June 5

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This Day in the Life of the Church

June 5, 2024

The First Bishop from the Kiev Caves Monks


Saint Leonty of Rostov is the heavenly patron of the ROCOR Archbishop Leonty of Chile and Peru (+1971). He also was from the Kiev Caves Lavra

St. Leonty, bishop of Rostov, reposed on this day c. 1070.

There are different accounts on St. Leonty’s origin. It is possible that he was a native of Constantinople, Kiev, or a nearby city. He was baptized in infancy, and from his youth, he began to comprehend the “learning of the Book.” As it is said about him, “he understands the Russian and Greek languages ​​well, but the great man is cunning in words and a storyteller from his youth.”  From a young age, the saint felt an attraction to monastic life. One must think that he became a monk in Constantinople, and from there he arrived in Kiev, where he probably became the first abbot of the Zverinetsky cave monastery. From this monastery, he was called to the Rostov See and consecrated as the first bishop of the monks of Pechersk no later than 1051.

In Rostov, Saint Leonty became a lonely fighter for the Christian faith. After the murder of the Passion-Bearer Prince Boris in 1015, Rostov did not have its own appanage princes for a long time. Only in 1054, after the death of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, did Rostov have an appanage to Yaroslav’s son Vsevolod. All the previous rulers of Rostov—the first Saint Theodore and his successor, Hilarion—were expelled from the city by the pagans.

Greeted with hostility by the elders of the city of Rostov, Saint Leonty settled down at the cathedral church. First of all, he took up the education of the clergy. A monument to this educational activity of the saint is his “Teaching to the Priests about Everything and the Punishment of Bishop Leonty of Rostov,” as it was befitting to teach his spirituality and the rule of the holy fathers. Saint Leonty loved his clergy so much, and he was spiritually and morally enlightened so that he instructed to place in his coffin a scroll with the names of the clergy he appointed.

Simultaneously with the “punishment” of the clergy, Saint Leonty labored in preaching Christian truths to the Rostov inhabitants - pagans from the populous Finno-Ugric Chud’ tribe, but his open preaching met first with mute resistance and then with open rebellion: several times they drove him away and finally completely expelled him from the city. Then he settled outside the city near the small stream Brutovshtitsy, where he built a small wooden church in the name of Archangel Michael. Striving here in fasting and prayer, he sowed the seeds of Christ's faith in the hearts of the youths, whom he called to himself for this purpose, and fed them with wheat boiled with honey. The children willingly went to him and were baptized, and after them, some parents were baptized.

Over time, Saint Leonty again settled in Rostov and zealously preached the word of God and baptized many youths and adults. The success of Saint Leonty's missionary activity turned pagans against him. One day, with weapons in their hands, they approached the cathedral church and demanded that the saint come out to them. The frightened clergy began to beg the archpastor to hide secretly. But he, putting on the bishop's vestments, and the priests and deacons, who, at his order dressed in sacred clothes, left the temple to the people. Struck by the courage of the saint and the heavenly light emanating from his face, the pagans fell to the ground, some became blind, others fell into bodily relaxation and, as if dead, lay on the ground at the feet of the saint. Having prayed to the Lord, he raised them up and healed them. At his admonition, they accepted the Holy Faith and were baptized, and from that time, the church in Rostov began to grow.

There is conflicting information about Saint Leonty's death, but he most likely died in peace. His death dates back to either 1070 or 1073, and Evgeny E. Golubinsky believed that the saint died around 1077.


This project has been supported by the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Church Abroad


Copyright 2023 Andrei Psarev.

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