Saint Varlaam was known as Vasily Stepanovich Svoezemtsev in life, in monasticism he was given the name Varlaam Vazhsky.
Vasily Stepanovich was born around 1390 into the family of the Novgorod Boyar (his father was Stepan Vasilyevich). At baptism he received the name Vasily. He was married and had two sons, Ivan and Semyon. According to another version of his life, he had two daughters and eight sons. Vasily served as mayor of Novgorod until 1445. He also served as a representative of the Boyar family of Svoezemtsev, Novgorod.
In 1426, he founded Varlaamiev Vazhsky Monastery, where subsequently the town of Pinezhsky was founded. In 1456, Vasily Stepanovich was tonsured a monk and given the name Barlaam Vazhsky by the first Hegumen of St. John Theological Monastery. Saint Varlaam lived as a monastic for six years, and upon his death on June 19, 1462, he was buried next to the church of John the Theologian, which he had built.