Commemorated on April 15
GreatPrince Mstislav Vladimirovich (in Holy Baptism Theodore, or Feodor)
was born on 1 June 1076. When he was all of 12 years old, his grandfather
the Kiev GreatPrince Vsevolod (1078-1093), sent off his grandson to be prince
of Novgorod. The Novgorod people loved the young prince. In 1995 they expelled
prince David, who withdrew to Smolensk, and they went specially to Rostov
seeking Prince Mstislav.
After the death of
his grandfather, Saint Mstislav had occupied his appanage-land, the Rostov
throne. At 19 years of age the young prince gained a brilliant victory over his
uncle, the Chernigov prince Oleg. Prince Oleg had killed his brother Izyaslav
and attacked Rostov and Suzdal', which belonged to Prince Mstislav.
The saint did not
want to shed innocent blood. He wanted to make peace with his uncle, and he
besought him to be satisfied with the rights to the city of Ryazan'. But Oleg
had already gathered forces on a campaign against Novgorod. Prince Mstislav
thereupon defeated him in a battle (1096) and Oleg, having lost out at Suzdal'
and Rostov, barely managed to hold on at Murom. Saint Mstislav again offered
peace and asked only for the return of captives. Oleg agreed under a ruse, and
so Prince Mstislav dispersed his own army. On the feastday of the GreatMartyr
Theodore of Tyre, on Saturday of the 1st Week of Great Lent, he was quietly
sitting down at Suzdal' to eat, when messengers brought him word, that prince
Oleg stood at the Klyaz'ma with an army. In one mere day Prince Mstislav
regathered his army, and when his brother arrived 4 days later, he gave new
battle. Oleg in fear fled to Ryazan', and Saint Mstislav set free the captives,
went through the Murom lands and he then reconciled Oleg with GreatPrince
Svyatopolk (1093-1114) and with his own father, Vladimir Monomakh.
Thankful for the
mercy of God, the saint in 1099 made a pledge to build a temple in honour of
the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God at Gorodischa near Novgorod. And
especially just for this church was written the reknown Mstislavovo Gospel, the
precious adornments of which were wrought at Constantinople. In 1114 the saint
pledged at Novgorod a church in the name of Saint Nicholas. This temple was in
gratitude to Saint Nicholas for an healing. During the time of a grievous
illness the prince had called out for help to Saint Nicholas, whose relics
shortly before this had been transferred to Bari in Italy (1087, Comm. 9 May).
Saint Nicholas in a vision gave orders to send to Kiev for his icon, indicating
its form and measure. The people sent to bring back the icon found themselves
detained on the Island of Lipna by a storm raging there on Lake Il'men. But on
the 4th day they found in the water there that same circular icon, indicated in
the vision. The sick prince gave kiss to the icon and received healing. And
afterwards at the place of appearance of the icon, on the Island of Lipna, there
was built a monastery with a stone church in the name of Saint Nicholas.
In 1116 the holy
prince again campaigned against the Chud people, and after a victory he
restored at Novgorod the fortress "he made guarantee of Novgorod the
Great" and he built out more extensively the lodgings for the Novgorod
principality. Then at his orders the posadnik-mayor Pavel situated a fortress
at Lake Ladoga, where there was built a stone church in honour of the
In 1117 GreatPrince
Vladimir Monomakh (1114-1125) summoned his son to him as an assistant and
transferred him to Belgorod. In 1123 holy Prince Mstislav confronted the
Volynian prince Yaroslav, who was attempting to seize the Kiev principality by
leading against Rus' a Polish and Hungarian army.
In 1125 GreatPrince
Vladimir Monomakh died, and holy Prince Mstislav occupied the Kiev throne.
During this time he gained a brilliant victory over the old enemies of Rus'
the Polovetsians, driving them beyond the Volga. Those of the Polovetsian princes,
who refused to ally with Mstislav, were dispatched to Greece. In 1127 Saint
Mstislav gave an oath to defend the Chernigov prince Yaroslav, banished by a
nephew. The clergy and all the people besought him not to spill Christian
blood. The holy prince obeyed, but until the end of his life he bewailed, that
he had violated his kissing of the cross in this oath.
In 1128 GreatPrince
Mstislav set the foundations of a stone church in the name of the GreatMartyr
Theodore of Tyre (his patron saint), in memory of a victory gained over the
Chernigov prince Oleg. And in 1131, after a successful campaign against
Lithuania, Saint Mstislav laid the foundations of a temple in honour of the
Pirogoschsk Icon of the Mother of God.
Holy Prince Mstislav
died on 14 April 1132 during the Paschal Week, and he was buried in the temple
of the GreatMartyr Theodore, built by him.
The holy prince was
venerated even during his earthly life. The copyist of the Mstislavovo Gospel
called him noble and a lover of Christ. The preparer of the settings of the
Mstislavovo Gospel, Naslav, wrote about him: "Much toil and tribulation I
experienced. But God did comfort me through the prayer of the good prince...
God grant his prayer for all Christians". The vita-life of the holy prince
was set under 15 April in the Serbian Divine-service Prologue of the XIII-XIV
Centuries. This Prologue was transcribed from the much earlier Bulgarian, the
source for which was the Russian original. Likewise under 15 April appears the
vita-life of Prince Mstislav in the Bulgarian Synaxarion of the year 1340.
(Investigations have shown, that the source of this synaxarion was likewise
Russian). In these Prologues the memory of holy Prince Mstislav was placed
alongside such reknown Russian commemorations, as that of holy
Equal-to-the-Apostles GreatPrincess Ol'ga (Comm. 11 July), and the holy
Passion-Bearer Princes Boris and Gleb (Comm. 24 July). These facts testify to
the wide veneration of holy Prince Mstislav in the Slavic lands.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.