June 5, 2020

Holy Prince Theodore of Novgorod, the Older Brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky (+ 1233)

St. Theodore of Novgorod (Feast Day - June 4)

Holy Prince Theodore of Novgorod, the elder brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky, was born in the year 1218. His princely service to his native land began at a very early age.

In 1225, Yaroslav gave the “princely tonsure” to his sons - the rite of initiation into soldiers, which was performed in the Transfiguration Cathedral of Pereyaslavl-Zalessky by Bishop Simon of Suzdal - after which the experienced governor, boyar Theodore Danilovich began to teach them military affairs.

In 1228 both brothers had been left in Novgorod by their father Yaroslav Vsevolodovich as his representatives. But not even a year passed before the young princes had to quit Novgorod. The turbulent Novgorod people in their “veche” (“government council”) decided to invite another prince. But in the very next year, 1230, during a time of famine and epidemic, the Novgorodians again invited Yaroslav to rule them. On December 30, 1230 he sat as prince in Novgorod for the fourth time, but he remained in the city for only two weeks, when he installed his sons there and went off to Pereyaslavl-Zalessk.

In 1232 the fourteen-year-old Theodore was already summoned to serve God not only in prayer, but also by the sword. He took part in a campaign of the Russian troops against the pagan Mordovian princes.

In the year 1233, when he was fifteen, at the wish of his father he was obliged to enter into marriage with Theodoulia, the daughter of the holy Prince Michael of Chernigov. When the guests had already gathered at the wedding feast on June 5th, the bridegroom suddenly died. After the unexpected death of her groom, the princess left the world and was tonsured in one of the Suzdal monasteries, famed in her monastic efforts as Saint Euphrosyne of Suzdal (Sept. 25).

Saint Theodore was buried in the Yuriev Monastery in Novgorod. In the year 1614 the Swedes, having pillaged the monastery, broke open the tomb of the prince and finding him whole and incorrupt, they mocked the holy relics, and finally abandoned the body in the churchyard. Years later, Metropolitan Isidore of Novgorod transferred the relics to Novgorod’s Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, placing them in the Chapel of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. There they remained until 1919, when they were removed by the Bolsheviks.

In the early 1930s, the sarcophagus was opened by M.K. Kargerom. The bones of a teenager 13-15 years old scattered in a disorder were found in it. The remains recovered during excavations were exhibited in the Cathedral of Saint George's Monastery and were destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Novgorod.

The service to Saint Theodore was compiled in the year 1787 by Metropolitan Gabriel of Petersburg and Novgorod.