Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saints Romanus and David, Martyrs

12th century effigy of Saint Gleb and Saint Boris, artist unknown; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

[Patrons of Muscovy] The history of the conversion of the Russians (now called Muscovites) to the faith of Christ, has been perplexed by the mistakes of many who have treated this point of history. The learned Jesuit F. Antony Possevin was betrayed into many falsities concerning this people. And upon his authority some have pretended that the Muscovites received the faith from the Greek schismatics, and at the same time adhered to their schism; than which, nothing can be more notoriously false, as Henschenius and Papebrochius show. F. Stilting, another learned Bollandist, has demonstrated by an express dissertation, that the Muscovites were at first Catholics, and that even in the time of the council of Florence the Catholics and schismatics in Russia made two equal halves. The Greek schism was formed by Cerularius several years after the conversion of the Russians. The schism indeed of Photius was a short prelude to it.

Cedrenus, Zonaras, and some others relate, that an army of Russians besieged Constantinople in the time of the Emperor Michael III., when Photius held that see; and that being obliged to raise the siege they obtained certain Greek priests from Constantinople, who instructed them in the Christian faith. This first mission Baronius places in 853, Pagi in 861; but this must either be understood of some tribe of Russians in Bohemia, where Saint Cyril then preached; or these authors must have confounded together things which happened at different times; for the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenetta, who lived near that time, and could not but be acquainted with this transaction, says both in his life of his grandfather, Basil the Macedonian, and in his book, On administering the Empire, that the Russians besieged the city in the time of Photius, but that they were converted to the faith by priests sent at their request from Constantinople in the time of Basil the Macedonian and the patriarch Saint Ignatius, whom that prince restored upon his ascending the throne in 867; which also appears from Zonaras.

The first plant of the faith in this nation was the holy Queen Helen, called before her baptism Olga. She was wife to the Duke Ihor or Igor, who undertook an expedition against the city of Constantinople, as Simeon Metaphrastes, the monk George, Cedrenus, Zonaras, and Curopalates relate. Having been repulsed by the generals of the Emperors Romanus and Constantine, he was slain by the Dreulans in his return. His widow Olga, with great valour and conduct revenged his death, vanquished the Dreulans, and governed the state several years with uncommon prudence and courage. When she was almost seventy years old she resigned the government to her son Suatoslas, and going to Constantinople was there baptized, taking the name of Helen. Many place this event in 952, which date seems most agreeable to the Greek historians; but Kulcinius and Stilting infer from the chronology of the dukes of Russia, that she seems to have been baptized in 945. We are expressly assured by Constantine Porphyrogenetta that it happened in 946. She returned into her own country, and by her zealous endeavours brought many to the faith; but was never able to compass the conversion of her son, who was probably withheld by reasons of state. She died in 970 or 978. Her grandson Uladimir, who succeeded Suatoslas, asked by a solemn embassy, and obtained in marriage Anne, sister to the two emperors Basil and his colleague and brother Constantine. Nicholas Chrysoberga, the orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, a person always zealous in maintaining the communion of the see of Rome, at that prince’s request, sent into Muscovy one Michael with other preachers, who baptized Uladimir, and married him to the princess about the year 988. This duke founded near Kiow the great monastery of the Cryptæ in favour of the abbot Saint Antony, and died, according to Kulcinius, in 1008. His two sons, Saints Boris and Hliba or Cliba, called in Latin Romanus and David, were murdered by the usurper Suatopelch, their impious brother, in 1010. It was their zeal for the faith of Christ which gave occasion to their death. Jaroslas, another brother, defeated the usurper, and obtained the principality; his daughter Anne was married to Henry I, king of France, in 1044, and became the foundress of the church of Saint Vincent at Senlis. Romanus and David are honoured in Muscovy on the 24th of July. Their remains were translated into a church which was built in their honour at Vislegorod in 1072, the ceremony being performed with great pomp, by George, the fifth archbishop of Kiow, and several other bishops, in presence of Izazlas, Suatoslas, and Usevolod, princes of Russia, and a great train of noblemen. The synod of Zamoski, in 1720, which was approved by the Congregation de Propagandâ Fide, and confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII, reckons among the holidays of precept which are kept by the Catholic Russians in Lithuania and other provinces, the feast of these two martyrs, celebrated on the 24th of July, and that of the translation of their relics on the 2d of May.

The Catholic Russians in Lithuania and Poland keep no festival of any other Muscovite saints except of these two martyrs. But the Muscovites honour several other saints of their own country; several among whom flourished, and doubtless were placed by them in their Calendar before their schism, as Papebroke and Jos. Assemani observe. Such as the queen Helen or Olga, on the 11th of July, who died, according to Kulcinius, in 978. Uladimir, her grandson, duke of the Russians, and son of Suatoslas on the 15th of July, who was baptized in 990, died in 1014, and was buried in our Lady’s church at Kiow. Antony, abbot, a native of Russia. who embraced the monastic state upon Mount Athos, and returning to Kiow, became the patriarch of that Order in his own country, and on a mountain half a mile from the town founded, about the year 1020, the great Russian monastery of Pieczari or the Cryptæ, in which the archimandrite of all the Russian monks resides, and the archbishop of Kiow has an apartment. Antony died in 1073, on the 10th of July, on which his festival is kept in Muscovy. This monastery is famous for the Cryptæ or vaults, in which the bodies of many saints and monks who lived above six hundred years ago, remain uncorrupted and fresh. Agapetus, disciple of Antony, at the Cryptæ, famous for miracles, honoured on the 1st of June. Athanasius, monk at the Cryptæ, on the 2nd of December; he was a native of Trabesond, who, by the liberality and protection of the emperor Nicephorus Phocas, founded the great monastery on Mount Athos in Macedonia. He is honoured by the Greeks and Muscovites on the 5th of July. The lives of these and several other ancient monks of this house were written by Polycarp, who died in 1182. The grand duke Alexander, surnamed Newski, who died in 1262, and is honoured on the 30th of April. Sergius, an abbot, is honoured by the Muscovites on the 25th of September. He died in 1292, and was never involved in the schism, as Papebroke, Kulcinius, and Jos. Assemani show. This Sergius was born at Roslow, founded the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Rudosno, (sixty Italian miles from Moscow,) the richest and most numerous in Muscovy, in which are sometimes two or three hundred monks. The body of Sergius is kept there incorrupt, and is much visited out of devotion from Moscow, sometimes by the Czars. These and several others who are named in the Muscovite Calendar with the most eminent saints of the eastern and western churches, lived either before or when this nation was not engaged in the Greek schism. But to these saints the Muscovites add some few who died since their separation from the Catholic communion, as Photius, archbishop of Kiow, whose principal merit consisted in the obstinacy with which he maintained the schism.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saints Romanus and David, Martyrs”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 May 2016. Web. 20 February 2019. <>