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March 4, 2020

Saint Gerasimus of Vologda (+ 1178)

St. Gerasimus of Vologda (Feast Day - March 4)

Venerable Gerasimus, the first Saint of Vologda, was born in Kiev and accepted monastic tonsure on March 4 (at that time it was customary to give a new monk the name of the saint commemorated on the day of his tonsure) at the Kiev Gniloe Dormition Monastery, having been attracted to the Caves where Saint Theodosius (May 3) secluded himself during Great Lent.

Out of obedience to the brethren, Saint Gerasimus accepted the rank of hieromonk at the age of thirty. In imitation of the exploits of the Fathers of old, the monk felt drawn to Northern Rus and he arrived at the River Vologda on August 19, 1147. He blessed the emerging settlement on the right bank, “foretelling that here would be a great city.”

The Saint chose the dense virgin forest for his dwelling place, separated from the settlement by the Kaisarova creek. There the monk built a hut, and in the tranquil solitude he devoted himself to the contemplation of God, unceasing prayer and work. He built a church in honor of the Most Holy Trinity, and so the first monastery in the north named for the Most Holy Trinity came into being, also known as Vologda Monastery. The monastery served for the spiritual enlightenment of the surrounding peoples.

The holy monk peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on March 4, 1178, the day of his monastic tonsure, and the feast of his namesake Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan.

After the Poles ruined the Trinity Monastery in 1612, the burial place of its founder was lost and reopened only after several decades. Numerous miracles are associated with the latter event. According to the records of the priest of the Trinity Church, Fr. Grigory Popov, between 1649-1666 there were 37 of them. One of the miracles on July 6, 1649 was testified by Archbishop Markel. In 1690, the brethren of the Vologda Monastery appealed to Patriarch Adrian with a petition to allow the glorification of Gerasimus as a saint. However, in 1699, after the inquiry of Archbishop Gabriel, they were refused this request. Gabriel doubted the reality of miracles.

However, despite the archbishop’s refusal, the veneration of Gerasimus by the locals continued. In 1717, the wooden Trinity Church, in which his relics were stored, was replaced by a stone one. The relics were transferred to a coffin. In 1811, Gerasimus was already mentioned in the official list of Vologda saints compiled by Bishop Evgeny (Bolkhovitinov), and in 1841 local canonization was confirmed.

In 1930, the stone church was closed, and in the 1940s demolished to the ground. Apparently, at that time the coffin with the relics of Saint Gerasimus was irretrievably lost. In 2008, a memorial cross was erected on the site of the demolished temple. Then it was announced that it was planned to build a chapel in honor of the Saint on this site. The chapel was built with donations from Vologda residents and was consecrated in 2013.