter had presented to Metropolitan Maxim and which was brought to Constantinople by Herontius.
The Grand Prince Mikhail Yaroslavich of Tver strongly opposed the decision of Patriarch of Constantinople, which led to standoff and mutual accusations between Metropolitan Peter and Bishop Andrew of Tver. This hostility eventually caused Metropolitan Peter to ally with Muscovy princes. One year before his death the Metropolitan had moved to Moscow. He convinced Prince John Kalita to allocate funds from the budget on the construction of a stone church in honor of the Theotokos.
The foundation of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God, a first stone church in Moscow, was laid in August 1326. But Metropolitan Peter did not live to the end of the construction and died on the night of 20/21 of December 1326. He was buried in the coffin he himself had made. Soon thereafter, the saint’s relics began to perform miracles and healings that were recorded at the initiative of John Kalita, and led to his canonization. Metropolitan Peter was first canonized in 1327 by the Vladimir Synaxis, and later, in 1339 in Constantinople.
Metropolitan Peter was the first Muscovite saint who is venerated as the heavenly patron and protector of Moscow.
On the icons Metropolitan Peter is traditionally portrayed in clerical vestments – a while klobuk, a dalmatic (ornamented with crosses and circles) and an omophorion. Most widespread are two variants of the icon. The former type is represented by the icons from the Deesis row where the saint is depicted in a turn, with his hands raised in prayer, such as on a 15th century icon, presently held in State Tretyakov Gallery. The latter type comprises the icons on which the saint is pictured frontally, with his right hand raised in a blessing gesture and his right hand holding a Gospel book, sometimes against the background of the Moscow Kremlin.
The feast day of St. Peter the Metropolitan is September 6th (August 24th in the old style), October 18th (October 5th in the old style), January 3rd (December 21st in the old style).
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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