Thursday, July 28, 2011

St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles of Kiev

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today we commemorate Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, known as 'the Equal to the Apostles' for his baptism of all of Rus' in 988 following his own conversion to the Orthodox Faith. Although the son and grandson of the pagan Grand Princes Igor and Svyatoslav of Kiev, St. Vladimir was also the son and grandson of Orthodox Christian women - Grand Princess Malusha and Grand Princess St. Olga the Wise.

At his birth St. Vladimir was named by his mother 'the peaceful ruler' (Volodymyr in old Slavonic and modern Ukrainian). Despite his Orthodox ancestry St. Vladimir was strongly pagan, at the time of his succession to his father in Novgorod (Rus' having been divided between Svyatoslav's three sons) fiercely campaigning against his Orthodox brother Grand Prince Yaropolk of Kiev in 1978 and overthrowing him to become the sole ruler of Rus'.

St. Vladimir continued to reign as a pagan until the late 980s when Emperor Basil of the East Romans appealed to Rus' for help in putting down a rebellion against his rule. When St. Vladimir demanded in return that Basil's daughter Anna be sent from Constantinople to be his wife the reluctant emperor agreed on the condition that the grand prince be baptized, and so St. Vladimir was baptized as Basil and married to Anna in the Crimean city of Chersonessus (today Korsun) in 988.

After his return from the Crimea St. Vladimir ordered the baptism of his capital and of all of Rus'. The inhabitants of Kiev consequently went down to the Dnieper River and were baptized there by Metropolitan St. Michael of Kiev and the city's clergy. After the country's baptism pagan idols, temples, and shrines were torn down, often being replaced by churches and, later on, monasteries. In Kiev itself St. Vladimir built a church dedicated to his patron, St. Basil the Great, on the site of a temple to the god Perun, whilst at the place of the martyrdom of some of Kiev's Orthodox he built the Church of the Tithe dedicated to the Dormition.

So it was that Rus' was baptized and transformed into the largest of the nations belonging to the Orthodox Catholic Church. Thanks to St. Vladimir's influence leaders of the Bulgar Turks living on the Volga, the Pechenegs, and even the distant Norwegians were also converted to Orthodoxy during his reign. Having labored throughout his life to unify Rus' as an Orthodox nation, St. Vladimir reposed on this day in 1015 after ruling for 37 years.

May St. Vladimir's blessing and prayers be with us all! More on his life can be found here.

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