John of Kronstadt

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John of Kronstadt.

John of Kronstadt (Russian: Иоанн Кронштадтский) (31 October [O.S. 19 October] 1829–2 January [O.S. 20 December 1908] 1909) was a Russian Orthodox archpriest and a member of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was known for his mass common confessions, numerous miracles and charitable work, as well as for his monarchist, chauvinistic, antisemitic and anticommunist views.[1][2][3][4]

John is a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church and, as such, is known with the epithet "Righteous".


Early years[edit]

The future Saint was born as Ivan Ilyich Sergiyev (Russian: Иванъ Ильичъ Сергіевъ) on 31 October [O.S. 19 October] 1829 at northern village Sura, near the White Sea, in Russia. He came from a hereditary corporation of village clergymen, his father was a poor sacristan (dyachok) in the local church. Little is known about his early life, mainly from late memories. In his autobiography, he claims that his parents gave him to a parish school but the study was too difficult for him. However, he prayed earnestly and received inspiration; so he became the first student in the school, and then in the seminary, which enabled him to enter the Theological Academy in Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. His classmates at the Academy he remembered only by constant talk about humility. He became the 35th out of 39 students who graduated from the Academy in 1855.[5]

"Kronstadt Father"[edit]

From 1855 he worked as a priest in Saint Andrew's Cathedral in Kronstadt, the naval base near St. Petersburg. He got this place by marrying the 26-year-old daughter of the archpriest of this cathedral. After the marriage, he surprisingly refused to have sexual relations with his wife, despite her complaints to the church authorities.

The young priest behaved unusually, namely:

  • He walked along the street, constantly praying and crossing his arms on his chest;
  • He tried to serve the liturgy every day;
  • During the service he behaved very expressively, deviated from the usual text, turned his back to the altar;
  • He introduced the practice of frequent Confession and Holy Communion (instead of the usual 1-2 times a year at that time);
  • He allowed easing from some requirements for the Communicant (in particular, allowed women during menstruation to communicate, which was usually forbidden).

Not everyone perceived these innovations positively, especially church authorities. Biographer Kizenko notes that in some aspects, John's behavior was reminiscent of the practice of Protestants, and in others, the Khlysty sectarians. Nevertheless, this practice attracted attention to the young priest and allowed him to show his charisma. Gradually around Father John formed a circle of persistent admirers, who aspired to confess and receive communion exclusively with him. The overwhelming majority of them were women. Part of the admirers of John formed a sect of «Ioannites». The head of the sect was the spiritual daughter of John: Matryona Ivanovna Kiseleva. Kiseleva received in the sect the name of Porfiriia or the ″Theotokos″. The Ioannites believed that the world as they knew it was about to end – probably after revolution — and that they could find salvation only by going to God in the person of Father John. Some taught that Father John was Prophet Elijah, others Jesus Christ, others God of Sabaoth. The Ioannites spread stories about the "miracles" performed by John, sold the objects, related to him and Holy water, which was sanctified by John himself.

A true glory came to Father John after the publication in the newspaper Novoe Vremya (literally New Time) in 1883. New Time was an influential right-conservative pro-government newspaper with a strong anti-Semitic bias (for example, later in the Dreyfus affair, she took the position of the prosecution and attacked Émile Zola). In the publication 16 people told about their healing thanks to the prayers of Father John and swore "Now live according to God's truth and go to Holy Communion as often as possible". This publication was discussed by the highest church organ, Most Holy Synod, because such a publication, without religious censorship, was interference into the affairs of the Church. The hierarchs of the Synod were in disarray, and especially the Metropolitan Isidore (the direct supervisor of Father John) was dissatisfied, but they could do nothing.

John established a special relief organization. It was called the "House of the Industry" and opened in Kronstadt in 1882. It had its own church, an elementary school for boys and girls, an orphanage, a hospital for anyone who came there, a boarding house, a free public library, shelter for the homeless that accommodated 40,000 people each year, a variety of workshops where the impoverished were able to earn some money, a cheap public canteen which served about 800 free dinners on holidays, and a hostel for the travelers.

By the early 1890s John had become well known, and people from all over Russia came to him every day in thousands. He practiced mass confessions, during which thousands of people wiped out their sins and went into a frenzy, which was often accompanied by hysterics and tears.[6] Even the Tsar Alexander III of Russia in 1894 summoned Father John to Livadia Palace (in the Crimea) trying to find relief of his deadly disease.[7] John claimed later that he had raised the dead, but failed to heal the Tsar by his prayers.[6] John was widely venerated as a saint even during his lifetime thanks to his fame as a powerful prayer, healer and visionary. The «Ioannites» sect even stated that Father John was a God himself, a home for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time.[8]

The escape of John of Kronstadt and he is met by Mikhail Krivoshlyk in St. Petersburg. Magazine «Pulemet» № 1. (1905), caricature. New York Public Library, signature above the image:[9], signature under the image:[10]

John condemned the participants in the Kishinev pogrom; but then changed his mind, he apologized to the pogrom-makers and accused the Jews themselves of the pogrom. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, he helped organise the Black Hundreds as a militia to aid the police in the fight against left-wing extremists and to restore order. After the October Manifesto, he was one of the founders of the Union of the Russian People.

John, the only one of all the priests of St. Andrew's Cathedral, fled from Kronstadt, during the uprising in 1905; the rest of the priests of St. Andrew's Cathedral held a procession to the rebels; they urged them to stop the uprising. The press accused John of cowardice after this act; journals published caricatures on John.

Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Leskov, Maxim Gorky were very negative about John of Kronstadt. Gorky called John of Kronstadt the «Artist of the Imperial Churches».

In 1909 Nicholas II wrote an order[11] to establish the commemoration of St. John in the Church. Subsequently the Holy Synod issued an edict to commemorate St. Father John annually on the day of his death.

Canonization and legacy[edit]

Icon of Saint John of Kronstadt.

In 1964 John was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in the first such canonization independent from Moscow Patriarchate. St. John Maximovitch of San Francisco played an active role in preparation of St. John's canonization.[12] A well-known conservative ideologist of the ROCOR, Archimandrite Constantine (Zaitsev) believed that the most powerful heavenly patrons of Russia are John of Kronstadt and the Tsar Martyr with his family.[13]

In 1990, after the beginning of Perestroika and the liberalization of church life in the USSR, John was subsequently canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Icons of the Righteous John of Kronstadt most commonly portray him holding a Communion chalice because he reawakened the Russian Orthodox Church to the Apostolic tradition of receiving Holy Communion at every Divine Liturgy.

His life and work are commemorated on the feast days of 20 December[N.S. 2 January][14][15] and October 19[N.S. 1 November].[16]

Ioannovsky Convent (the second largest monastic community in St Petersburg) is closely connected with the name of John of Kronstadt: it was established by John, and during his life John spiritually nourished the convent. John's relics are kept in the monastery.

Monuments to John have been placed in Kronstadt, Irkutsk and Moscow. The John Apartment Museum is located in Kronstadt, on the street Posadskaya in house 21.

Translations of his works[edit]

  • Predigt am Tage der Einführung der Allgepriesenen Jungfrau Maria in den Tempel translated by Karl Christian Felmy (in German)
  • Predigt über die Kommunion der heiligen Geheimnisse translated by Karl Christian Felmy (in German)
  • Mein Leben in Christo. Aus dem Tagebuch, Übers. v. S. H. Kurio, München 2008, ISBN 978-3-935217-33-0.
  • Blessed Father John of Kronstadt on Prayer (1966 Jordanville)
  • Counsels on the Christian Priesthood, tr. W. J. Grisbrooke (1994 Crestwood)
  • Spiritual Counsels of Father John of Kronstadt, tr. E. E. Goulaev (1967 London)
  • My Life In Christ Or Moments of Spiritual Serenity ... Extracts From The Diary Of ... John Ilyich Sergieff ... Cronstadt ... Translated ... By E. E. Goulaeff (1897) [1]
  • My Life in Christ at
  • Sorrow and Joy: A Homily on the Day of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God at


  1. ^ Иоанн Кронштадтский // БСЭ. — 1-е изд. — Т. 29. — 1935. — Стлб. 74.: «известный черносотенный русский церковный деятель… Проповеди Иоанна Кронштадтского носили явно черносотенный и антисемитский характер, особенно характерны его выступления против социализма»
  2. ^ «<…> автор погромных проповедей и статей, активный поборник контрреволюции, участник церковной травли Л. Н. Толстого. Культ Иоанна Кронштадтского используется реакционными кругами рус. церк. эмиграции в антикоммунистической пропаганде.» — Иоанн Кронштадтский. // Атеистический словарь. / под ред. М. П. Новикова. — М.: Политиздат, 1985. — С. 177.
  3. ^ «Именно контрреволюционностью, приверженностью монархизму, шовинизму и антисемитизму объясняется благословение Иоанном Кронштадтским "Союза русского народа" и других погромных, черносотенных промонархистских организаций. Вот что сказал на панихиде по И. Сергиеву известный московский черносотенец протоиерей И. Восторгов: "Он призывал Божие благословение на патриотические союзы и содружества и сам состоял даже их членом". Поэтому и нет ничего неожиданного в том. что в связи со смертью кронштадтского протоиерея Святейший Синод получил телеграмму соболезнования от председателя "Союза русского народа" Дубровина. А и некрологе сообщалось, что при продвижении погребальной процессии от Балтийского вокзала до Иоанновского монастыря "впереди его гроба несли освященное им знамя Союза русского народа"» (Гордиенко Н. С. Кто такой Иоанн Кронштадтский. СПб.: Ленингр. орг. о-ва «Знание» РСФСР, 1991/ С. 9; цитата по книге История государства Российского : Жизнеописания. XX век / Рос. нац. б-ка; Авт.-сост. С. Н. Синегубов и др. - М. : Кн. палата, Том 5. XIX век. М., 1998. /С. 170)
  4. ^ Walter Laqueur, Black Hundreds: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia, New York : HarperCollins, 1993
  5. ^ Герой веры или "артист императорских церквей"
  6. ^ a b I. K. Surskiy. St. Father John of Kronstandt (in Russian)
  7. ^ John Perry & Constantine Pleshakov The Flight of the Romanovs: a Family Saga (Basic Books, 1999) pg. 62
  8. ^Родиной Булгаков С. В.: Хлысты-киселевцы // Расколы. Ереси. Секты. Противные христианству и православию учения. Западные христианские вероисповедания. Соборы Западной Церкви. — М., 1913
  9. ^ Исход из Кронштадта - The Exodus from Kronstadt
  10. ^ "Во время оно случися смутъ велiй во граде некоемъ Кронштадтомъ именуемомъ. Матроси и иніи мужи мнози скокаху по стогнамъ градскимъ и убиваху другъ друга и резаху женъ со чады и домочадцы, тщася власти придержащiи испразднити. Оныя же власти предрожащiи Остелецкiй и Беляевъ во мундирiе облачении подъ кроватями нетленни, Господа Бога славословя, обретошася. Друзiи же власти офицерстiи во ризы и исподники женстiи и хулиганстiи облекошася, и сице животъ свой соблюдоша. Всечестнейшему же отцу Iоанну во Кронштедте сущу, се поликіи многочитіи чины притекоша: Отче всеблагіи, всетерпеливый, многомилостивый, чесо ради медлиши? Ты еси блудницу Порфирію во Богородицу хейротанисавый, ты еси піяницу горчайшего во Архангела Михаила претворивый, сътвори чудо: утиши брань и смутъ велій и скрежетъ зубовный, да бы и мы многогрешніи от него не пострадавша. Отвещав честный старецъ рече: Вас ли стонящихъ и мятущихся зрю? Не вкупе ли с вами азъ многогрешніи неисчестно с высоты амвонной ко сотне черной вопихъ, взывахъ и глаголахъ! Не матроси се, а любезные чада наша хулиганстіи мятутся! Духъ мой зело взыграяся ибо чуетъ избиеніе богомерзской интелдигенціи. Потеку на осляти ко чаду моему любезному во Питеръ градъ; "Кривошлыче, сладчайшій, возликуй со мной въ твоихъ Ведомостяхъ Градоначальства церкви и отечеству на пользу. Аминь" - Once in Kronstadt there was a mutiny. Sailors and other people ran around city streets and killed each other, and cut women with children and households, trying to overthrow the government. Representatives of the authorities: Osteletsky and Belyaev remained unscathed, as they lay under the beds in their uniforms and prayed to God. Other government officers dressed in women's clothes, or dressed like hooligans and thus saved their lives. Numerous people came to John, who was in Kronstadt, and addressed him with the words: "You are a father full of goodness, full of patience and always ready to promote the well-being of others. Why do you hesitate? You ordained harlot-Porfiria in Mother of God. You ordained bitter drunkard in Michael the Archangel. Make a miracle, calm down the war and a big rebellion, and a dental screech, so that we will not suffer". Honest elder answered: "Do not I see you groaning and restless? I am a sinner. I called out, yelled and addressed uncountable to the Black Hundred from the pulpit with you, is not it? These are not sailors, and our beloved children bully commit mutiny! My soul is indignant and feels that there will be a beating of the wicked intellectuals! I will run on donkey to my beloved son in St. Petersburg, where I'll tell him: "Krivoshlyk, sweetest, rejoice with me in your newspaper «Vedomosti of the St. Petersburg City Government and the Metropolitan Police» of the church and the fatherland for good. Amen.
  11. ^ «Церковный вестник», 1909, № 4 (22 января), стб. 97.
  12. ^ Blessed John the Wonderworker: A Preliminary Account of the Life and Miracles of Archbishop John Maximovitch. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1987.(ISBN 0938635018)
  13. ^ Культ императора Николая II в традициях российского православия XX – начала XXI вв.
  14. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἰωάννης τῆς Κρονστάνδης (Ρῶσος). 20 Δεκεμβρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  15. ^ December 20/January 2. Orthodox Calendar (PRAVOSLAVIE.RU).
  16. ^ October 19/November 1. Orthodox Calendar (PRAVOSLAVIE.RU).

Further reading[edit]

  • Алабовский М., священник. Великий пастырь русского народа. (Блаженной памяти о. Иоанна Кронштадтского). Киев, 1909;
  • Свящ. А. Семенов-Тян-Шанский. Отец Иоанн Кронштадтский. — Изд-во им. Чехова, Нью-Йорк, 1955.
  • Игумения Таисия. Записки. Беседы с отцом Иоанном Кронштадтским. СПб, 2002.
  • Митрополит Вениамин (Федченков). Святой праведный Иоанн Кронштадтский. СПб, 2005.
  • Санакина Т. А., сост. (ГААО), «Из родословной семьи Сергиевых: Иоанн Ильич Сергиев (Кронштадтский) и его семья», Наш храм, 2002, № 2, 2-3.
  • В.В. Антонов, А.В. Кобак. Святыни Санкт-Петербурга. Историко-церковная энциклопедия в трех томах. СПб.: Издательство Чернышева, Т.1, 1994. - 288 с., Т.2, 1996. - 328 с., Т.3, 1996. - 392 с., ил.
  • Walter Laqueur: Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch. Der militante Nationalismus der russischen Rechten; München 1995; S. 76–83.
  • Alla Selawry: Johannes von Kronstadt: Starez Rußlands; Dornach: Pforte, 1989; ISBN 978-3-85636-064-1
  • Karl Christian Felmy: Predigt im orthodoxen Russland. Untersuchungen zu Inhalt und Eigenart der russischen Predigt in der 2. Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen 1972, Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, ISBN 3-525-56428-7
  • Aksenov, R., „Pasi ovzy Moja“. Utschenie o pastyrstwe swjatogo Ioanna Kronschtadtskogo, W pomoschtsch pastyrju, Klin 2002.
  • Akwilonow, E. P., Mysli o. Ioanna Kronschtadtskago o wospitatelnom snatschenii slowa Boschija, St. Petersburg 1909.
  • Bishop Alexander (Mileant). Saint John of Kronstadt
  • Большаков Н. И. Источник живой воды. — СПб., 1910.
  • Duchonina, E. W., Is moich wospominanij ob o. Ioanne Kronschtadtskom, St. Petersburg 1907.
  • Felmy, K. C., La teologia eucaristica di Ioann di Kronstadt, trans. by E. Cosentino, in: La Grande Vigilia, ed. A. Mainardi, Spiritualità orientale, Bose 1998, 225-242.
  • Ioann (Samojlow), Pastyr – sowerschitel Bogosluschenija. Po sotschinenijam swjatogo prawednogo Ioanna Kronschtadtskogo, Sergiew Posad 2007, ISBN 978-5-9900983-1-2.
  • Kizenko, N., A Prodigal Saint. A Prodigal Saint: Father John of Kronstadt and the Russian People, Studies of the Harriman Institute, The Penn State Series in Lived Religious Experience, University Park 22003, ISBN 0-271-01976-X.
  • Knechten, H. M., Licht in der Finsternis – Johannes von Kronstadt, Studien zur russischen Spiritualität VII, Kamen 2010, ISBN 978-3-89991-109-1.
  • Konstantin (Sajzew), Duchownyj oblik protoiereja o. Ioanna Kronschtadtskago, Jordanville 1952.
  • Michail (Semenow), Otez Ioann Kronschtadtski. (Polnaja biografija s illjustrazijami), St. Petersburg 1903.
  • Ornatski, I. N., Schitie i trudy prisnopamjatnogo protoiereja prawednika o. Ioanna Kronschtadtskogo, Moskau 1916.
  • Parfeni (Kotow), Spasenie w Zerkwi. Po tworenijam swjatogo prawednogo Ioanna Kronschtadtskogo, Moskau 2004, ISBN 5-85134-063-0.
  • Romuschin, W., Swjatoj Ioann Kronschtadtski w Krymu, Simferopol 2005, ISBN 966-8111-61-3.
  • Schenskaja Surskaja obitel, O. Ioann Kronschtadtski. (Polnaja biografija s illjustrazijami), Archangelsk 2004, ISBN 5-85879-165-4.
  • Smirnowa, E. S., ed., Kronschtadtski pastyr, Zerkowno-istoritscheski almanach, Bd. 1, Moskau 2002, ISBN 5-86809-016-0.
  • Sokolowa, T. A., ed., Swjatoj prawednyj Ioann Kronschtadtski. 1829-1908. Sbornik, Rossijskie sudby 11, Moskau 1998.
  • К характеристике о. Иоанна Сергиева (Кронштадского). // Старообрядец : журнал. — 1906. — № 2. — С. 217—221.
  • Strischew, A. N., ed., Swjatoj prawednyj Ioann Kronschtadtski w wospominanijach samowidzew, Moskau 1997.
  • Surski, I. K., Otez Ioann Kronschtadtski, Moskau 2008, ISBN 5-85280-135-6.
  • Tereschtschenko, T. N., Simfonija po tworenijam swjatogo prawednogo Ioanna Kronschtadtskogo, Moskau 2007, ISBN 978-5-485-00141-4.
  • Weniamin (Fedtschenkow), Otez Ioann Kronschtadtski, St. Petersburg 32005, ISBN 5-88335-053-4.
  • Werchowzewa, W. T., Wospominanija ob otze Ioanne Kronschtadtskom jego duchownoj dotscheri, Sergiew Posad 1916.
  • Whyte, A. D., Father John of the Greek Church. An Appreciation, with some characteristic passages of his mystical and spiritual autobiography ("My Life in Christ"), Edinburgh, London u. New York 1898.
  • Зимина Н. П. Православная Энциклопедия/ Т. 25, С. 127-139/ Иоанниты

External links[edit]