Saint Joseph of Zaonikiev, was named Hilarion in the world, a pious peasant from the village of Obukhovo Kubensk in the region of the Vologda gubernia. For a long time he suffered a disease of the eyes and he fervently prayed for the help of the Lord, to the Most Holy Theotokos, and to the Saints, in particular the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian.
His prayer was heard, and in 1588, by a revelation of Saint Cosmas, Hilarion went into the forest into a swampy place, to an icon of the Mother of God, from which he received healing. In gratitude the monk cleared a forest thicket at the place of the appearance of the wonderworking icon and built a chapel, in which he placed the icon. He himself settled close by, taking the monastic schema with the name of Joseph.
Afterwards, with the blessing of Saint Anthony, Bishop of Vologda, on the place of Joseph’s ascetic exploits the Zaonikiev monastery emerged, so named from the brigand Anikios who once dwelt in this forest. When the monastery expanded and the number of monks grew, upon the advice of Saint Joseph, Anthony was chosen as igumen. Joseph did not accept the leadership himself out of humility. Since he concealed his own strict exploits from the others, he was perceived as a fool-for-Christ. He stood on his feet at prayer in his chapel, and he went about barefoot in the fierce cold.
Saint Joseph reposed on September 21, 1612 at age 83, and was buried in the monastery founded by him.