Saint Arsenius Tverskoi (died in 1409) was a bishop of Tver in the years of 1390 to 1409.
Russian chronicles contain numerous accounts of St. Arsenius’s ministry. Another source of information about his life is Prostrannoye (Mineinoye) Zhitie which is believed to have been compiled eighty years after his death.
The above sources say nothing as to when and where the saint was born. Still, his zhitie (hagiography) tells us that Arsenius took the monastic vows as a teenager in the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery, suggesting that he was born in the South of Russia.
Little is known about Arsenius before he was ordained bishop. Russian chronicles say only that he arrived in Moscow together with Metropolitan Cyprian who made him his “proto-deacon”. He was ordained the bishop of Tver on July 24th, 1390. Head of the Tverskoi eparchy, Arsenius was actively engaged in cultural and educational activities. Due to his efforts, the regular writing of Tver chronicles was resumed, the local iconographic school reached its zenith and a book-copying workshop was established. Under his guidance, the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral in Tver was rebuilt. He also founded the Zheltikov Monastery of the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God on the river Tmak, with the Assumption Cathedral (formerly made of wood, and later rebuilt in stone). In commemoration of the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery, he built a wooden refectory in memory of the blessed Anthony and Theodosius Pechersky and initiated the writing of a redaction of the Kievo-Pechersky patericon. He also acted as a peace-maker in the conflicts between the Tver princes.
Saint Arsenius died on March 2, 1409 (old style) and was buried in the Assumption Cathedral of the Zheltikov Monastery he had himself founded. His relics were found in 1483. In the same year, a monk of the Zheltikov Monastery compiled a lithurgy to St. Arsenius, and, possibly, his hagiography. The local feast day of St. Arsenius was set by the 1547 Council.
There are two iconographic versions of St. Arsenius Tverskoi. The former variant represents the saint wearing a pontiff’s vestment – a mantle, an omophorion, a mitre and a staff in his hands, such as a 1738 icon of St. Arsenius by Egor the Greek in the Andrei Rublev Museum. The latter type portrays him dressed in monastic clothes.
The feast day of St. Arsenius is celebrated on March 15th (March 2, O.S.) and July 15th (July 2nd O.S.).
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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