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March 8, 2019

Saint Lazarus of Murom (+ 1391)

In his autobiography Saint Lazarus calls himself a Roman, born at Constantinople around 1286. In his native city he became a monk at a monastery under the Elder Athanasios Diskotes, builder of many monasteries. Eight years later, Lazarus was under the guidance of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. In the year 1343 Bishop Basil, wanting to encourage the Russian Church, sent Saint Lazarus as a noted iconographer together with monks and gifts to Saint Basil, Archbishop of Novgorod.

Saint Lazarus made a copy of Novgorod’s Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Aug. 15) for the Caesarea diocese, and compiled an account of Novgorod churches and monasteries. Meeting the monk, the Novgorod hierarch bowed to the ground to his guest and blessed him to remain in a monastery he built. For ten years Saint Lazarus faithfully served Saint Basil, and in 1352 upon the death of the holy archpastor, he “dressed the holy body in the prepared clothing and shed many tears.”

Grieved that he had been deprived of both his guides (previously, the Saint had received letters informing him of the death of Bishop Basil), Saint Lazarus considered returning to his native land. However, in a dream the Novgorod hierarch appeared to him and directed him “to go northward towards the sea, to Mucha Island in Lake Onega” (Murom Island in Lake Onega). In a short time his first guide, Bishop Basil of Caesarea, commanded him in a dream to go to that same place and found a monastery. The Chronicles say that at this time the Novgorodians were making their first attempts to convert the peoples of the White Sea coastal region to Christianity.

But Saint Lazarus was not able to get to this island at once. For a long time, the owner of the island, the Novgorod merchant Ivan, would not permit him. The monk prayed fervently to the Most Holy Theotokos and to Saint John the Forerunner, and he wept at the grave of Saint Basil, and the owner’s resistance was removed. Saint Basil once appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to bestow the island “to our friend Lazarus”, so that the Mother of God might be honored there.

Saint Lazarus arrived alone at the blessed spot. He set up a cross, a hut, and a chapel. Soon the Lopari and Chud natives living on the island heard about him, and he endured much suffering from them. They burned down his hut and did what damage they could. They beat him, chased him from the island, and pursued him in order to kill him. But God and the Queen of Heaven guarded the Saint.

At the site of the burned hut the icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos again appeared to Saint Lazarus, miraculously undamaged by the fire. It was with this icon that they had blessed him when he became a monk, and from it was heard a commanding voice: “The faithless people shall become faithful, and there will be one Church and one flock of Christ. Establish upon this place a church to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.”

Another time the Saint saw how this place was blessed by “a woman of majesty, radiant with golden hue, and resplendent men who made reverence to her.” Soon the eldest of the Lopari came to the monk and begged him to heal a child born blind: “... then we shall depart from the island, as your servants have been commanded.” Saint Lazarus perceived that this was an angel, and he gave thanks unto the Lord. He healed the blind child after praying and sprinkling him with holy water. Then, the “bad people” left the island, and the father of the healed child later became a monk, and all his sons were baptized.

From that time, people started coming to the Saint from faraway places. He baptized them, and tonsured them into monasticism. Even his fellow countrymen came to him from Constantinople, the holy Monks Eleazar, Eumenios and Nazarios (June 4), future founders of the Monastery of the Forerunner in the Olonetsk region.

Visiting Novgorod, Saint Lazarus received from Bishop Moses (1352-1360) his blessing for the construction of a monastery, together with an antimension and some church vessels. A church was built in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the first in all the coastal region; also a church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, and even a wooden church of Saint John the Forerunner together with a trapeza.

Murom Dormition Monastery

The Murom Dormition Monastery was built up and strengthened by its zealous head Saint Lazarus until his old age.

The time of his death was revealed to him in a vision by his faithful protector, Saint Basil of Novgorod. Having chosen a worthy successor, the Athonite Elder Theodosius, and after receiving the Holy Life-Creating Mysteries and blessing everyone, Saint Lazarus departed to the Lord on March 8, 1391 at the age of 105 years. They buried him in a chapel beside the Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

The Life of Saint Lazarus was written by the Elder Theodosius from the words of the monk himself.

Venerable Lazarus with his own hands built a small wooden church, preserved to this day. In 1959, it was transported from the Murom Monastery to Kizhi Island and incorporated into the State Museum Reserve. The Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus is considered the most ancient of the surviving wooden temples of the Russian North.

Church of the Resurrection of Lazarus in Khizi