Russian Warrior Saints' Armors Are Truly Holy Relics

Editor's Note: This article was generated by machine translation, so our staff cautions the reader about possible inaccuracies that may have resulted from this. However, it was deemed worthwhile to still publish such a piece because of the intrinsic value of the message - which remains evident even in its translated form.

The material relics have been revered by believers since the founding of the Church of Christ. We know from the book of Acts that even the handkerchiefs and girdles (Acts 19:12) of the apostles bore healing power. From the biographies of God's saints we can learn that not only their holy relics, but also their personal belongings became conductors of grace. The grace of God sanctifies everything that was associated with a saint who received it during his lifetime. Just as the belongings of a loved one become a relic in the hands of a lover, so do the belongings of a saint dear to the heart keep a good memory of him. In honoring a material shrine, we glorify Christ, who gave us salvation, and the sanctifying and transforming grace of the Holy Spirit.

This article will look at elements of protective armor that are attributed to, or in fact belonged to, some celebrated Russian saints.

Holy Prince Oleg of Ryazan

Благоверный князь Олег Рязанский

As we know, Prince Oleg Ivanovich Ryazan (1338-1402) is a key figure in the history of the Ryazan Principality, and in the history of the Russian state in general in the XIV-XV centuries. The name of Prince Oleg of Ryazan is on a par with the names of Dmitry Donskoy, Vladimir Serpukhov the Brave, and Sergius of Radonezh.

The patriarch of Ryazan local history, archivist and historian Stepan Dmitrievich Yakhontov, in his report dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the repose of Prince Oleg, stressed that

"Ryazan owes its strength and importance in contemporary Russian life to him; he did the most for its improvement; in the most anxious times in Russia he was able to protect and defend his people ... Ryazan princedom neither before nor after him had reached such strength and greatness."

Prince Oleg, who took monastic vows with the name Joachim (according to other sources - Jonah), spent the last year of his life in fasting and prayer at the Solotchinsky monastery founded by him. Vestiges, voluntarily vested in the prince-unok, and became his armor, which he constantly wore under his monastic vestment.

The armor ("pansyr") is a type of ringed armor. The main difference between the armor and the chainmail was that its rings were fastened not by rivets, but by wedges, so that the inner side of the ring was completely smooth. The weight of the armor is about 7 kg. The hem and sleeves on the edge are finished with rings of copper alloy. It is likely that this was not the only armor of the prince, but it was the armor that the prince wore for the last time before his death, restraining his flesh.

Панцирь Олега Рязанского

However, there is a prosaic modern version, according to which this armor served as an armor jacket that could protect the prince from an attempt on the part of Moscow princes who wanted to gain control of Ryazan.

This version seems unlikely because it is difficult for the modern unbeliever to understand that the motivation of the believer may not be self-interest or fear or calculation, but rather a sincere belief in God and the realization that one day everyone will stand trial before Christ. Prince Oleg takes monastic vows shortly before his death, and it was not connected with politics, but with the fact that the time has come to stand before God and give an account of his earthly life.

A more realistic version seems to be that the prince used this armor instead of a hair shirt. In the biographies of the saints we can find similar examples, when the armor was used exactly as chains, which were worn constantly or during vigils.

The veneration of Prince Oleg as a local revered saint in Ryazan immediately after his death cannot fail to be a visible testimony to his spiritual and moral qualities.

Панцирь Олега Рязанского

After Oleg Ivanovich's death in 1402 the "iron shirt", as pilgrims called the armor, was kept for a long time in the reliquary with his relics in the Solotcha monastery founded by him. The armor was revered as a shrine and was one of the monastery's main attractions. Nikolai Lyubomudrov, a priest and local historian of Ryazan Province, testifies that the touch of the armor brought healing from various ailments to the admirers of the Grand Duke. Thus, there were recorded cases of deliverance from the passion of drunkenness and from female infertility. After the revolution, the shell was transferred to the Ryazan Museum of Local Lore and is now on display at the Ryazan Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve.

The Venerable Grigory of Pelshem

The Monk Grigorii of Vologda (1350 - after 1449) was the founder of the Pel'shamsk monastery, a zealous ascetic and spiritual guide for many of his contemporaries. The Monk Gregory not only cared for the planting of piety in the monastery, but at the same time he took part in the destiny of his Fatherland. Thus in the year 1433 he went to Moscow, to persuade the Galich prince Yurii Dmitrievich, who had taken the Moscow princedom from Vasilii Vasil'evich the Dark, to return Moscow to prince Vasilii. Prince Yuri obeyed the Monk and, as the hagiography of the saint relates, was bestowed upon the prince great gifts, among which might have been armor. And in the following year of 1434 Yurii's son Dmitrii Shemyaka began to ravage the Vologda lands. The Monk Gregory went to Dmitri and rebuked the prince, calling him to peace. But Shemyaka ordered to throw the holy elder down from the bridge. The saint survived, and his courage further increased his lifetime veneration.

Преподобный Григорий Пельшемский

After his death Grigory was venerated: in the year 1549 by the Council of Moscow he was glorified as a saint for universal church veneration. Accompanied by a shrine was the armor in which the saint, according to tradition, kept his all-night vigil, using it as a veil.

After the closing and destruction of the Grigorievo-Pelshemsk Lopotov Monastery in 1926, the armor ended up in a museum. At present it is in the exposition of the Vologda State Museum-Reserve.

Бахтерец преподобного Григория Пельшемского

According to the typology of the ring-shaped protective equipment, the armor of the Venerable Gregory of Pelcham is defined as bakhterets. The bachteretz is a type of ring and plate armor in which the metal plates are connected in a special way by ring rings. Bakhterets (or bechterets) - from the Persian "begter" - a type of armor. The bakhterets were made of elongated plates, placed in vertical rows and interconnected by rings, so that the plates, being one on another, formed a double or even triple overlap. The bachterets of the Venerable Gregory consist of 18 rows of plates connected by rings of chainmail. In total, there are about 750-800 plates in the armor.

Бахтерец преподобного Григория. Дыра, заделанная пластинкой для крепления подола

In view of the presence of traces of museum repairs to the armor, we can make the assumption that the original design of the bachterets was partially altered. On the first left from the center of the dorsal row is an ineptly patched hole. The hole was patched with a plate to secure the hem. This is evidenced by the 5 ring holes on the lower edge of the plate, similar to the other plates to which the hem is attached. It is noteworthy that the fringe is fastened on the shoulders and on the side. This is a characteristic feature of the bachterets of Moscow work.

The Venerable Dalmat of Iset

The Monk Dalmat of Iset (1594-1697) was the founder of the Dalmatov Dormition monastery.

Преподобный Далмат Исетский

According to tradition, a helmet and a ringed armor were presents to Dalmat from the Tyumen Tatar Iligey, the owner of the lands where the saint had settled. Iligey twice tried to expel Dalmat from his lands. The second time Iligii together with his detachment arrived at the White Mound, where Dalmatos had dug himself a cave for asceticism.

However, in a dream vision the Mother of God appeared to the unbeliever, and strictly forbade any harm to the monk and commanded to give him the land to arrange the future monastery. And that he did. Military armor was a sign of his respect for the unarmed ascetic, who, according to the biography, before taking monastic vows, and was himself a soldier - a Cossack ataman of the class of boyar children and town governor in the city of Tobolsk.

Панцирь и шлем преподобного Далмата Исетского в Далматово, Шадринский уезд Пермской губернии, 1912 год. Фото С.М. Прокудина-Горского

There is an opinion that this helmet was in fact a later contribution of a Russian soldier from the raider regiments to the Isetsky monastery for a repose of the soul, and was long kept in the monastery-fortress arsenal, which was an outpost and first to take blows from the south, and was a staging post during campaigns in the southern Trans-Ural, where it could replenish supplies and leave the wounded. The articles by A. P. Zykov and I. L. Mankova provide a detailed analysis of "Iligey's helmet" and show that the most probable time of its appearance in the monastery is 1663-1667, while the helmet itself is a pithos helmet. According to the authors, "the legend of Iligey transferring his armor to Dalmat appeared quite late - in the second half of the 18th and 19th centuries, in connection with the completion of the registration of the cult of the righteous Dalmat with the necessary attributes. Nevertheless, the dating of the helmet and armor correlates with the life years of Venerable Dalmat, and the hagiographic narrative is not something doubtful for believers.

After the death of the Venerable Dalmat the helmet and armor were kept on his tomb in the shrine in honor of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow". In the early twentieth century local historian A. I. Krivoshchekov wrote:

"...every pilgrim who comes to worship Dalmat's tomb considers it his indispensable duty to put on these clothes and pray in them, sincerely believing that the clothes of Dalmat (Iligey) heal from weakness, and the cone from a headache...".

In the Urals, Dalmat was considered a patron of warriors: young men before going into the army came to the tomb of the saint and put on his armor as a blessing for the war effort.

After the closure of the monastery in the 1930s, the relics were transferred to the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore.

Панцирь и шлем преподобного Далмата в Успенском Далматовском мужском монастыре

In 2019, the ringed armor and helmet of Venerable Dalmat were returned to the Dalmatian Dormition Monastery for long-term display, which is a welcome example of cooperation and the possibility of achieving mutual understanding between the museum community and the Church.

Шлем из собрания Оружейной палаты, приписываемый благоверному князю Димитрию Донскому

This list of relics is not exhaustive. It is known, for example, about the chainmail of St. Jonah of Pechersk, who used it as a harness and which was subsequently stolen during one of the raids of the Teutonic Knights on the Pechersk monastery. Some of the relics of holy princes are still in the vaults of museums. Something is on display, such as the helmet from the collection of the Armory Chamber, which modern researchers attribute to the Noble Prince Demetrius Donskoy. But on the example of the aforementioned items of arms we can conclude that the greatness and wealth of the saints is not only their active example of a spiritualized transfiguring life and the grace that works even through external objects. But also the cultural aspect, which is a treasure of our history and culture, testifying to the exploits and courage of our holy ancestors.

Source: (Russian)

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