Holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky (1110-1174), a grandson of Vladimir Monomakh, was the son of Yurii Dolgoruky and a Polovetsian princess (in holy Baptism Maria). While still in his youth he was called “Bogoliubsky” (“God-loving”) for his profound attention to prayer, his diligence for church services and “his adoption of secret prayers to God.” From his grandfather, Vladimir Monomakh, the grandson inherited great spiritual concentration, love for the Word of God and the habit of turning to the Scripture in all the circumstances of life.
A brave warrior [Andrew means “brave”], a participant in his military father’s many campaigns, more than once he came close to death in battle. But each time Divine Providence invisibly saved the princely man of prayer. Thus for example, on February 8, 1150, in a battle near Lutsk, Saint Andrew was saved from the spear of an enemy German by a prayer to the Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates, whose memory was celebrated that day.
The chronicles also stress Saint Andrew’s peace-making activity, a rare trait among the princes and military commanders of those harsh times. The combination of military valor with love for peace and mercy, of great humility with indomitable zeal for the Church were present in Prince Andrew in the highest degree. A responsible master of the land, and a constant coworker in the city construction and church building activity of Yurii Dolgoruky, he built with his father: Moscow (1147), Iuriev-Polsk (1152), Dmitrov (1154), and he also adorned the cities of Rostov, Suzdal’, and Vladimir with churches. In 1162 Saint Andrew could say with satisfaction, “I have built up white Rus with cities and settlements, and have rendered it with much populace.”
When Yurii Dolgoruky became Great Prince of Kiev in 1154, he gave his son Vyshgorod near Kiev as his appanage (land given by kings and princes to their younger children for their support), but God willed otherwise. One night in the summer of 1155, the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God in the Vyshgorod church was removed. This icon was painted by the holy Evangelist Luke, and in some period before this had been transferred here from Constantinople. Later, it was called the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. On this night with the icon in hand, holy Prince Andrew left Vyshgorod going northwards to the Suzdal territory, secretly and without the blessing of his father, mindful only of the will of God.
The miracle of this holy icon, which occured on the way from Vyshgorod to Vladimir, was recorded by a clergyman of Prince Andrew, “the priest Mikula” [Nicholas], in his “Reports of the Miracles of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.”
Ten versts before reaching Vladimir, the horse bearing the icon suddenly stopped. During the night the Mother of God appeared to Saint Andrew with a scroll in her hand and commanded, “I do not want you to take my icon to Rostov, but rather leave it in Vladimir. Build a stone church here in the name of My Nativity.” In memory of this miraculous event, Saint Andrew commissioned an iconographer to paint an icon of the Mother of God the way that the All-Pure Virgin had appeared to him. He established Feast of this icon as June 18. The icon, named the Bogoliubsk, was afterwards glorified by numerous miracles.
Upon the place decreed by the Queen of Heaven, Prince Andrew built (in 1159) the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. He also remained in the city of Bogoliubov, which became his constant dwelling and the place of his martyric end.
When his father Yurii Dolgoruky died (+ May 15, 1157), Saint Andrew did not take up his father’s throne at Kiev, but rather remained prince at Vladimir. During the years 1158-1160 was built the Dormition cathedral at Vladimir, and in it was placed the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. In the year 1164 the Golden Gates were set in place, over which was the church of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, and also the church of the Savior at the princely court.
Thirty churches were built by Prince Andrew during the years of his rule. The finest of them is the Dormition cathedral. The richness and splendor of the church helped to spread Orthodoxy among the surrounding peoples and foreign merchants. Saint Andrew had directed that all travellers, whether Latins or pagans, were to be led into the churches he built and to have “true Christianity” pointed out to them. The chronicler writes: “Both Bulgars, and Jews, and every sort of common person, beholding the glory of God and churchly adornment, came to be baptized.”
The conquest of the great Volga journey-way became for Saint Andrew a fundamental task of his civil service to Russia. The Volga Bulgars from the time of the campaigns of Svyatoslav (+ 972) presented a serious danger to the Russian state. Saint Andrew continued with the initiatives of Svyatoslav.
A shattering blow was struck against the enemy in 1164, when Russian forces burned and destroyed several Bulgar fortresses. Saint Andrew took with him on this campaign the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God and a two-sided icon, on one side was depicted the Icon of the Savior “Not-Made-by-Hands,” and the “Veneration of the Cross” on the opposite side. [At the present time both icons are in the Tretyakov State Gallery.]
A great miracle from the holy icons occurred for the Russian army on the day of the decisive victory over the Bulgars, August 1, 1164. After the destruction of the Bulgar army, the princes (Andrew, his brother Yaroslav, his son Izyaslav and others) returned towards the infantry standing by the princely standards with the Vladimir Icon, and they made a prostration before the Icon, “bestowing on it praise and song.” And then all beheld the blinding rays of light, issuing from the face of the Mother of God and the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands.
Remaining a faithful son of the Orthodox Church in all things, vigilant in belief and canons, Saint Andrew turned to the Patriarch of Constantinople with a filial request to establish a separate metropolitan for northeastern Rus. And with the prince’s letter of accord there journeyed to Byzantium the candidate chosen by the prince, Archimandrite Theodore of Suzdal. Patriarch Luke Chrysoverges, however, only agreed to consecrate Theodore as Bishop of Vladimir, but not as Metropolitan. Yet at the same time, wanting to uphold the position of Prince Andrew as the most powerful among the rulers of the Russian Land, the Patriarch honored Bishop Theodore with the right to wear the white klobuk [monastic head covering], which in ancient Rus was a distinctive sign of church autonomy. Such recognition (the white klobuk) was also granted to the Archbishop of Novgorod. Evidently, since the Russian chronicles speak of Bishop Theodore with the title of “White Klobuk”, much later historians sometimes call him “the bishop of an autonomous diocese.”
In the year 1167 Saint Rostislav died at Kiev. He was the twin brother of Andrew, and had been able to carry out compromise during the complicated political and churchly life of the time. But after this, there was dispatched from Constantinople a new metropolitan, Constantine II. The new metropolitan demanded that Bishop Theodore come before him to be confirmed in his position. Saint Andrew again went to Constantinople for the affirmation of the autonomous status of the Vladimir diocese and again he requested a separate metropolitanate. The letter of reply from Patriarch Luke Chrysoverges has been preserved. It contains a categorical refusal for establishing a new metropolitan, a demand to accept the expelled bishop Leo, and to submit to the Metropolitan of Kiev.
In fulfilling this churchly obedience, Saint Andrew urged Bishop Theodore to journey in repentance to Kiev for the restoration of canonical relations with the Metropolitan. The repentance of Bishop Theodore was not accepted. Without investigation by a council, and in accord with the Byzantine morals of the time, Metropolitan Constantine condemned him to a terrible execution. Saint Theodore’s tongue was cut out, they cut off his right hand, and then they gouged out his eyes. After this he was drowned by servants of the Metropolitan (by other accounts, he died in prison).
Not only the churchly, but also the political affairs of Southern Rus demanded the decisive response of the Great Prince of Vladimir. On 8 March 8, 1169 an army of allied princes with Andrew’s son Mstislav at the head conquered Kiev. The city was devastated and burned, and the Polovetsians participating in the campaign did not spare even the churchly treasures. The Russian chronicles viewed this event as something that was deserved: “These misfortunes were for their sins (the Kievans), especially for the outrage perpetuated by the Metropolitan.” In the same year (1169) the prince moved an army against unruly Novgorod, but they were repulsed by a miracle of the Novgorod Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign (November 27), which had been carried along the city walls by holy Archbishop John (September 7). But when the understandable wrath of the Great Prince gave way to mercy, and in peace he summoned the Novgorod people to him, the blessing of God returned to him. Novgorod accepted the prince appointed by Saint Andrew.
In such a manner, towards the end of 1170, Saint Andrew Bogoliubsky was able to attain the unity of the Russian Land under his rule.
In the winter of 1172 he sent a large army under the command of his son Mstislav against the Volga Bulgars. The Russian forces gained the victory, but their joy was overshadowed by the death of the valiant Mstislav (March 28, 1172).
On the night of June 30, 1174 holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky accepted a martyr’s death at the hands of traitors in his own household. The Tver Chronicle relates that Saint Andrew was murdered at the instigation of his second wife (a Volga Bulgar), who participated in the conspiracy. At the head of the conspiracy stood her brothers, the Kuchkovichi: “and they commited murder in the night, as did Judas against the Lord.” A throng of assassins, twenty men, burst in upon the court, they killed the few guards and stormed into the bedchamber of the unarmed prince. The sword of Saint Boris, which hung constantly over his bed, had been treacherously removed that night by the steward Anbal. The prince succeeded in pushing the first of his assailants down on the floor. The conspirators then mistakenly ran him through with their swords. Soon they realised their mistake, “and then they perceived the prince, and he fought much with them, for he was strong, and they did thrust with swords and sabres, and gave him copious wounds.” The forehead of the holy prince was struck on the side with a spear, while all the remaining blows from the cowardly assassins were dealt from behind. When the prince finally fell, they abruptly rushed out of the bedchamber, taking along their murdered accomplice.
The saint was still alive, however. With his final strength he lowered himself along the palace stairway, hoping to alert a guard. Instead, his groans were heard by the assassins and they turned back. The prince was able to hide himself in a niche below the stairway and so they passed by him. The conspirators rushed to the bedchamber but did not find the prince there. “Disaster stands before us, since the prince is alive,” the assassins cried out in terror. But all around it was quiet, and no one came to the aid of the suffering prince. Then the evil-doers again regained their boldness, they lit candles and followed the bloody trail to seek out their victim. Prayer was on the lips of Saint Andrew when the assassins again surrounded him.
The Russian Church remembers and venerates its martyrs and makers. A special place belongs to Saint Andrew Bogoliubsky. Having taken in his hands the wonderworking icon of the Vladimir Mother of God, the holy prince, as it were, blessed the major events of Russian history with it. In 1395 was the year of the transfer of the Vladimir Icon to Moscow and the deliverance of the capital from the invasion of Tamerlane (August 26); the year 1480 marks the salvation of Rus from the invasion of Khan Akhmat and the ultimate collapse of the Mongol Horde (June 23); in the year 1521 Moscow was saved from the invasion of the Crimean Khan Makhmet-Girei (May 21). Through the prayers of Saint Andrew, his fondest dreams for the Russian Church came true. In the year 1300, Metropolitan Maximus transferred the metropolitan See of All-Russia from Kiev to Vladimir, making the Dormition cathedral the foremost cathedral of the Russian Church. There rest the relics of Saint Andrew, and the Vladimir wonderworking Icon is its chief holy object.
Later on, when the center of the Russian Church was moved to Moscow, selections of the metropolitans and patriarchs of the Russian Church were made before the Vladimir Icon. In the year 1448, a Council of Russian bishops raised up the first metropolitan of the autocephalous Russian Church, Saint Jonah. On November 5, 1917, in front of it was made the selection of His Holiness Patriarch Saint Tikhon, the first such election after the restoration of the patriarchate in the Russian Church. And in 1971, on the Feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the enthronment of His Holiness Patriarch Pimen took place.
The liturgical activity of Saint Andrew was multi-faceted and fruitful. In 1162 the Lord granted the holy prince a great solace: in Rostov there was discovered the relics of Rostov saints -- the holy hierarchs Isaiah and Leontius. The glorification of these Rostov saints throughout all the Church took place somewhat later, but Saint Andrew initiated their national veneration. In 1164 the military forces of Saint Andrew crushed their long-time enemy, the Volga Bulgars. The victories of the Orthodox nation were marked by a blossoming of liturgical creativity within the Russian Church.
In this same year of 1164, at the initiative of Saint Andrew, the Church established the Feast of the All-Merciful Savior and the Most Holy Theotokos on August 1 (venerated by the Russian people as “Savior of the First Honey”), in memory of the Baptism of Rus by holy Equal of the Apostles Vladimir and in memory of the victory over the Bulgars in 1164. The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God on October 1 embodied in liturgical forms the faith of the holy prince and all the Orthodox nation in the acceptance by the Mother of God of Holy Rus beneath Her omophorion. The Protection of the Theotokos became one of the most beloved of Russian Church Feasts. The Protection is a Russian national holiday, unknown to the Latin West. It is a liturgical continuation and creative development of theological ideas inherent to the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God on July 2.
The first church consecrated to the new Feast was the Protection church at Nerla (1165), a remarkable monument of Russian Church architecture, built by the master artisans of Saint Andrew at the head-waters of the River Nerla, so that the prince could always see it from a window of his Bogoliubov garret.
Saint Andrew took an active part in the literary work of the Vladimir church writers. He participated in the compiling of the Service of the Protection (the most ancient copy is in the manuscript of a fourteenth century Psalter), and also a preface about the establishment of the Feast of the Protection in the Great Reading Menaion for October, as well as a “Discourse on the Protection.” He wrote an “Account of the Victory over the Bulgars and the Establishing of the Feast of the Savior in the Year 1164,” which in several of the old manuscripts is called, “Discourse concerning the Mercy of God by Great Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky.” The fate of Bogoliubsky is also noted in the Vladimir Chronicle entry for the year 1177, completed after the death of the prince by his confessor, the priest Mikula, who inserted his special “Account of the Murder of Saint Andrew.” To Saint Andrew’s time belongs also the final editing of the “Account of Boris and Gleb,” inserted into the “Dormition Sbornik” (“Compendium” or “Book of Collected Services” of these Rostov saints). The prince particularly venerated Saint Boris, and his chief household treasure was a cap belonging to Saint Boris. Saint Boris’s sword always hung over his bed. Another memorial of Saint Andrew’s prayerful inspiration is “A Prayer,” included in the chronicle under the year 1096 after the “Instructions of Vladimir Monomakh.”