Theophan Prokopovich

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Feofan Prokopovich
Theophan Prokopovich
A posthumous portrait from the mid-18th century
Born 18 June 1681 (1681-06-18)
Died 19 September 1736 (1736-09-20) (aged 55)
St. Petersburg
Occupation Archbishop

Feofan/Theophan Prokopovich (18 June 1681, Kiev, Cossack Hetmanate, protectorate of Tsardom of Russia — 19 September 1736, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire) was a Ukrainian-born Russian[1] theologian, writer, poet, mathematician, philosopher, rector of the Kiev-Mogila Academy, Archbishop of Novgorod. He elaborated and implemented Peter the Great's reform of the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the founding fathers of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Prokopovich wrote much religious verse and some of the most enduring sermons in the Russian language.


Eleazar Prokopovich was born in Kiev in the family of a shopkeeper Tsereysky from Smolensk. After the death of Eleazar's father and mother, his maternal uncle Feofan Prokopovich, the governor of the Kiev Brotherhood Epiphany Monastery, professor and rector of the Kiev-Mogila Academy became his guardian.

Eleazar's uncle sent him to the monastery for his primary school. After graduation, Eleazar became a student of the Kiev-Mogila Academy. After his uncle's death, Feofan Prokopovich, it supported the Kiev Metropolitan, rector of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Barlaam Jasinski.

In 1698, after graduating from the Kiev-Mogila Academy Eleazar decided to continue his education. In the same year he entered the Volodymyr-Volynskyi Uniate Collegium, he lived in the Basilian monastery, where the union takes and tonsured as a monk under the name of Elisha. Uniate Bishop of Volodymyr-Volynskyi Zalensky noticed the unusual abilities of the young monk, and contributed to his translation to the Catholic Academy of St. Athanasius in Rome, which was prepared by theologians to spread Catholicism among the Eastern Orthodox adherents.

In Rome he enjoyed the Vatican Library, in addition to theology studied the works of ancient Latin and Greek philosophers, historians, attractions old and new Rome, the principles of the Catholic faith and of the Pope church acquainted with the works of Tommaso Campanella, Galileo Galilei, Giordano Bruno, Nicolaus Copernicus.

October 28, 1701 left Rome without completing the full course of the academy. He passed through France, Switzerland, Germany, while studying in Halle, where he became acquainted with the ideas of the Protestant Reformation.

He returned to Ukraine in 1704, first to Pochayiv Lavra, then in Kiev, where he renounced the Catholic faith, is penance and tonsure in the Orthodox monks, taking the name Feofan in memory of his uncle.

From 1705 he taught rhetoric, poetics and philosophy at the Kiev-Mogila Collegium, wrote the tragicomedy "Vladimir", dedicating it to Hetman Ivan Mazepa. At the same time he write and pronounced the theological and philosophical sermon through which were seen by the Kiev governor-general Dmitry Golitsyn and Alexander Menshikov.

In 1707 he became Prefect of the Kiev-Mogila Academy.

In 1711 Tsar of Muscovy Peter I in the Treaty of the Pruth, in Iași was struck by the eloquence of Prokopovich in a sermon on the occasion of the anniversary of the Battle of Poltava. Upon returning to Kiev, Feofan Prokopovich was appointed rector of the Kiev-Mogila Academy and professor of theology. At the same time he became abbot of the Kiev Brotherhood Epiphany Monastery. He entirely reformed the teaching of theology there, substituting the historical method of the German theologians for the former Orthodox scholastic system.

In 1716 he was to St Petersburg. From henceforth it was Prokopovich's duty and pleasure to explain the new ideas and justify the most alarming innovations from the pulpit. He became so invaluable to the civil power that despite the determined opposition of the Russian clergy, who regarded the "Light of Kiev" as an interloper and semi-heretic, he was rapidly promoted, becoming, in 1718, bishop of Pskov, and finally, in 1725, archbishop of Novgorod.1

As the author of the spiritual regulation for the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church, Feofan is regarded as the creator of the spiritual department superseding the patriarchate, and better known by its later name of the Holy Governing Synod, of which he was made vice-president. Penetrated by the conviction that ignorance was the worst of the inveterate evils of old Russia, a pitiless enemy of superstition of every sort; a reformer by nature, resourceful, Prokopovich continued to be a reformer after the death of Peter the Great.


1 He had served as vicar to the previous Archbishop of Novgorod since the early 18th century. See Pavel Tikhomirov, Kafedra Novgorodskikh Sviatitelei (Novgorod, 1895–1899).


  • I. Chistovitch, Theofan Prokopovich and his Times (Rus.; Petersburg, 1868)
  • P. Morozov, Theophan Prokopovich as a Writer (Rus.; Petersburg, 1880).
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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