The Venerable Nikita, Kirill, Nikifor, Clement and Isaac Alfanovs (the second half of the 14th century – the first half of the 15th century /?/) were the founders of the Nikolsky Sokolnitsky Convent in Novgorod and Novgorodian wonderworkers.
No historical accounts of the Alfanov brothers have survived. According to 17th century documentary sources, they built a wooden church in the name of St. Nicholas with a convent in Novgorod, near Okolny Val on Krasnoe pole, between springs Tarasovets and Fedorovsky on Sokolya gora, where they were buried after death. It was probably in this convent that their veneration had begun. The 6897 (1389) Fourth Novgorodian Chronicle tells us that "И на Сокольи горкѣ поставиша церковь древяну святаго Нiколоу, и манастырь оустроиша" (“They built a wooden church in the name of Nicholas and founded a monastery”). This evidence led historians to conclude that the Alfanov brothers lived between the second half of the 14th – first half of the 15th century.
The saints’ relics, believed to have been discovered in the mid-16th century, performed healings. The 1606 hagiography entitled «Сказание о явлении святых мощей преподобных и богоносных отец наших Никиты, Кирилла, Никифора, Климонта и Исакия, Новгородских чюдотворцов, нарицаемых Алфановых, единородных братий по плоти» (“The tale of the miracles worked by the saint relics of our God-bearing fathers Nikita, Kirill, Nikiphor, Climont and Isaac, Novgorodian wonderworkers, named the Alfanovs, blood brothers”) reports that the Alfanov brothers lived in the 12th century. They were wealthy and pious people and in the end of life took monastic vows. The saints’ relics were discovered in 1162 by a starets, the founder of the Nativity of Christ Monastery on Krasnoe Pole, who came to pray in the St. Nicholas Monastery and saw behind the altar the saint relics lying on the ground. He made three attempts to rebury them but three times they re-surfaced from the ground. Upon that, at the order of Archbishop John, the starets built a tomb upon the burial site.
Sts. Nikita, Kirill, Nikiphor, Clement and Isaac Alfanovs came to be venerated in the 17th century. After the demolition of St. Nicholas and Sokolnitsky monasteries in 1775, the saints’ relics were transferred to the Nativity of the Theotokos Cathedral at the St. Anthony Monastery.
In iconography the Alfanov brothers are commonly portrayed wearing boyar attire – a richly decorated dress, fur-coat and a hat. The earliest surviving image of the saints is a 1701 tomb icon from St. Nicholas Church at the Sokolnitsky Monastery (now kept at the Novgorodian Museum).
The venerable Nikita, Kirill, Nikiphor, Clement and Isaac Alfanovs are commemorated on May 17 (May 4, O.S.), June 30 (June 17, O.S.) and in the third week after the Pentecost – in the Synaxis of Novgorodian 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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