The venerable Sergius of Radonezh (ca. 1314 – 1392), the greatest Russian saint, founder of the Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, the “hegumen of the Russian land”, was born in Rostov Veliky into a boyar family of Kirill and Maria, his baptismal name was Varfolomei (Bartholomew). In ca. 1328, his family moved to Radonezh. Together with his widowed brother Stefan he found a secluded place to live on Mount Makovets. Varfolomei took monastic vows taking the name Sergius and built a church dedicated in honor of the Holy Trinity. His elder brother Stefan was not able to endure hardship of secluded life and moved to the Epiphany Monastery in Moscow. Over time, other monks started coming to Sergius seeking his spiritual leadership. When the hermitage community grew in number, bishop Athanasius ordained Sergius a bishop and in the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky. With the blessing Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople the monastery introduced a monastic charter. When the monks started to express discontent with too ascetic life in the monastery, Sergius moved to a new place and found there the Annunciation Hermitage in Kirzhachi. However, on the insistence of the monks and Metropolitan Alexis, Sergius came to the Trinity Monastery. Prior to the Kulikov battle Prince Dimitri Donskoi visited Sergius to ask for his blessing. However this fact being mentioned in the 17th century chronicles, it is disputed by some researchers. The venerable Sergius was honored with the appearance of the Mother of God in his lifetime. His disciples and followers founded more than 40 monasteries. St. Sergius’ relics were uncovered in 1422 during the construction of the stone St. Trinity Cathedral.
According to tradition, the venerable Sergius is depicted wearing full clerical vestment (inner rason, cassock, belt, mantle, analabos on the chest, schema on the shoulders) and boots, with the blessing right hand and a scroll in his left. The earliest image of the venerable Sergius - the embroidered Intercession on the shrine (the 1420s) portrays him as a man with long hair and a big beard. From the 15th century St. Sergius, like many other saints, was depicted with short hair.
St. Sergius is commemorated twice, on October 8 (September 25, O.S. – repose) and July 18 (July 5, O.S. uncovering of the relics).
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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