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Nestor the Chronicler

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Nestor the Chronicler
Iconographic depiction of St. Nestor the Chronicler, 1919, Viktor Vasnetsov (St Volodymyr's Cathedral, Kyiv).
Bornc. 1056
Kiev, Kievan Rus
Diedc. 1114
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Kiev, Kievan Rus

Nestor the Chronicler or Nestor the Hagiographer[1] (Church Slavonic: Нестор Летописец, romanized: Nestor Letopisec; c. 1056 – c. 1114) was a monk from the Kievan Rus who is known to have written two saints' lives:[1] the Life of the Venerable Theodosius of the Kiev Caves and the Account about the Life and Martyrdom of the Blessed Passion Bearers Boris and Gleb.[2]

Traditional historiography has also attributed to him the Primary Chronicle (PVL), the most revered chronicle of Kievan Rus', which earned him the nickname "the Chronicler".[3][4] But several modern scholars have concluded he was not the author, because the Chronicle and known works of Nestor barely align, and frequently contradict each other in terms of style and contents.[3][4] Given the authorship controversy, some scholars prefer calling him Nestor "the Hagiographer", to be identified with the two hagiographies which they do agree that he did write.[4]


In 1073 AD, Nestor was a monk of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev.[5] The only other detail of his life that is reliably known is that he was commissioned with two other monks to find the relics of St. Theodosius of Kiev, a mission which he fulfilled successfully.[citation needed]

Nestor died around 1114 and was buried in the Near Caves. He has been glorified (canonized) as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The body of St. Nestor is among the relics preserved in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. His feast day is celebrated on October 27. He is also commemorated in common with other saints of the Kiev Caves Lavra on September 28 (Synaxis of the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves) and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.[citation needed]

Purported authorship of the Primary Chronicle[edit]

Tradition long regarded the first compilation as the work of a monk named Nestor (c. 1056 – c. 1114), known to have written other works such as Life of the Venerable Theodosius.[2] Writers of the time spoke of the Chronicle of Nestor,[6] and of the author as Nestor "the Chronicler". Based on the 1661 Paterik of the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, late 17th-century writers began to assert that Nestor "the Chronicler" wrote many of the surviving Rus' chronicles,[7] including the Primary Chronicle, the Kievan Chronicle and the Galician–Volhynian Chronicle,[8] even though many of the events they described took place in the 12th and 13th century, long after Nestor's death c. 1114.[8] Another reason given for belief in Nestorian authorship was the word нестера in the opening lines of the Khlebnikov Codex (discovered in 1809[9]), which some readers took to refer to Nestor "the Chronicler".[10][11] But as Ostrowski (1981) pointed out: 'The word нестера was added in the Khlebnikov Codex, and thus cannot be used as evidence for the name of the compiler of the PVL.[11] The word is not found in any of the other five main versions of the PVL,[11][a] and is thus an interpolation inserted into the text by an editor, perhaps guessing at the author's name.[14] From the 1830s to around 1900, there was fierce academic debate about Nestor's authorship, but the question remained unresolved, and belief in Nestorian authorship persisted.[15] The internal evidence of the PVL and the known works of Nestor often contradict one another, while the contents barely coincide in places where they seemingly should, so modern scholars have concluded that Nestor was not the author.[3][b]

A more likely candidate as author is Sylvester of Kiev, hegumen (abbot) of the St. Michael's Monastery in Vydubychi (a village near Kyiv), who may have compiled several sources in the year 1116.[17] This attribution is based on the fact that the Laurentian text ends on page 286, lines 1 to 7, with the colophon "I wrote down (napisakh) this chronicle",[17][c] after which he requests the readers to remember him in their prayers.[17] Alternately, the real author may have been some other unnamed monk from the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves mentioned in the title, and Sylvester completed his work, or was a very early editor or copyist of the PVL.[17]


Nestor commemorated on a 1956 Soviet stamp

Nestor the Chronicler was canonized by including his name in the Synaxis of all Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves.[19]

Feast Day[edit]

Fixed Feast Day (Synaxes)[edit]

Moveable Feast Day (Synaxes)[edit]

  • Synaxis of all Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves – movable holiday on the 2nd Sunday of the Great Lent
  • Synaxis of the Saints of the Kievan Caves Monastery, venerated in the near caves of Venerable Anthony – movable holiday on the 1st Saturday after Leavetaking of the Elevation of the Cross (21 September)[20]

Liturgical hymns[edit]

Soviet forensic facial reconstruction by Sergei Nikitin (1985)

Troparion St. Nestor — Tone 4

Вели́ких князе́й ру́сских дея́ния/ и преподо́бных оте́ц Пече́рских жития́ и чудеса́ написа́вый,/ свое́ же, Богому́дре Не́сторе, мно́гих ти ра́ди доброде́телей и́мя/ напи́сано на Небеси́ стяжа́вый,// моли́ и нам написа́тися в Кни́ги Живо́тныя.

Velikikh knyazey russkikh deyaniya/ i prepodobnykh otets Pecherskikh zhitiya i chudesa napisavy,/ svoe zhe, Bogomudre Nestore, mnogikh ti radi dobrodeteley imya/ napisano na Nebesi styazhavy,// moli i nam napisatisya v Knigi Zhivotnyya.

Common Troparion St. Nestor — Tone 4

Времена́ и ле́та достопа́мятных дея́ний,/ по́двиги и труды́ Богоно́сных оте́ц,/ Не́сторе прему́дре, напису́я,/ любо́вию возгоре́лся еси́ после́довати стопа́м первонача́льных,/ с ни́миже не преста́й моли́тися Христу́ Бо́гу,// спасти́ся душа́м на́шим.

Vremena i leta dostopamyatnykh deyany,/ podvigi i trudy Bogonosnykh otets,/ Nestore premudre, napisuya,/ lyuboviyu vozgorelsya esi posledovati stopam pervonachalnykh,/ s nimizhe ne prestay molitisya Khristu Bogu,// spastisya dusham nashim.

Kontakion St. Nestor — Tone 2

Я́ко сый Богоно́снаго Феодо́сия учени́к/ и и́стинный жития́ того́ подража́тель,/ пе́рвый честны́х его́ моще́й самови́дец бы́ти сподо́бился еси́,/ я́же с про́чиими святоле́пно прене́с,/ насле́дил еси́ с те́миже Ца́рство Небе́сное,// е́же получи́ти и нам, чту́щим тя, Го́сподеви моли́ся.

Yako siy Bogonosnago Feodosiya uchenik/ i istinny zhitiya togo podrazhatel,/ pervy chestnykh ego moshchey samovidets byti spodobilsya esi,/ yazhe s prochiimi svyatolepno prenes,/ nasledil esi s temizhe Tsarstvo Nebesnoe,// ezhe poluchiti i nam, chtushchim tya, Gospodevi molisya.

Known works[edit]

  • Life of the Venerable Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (1080s)[21]
  • Account about the Life and Martyrdom of the Blessed Passion Bearers Boris and Gleb (1080s)[22]


  1. ^ The often careless Vasily Tatishchev (1686–1750) claimed that three Chronicle texts that were somehow "lost" later also identified "Nestor" as the author.[10] Modern scholars distrust all such "Tatishchev information" unless they are supported by another extant source.[12][13]
  2. ^ 'In any case, the internal evidence of the Povest', along with the lack of coincidence of its contents with Nestor's works wherever the two are related, is distinctly opposed to the tradition of Nestorian authorship.'[16]
  3. ^ Church Slavonic: Игуменъ силивестръ стаг михаила· написах книгы си лѣтописець·, romanized: Igumenʺ silivestrʺ stag mikhaila· napisakh knigy si lětopisecʹ·, lit.'Abbot Silivestr" of St. Michael's Abbey – I wrote this chronicle [lit. "book of year writings"].[18]'


  1. ^ a b Plokhy 2006, p. 19.
  2. ^ a b Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1953, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b c Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1953, pp. 6–12.
  4. ^ a b c Plokhy 2006, pp. 19–20.
  5. ^ Ostrowski, Donald. "The Povest' vremennyx let (PVL): ends and means: Russian Linguistics". Russian Linguistics. 46 (1): 3–24. doi:10.1007/s11185-021-09249-y.
  6. ^ Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1953, p. 3.
  7. ^ Tolochko 2007, p. 31.
  8. ^ a b Tolochko 2007, p. 47.
  9. ^ Maiorov 2018, p. 339.
  10. ^ a b Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1953, p. 17.
  11. ^ a b c Ostrowski 1981, p. 28.
  12. ^ Tolochko 2005, pp. 458–468.
  13. ^ Ostrowski 2018, pp. 36, 38, 47.
  14. ^ Ostrowski 2003, pp. xvii–xviii.
  15. ^ Tolochko 2007, pp. 32–33.
  16. ^ Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor 1953, p. 12.
  17. ^ a b c d Ostrowski 2003, p. xvii.
  18. ^ Ostrowski & Birnbaum 2014, 286.1–2.
  19. ^ "НЕСТОР". www.pravenc.ru. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  20. ^ "СОБОР ПРЕПОДОБНЫХ ОТЦОВ КИЕВО-ПЕЧЕРСКИХ БЛИЖНИХ ПЕЩЕР - Древо". drevo-info.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  21. ^ "Saint Nestor the Chronicler" (PDF). St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Venerable Nestor the Chronicler of the Kiev Caves". Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 19 March 2017.


External links[edit]