Canadian-American Slavic Studies, Vol 34, No. 3, Fall of 2000, 337-364    

Iurodstvo o Khriste-foolishness for Christ's sake-is an extraordinary type of Russian Orthodox Christian asceticism. While a 'conventional' ascetic rejects the profane world in order to unconditionally devote his life to God; the major characteristic-and most striking feature-of holy foolishness is that the fool for Christ's sake feigns madness in order to reject the prospect of the usually mandatory hermetic seclusion, thereby remaining a part of secular life. Timothy Ware describes this type of ascetic exploit as follows: "The 'Fool' carries the ideal of self-stripping and humiliation to its furthest extent, by renouncing all intellectual gifts, all forms of earthly wisdom, and by voluntarily taking upon himself the Cross of madness." (108)
     Holy foolishness emerged and evolved in Byzantium and found its paradigmatic textual expression in the vita of the Byzantine saint, Simeon of Emesa (VII c.).  Three centuries later, it was further expanded in the Life of another salos (Greek for the holy fool), St. Andrew of Constantinople (X c.) . These two vitae identify foolishness in Christ as an ascetic exploit, explicitly dwell on the motivations of its practitioners, and illustrate the extrinsic and intrinsic aspects of this feat. The extrinsic aspects are presented as the aggressive, seemingly senseless actions of a lunatic who at times both annoys and amuses the public. However, the intrinsic aspects-known only to God-are shown as instances of the fool's divine wisdom, his miracle-working powers, and his prophetic gifts. Since the iurodivyi conceals his saintliness at all times, all his saintly deeds are invariably accompanied by scandalous, obscene, or blasphemous actions that outrage people and make them forget the fool's visible signs of grace they observed earlier. Also, in order to conceal his piety, the iurodivyi prays only at night. His life is devoted to delivering God's message to the public, thereby bridging the gap between the divine and profane planes of the Christian universe. Despite this devotion, people repeatedly mock, persecute, and chase the prophet away, demonstrating time and time again their attachment to worldly, transitory truths.
     The Russian holy foolish paradigm is not stated as clearly as its Byzantine prototype. In fact, the Lives of Russian holy foolish saints reveal striking differences with their Byzantine equivalents. They contain topoi seemingly incompatible with the holy foolish paradigm of Byzantium and endow their heroes with features that make them differ not only from the representatives of Byzantine paradigm but also from each other. Thus, some iurodivye are fools in name only (e.g. St. Avraamii of Smolensk), while in the Lives of others holy foolishness occupies a central place. Some holy fools are monks or nuns (e.g. Mikhail of Klopsko, Pelagia Serebrenikova), others are laymen (e.g. Vasilii the Blessed), and still others are ascetics (e.g. Isaakii the Recluse of the Kiev Cave Monastery); some of them are aggressive (Vasilii the Blessed) but many are meek (e.g. Ioann the Big Cap). Many iurodivye are presented as men of great learning (Avraamii of Smolensk, Mikhail of Klopsko), even though this contradicts the very definition of their exploit.  After all, the holy fool rejects worldly wisdom and learnedness of any kind. The Lives of some Russian iurodivye conform to the requirements of the genre of traditional hagiography, while the vitae of others have a fragmentary structure, consisting of a series of episodes. 
     Because of the diversity and disarray in the Russian vitae of iurodivye, scholars and theologians have often been inclined to turn to Byzantine examples in their analysis of iurodstvo. In fact, the Russian and the Byzantine paradigms of holy foolishness have not been differentiated between and many scholars and theologians regard them as interchangeable. For example, George Fedotov writes:
     Only the rich material in the Greek Lives offers us the key to an understanding of iurodstvo. It would be a vain hope to search for the essence of this exploit in the Russian vitae. ... Seldom do we find hagiographical biographies of Russian holy fools; contemporaneous biographies are still more rare. Almost everywhere we see the work of an unskilled hand, used to literary clichés, which has erased the original traits of the [saint's] personality. Evidently, religious piety prevented the hagiographers from depicting the paradoxical nature of the exploit. (Fedotov 1959: 192)

     The implication has always been that Byzantine iurodstvo set an example of this extraordinary ascetic feat, while Russian spirituality inherited and assimilated holy foolish piety and continued the tradition. The only difference that has been continuously acknowledged is that of scope: Russian holy foolishness is considered more pervasive a phenomenon within the national culture. Clearly iurodstvo was of more importance in Russian culture and spirituality than its Byzantine counterpart was in the culture of Byzantium. Indeed, the Russian tradition of iurodstvo boasts of a greater number of both canonical and non-canonical holy fools.  Yet as Fedotov notes, Russian hagiographers were admittedly less successful in conveying the doctrinal meaning of the holy foolish exploit. While presenting a wide assortment of holy foolish images and topoi, and showing a variety of behavioral patterns (thus making it difficult for the scholar to isolate and identify the paradigm), Russian vitae are usually poorly constructed, stylistically inadequate, and at times reveal chronological and factual inconsistencies. Byzantine hagiographies, on the other hand, are well-crafted works.
     In terms of content, these vitae are also very different. The Russian vitae emphasize the political role of the iurodivyi, while the Byzantine tradition not only does not have this topos, it shows its iurodivye as political conformists. Simeon of Emesa, for example, not only does not confront the rich and the powerful, he actually goes around shouting, "Victory to the Emperor and to the City!" (Krueger 1996:168) Yet, as Fedotov rightly points out, the Russian hagiographies fail to adequately reflect the controversial stance of the iurodivyi. Only the Byzantine vitae present the holy fool as a figure that is contentious-even blasphemous-where an uninitiated onlooker is concerned. While at times the Byzantine authors are reluctant to describe the outrageously sacrilegious acts of their heroes, they nevertheless do not conceal the holy fool's dubious stance. The controversial nature of the fool's feat in Byzantine tradition is the cornerstone of the iurodivyi's textual representation. From it stem all the components of the phenomenon: the criticism of the profane concepts of the fool's social habitat, the secrecy of the fool's exploit, and his persistence in emulating Christ's Passion.
     This Byzantine paradigm, however, should not be considered without qualifications. After all, it is representative only of the highest developmental-urban-stage of Byzantine iurodstvo and does not exemplify all emanations of the phenomenon.
     The eminent Russian Byzantologist, Sergei Ivanov, recently showed that the history of Byzantine holy foolishness contains several developmental stages, which are represented by different behavioral and ideological paradigms. In his groundbreaking study, "Byzantine holy foolishness" (Vizantiiskoie iurodstvo, 1994) he identifies these developmental stages and offers an analysis of holy foolish texts. These texts range from the first descriptions of the foolish and mad precursors of the iurodivyi who emerged in the monastic environment of Egypt and Syria, to hagiographies of paradigmatic urban fools, and finally to descriptions of what we might call holy foolish hybrids, that is, ascetic feats which contain elements of iurodstvo. The scholar argues that the essential elements of iurodstvo were formed in the monasteries of Egyptian and Syrian cenobites, and that subsequently its phenomenology was dissipated throughout the Eastern part of the Roman Empire by the efforts of wandering monks. Only the third stage in the evolution of the ascetic exploit of holy foolishness is representative of its urban phenomenology. The seventh-century vita of St. Simeon of Emesa came to be seen as the paradigmatic description of Byzantine iurodstvo.
     Russian scholars tend to ignore the plurality of holy foolish paradigms. They formed a tacit consensus, that from the very beginning, Russian holy foolishness was oriented towards the urban form of its Byzantine antecedent and that Russian hagiographers failed to adequately emulate the classical pattern because they were lacking in skill and education. This opinion is found in all the major works on the subject.  Therefore, the only two Lives that have been considered as prototypes of Russian holy foolishness are those of urban holy fools, St. Simeon (VII c.) and St. Andrew (X c.). Other sources of this erroneous view are the assumption about the uniformity between Byzantine and Russian paradigms of iurodstvo  and a failure to consider the peculiarities of the developmental history of Russian iurodstvo. Those peculiarities were several. First, Russia faced an urgent need to textually represent iurodstvo as a legitimate ascetic exploit at a time when it was officially banned in Byzantium.  This explains the caution with which the Russian hagiographers depict the exploit. From the very beginning they were reluctant to trespass against the prohibition on holy foolishness postulated in Byzantium  and tried to describe divine folly in the least controversial way possible. The second peculiarity is that Russian iurodstvo, similarly to its Byzantine model, went through a number of developmental stages, beginning with the monastic and ending with the urban. Therefore, it was hagiographically represented by at least two holy foolish paradigms. Finally, even during the initial stages of the evolution of Russian iurodstvo, its hagiographers started customizing the existing Byzantine paradigm, giving it a uniquely Russian validation. The Kievan period in the development of Russian iurodstvo-traditionally regarded by the scholars as the breach in the paradigm -represents its early monastic stage. In works of that period, holy foolishness was invariably considered against a monastic backdrop (e.g. Isaakii the Recluse; d. 1090). At the same time, at its first developmental stage the Russian iurodivyi lent a number of his characteristics for formulating a uniquely Russian concept of sanctity, thus assuring the eventual prominence of holy foolishness in Russian culture. Yet, since at that stage Kievan Rus was only coming into being as a Christian community and had by no means completed the stages of its Christianization, it could not and did not witness the emergence of urban holy fools. Urban holy fools could only emerge in a society that was thoroughly Christian, that is, a society characterized by the allegiance of all its members to the Christian worldview and by their reliance on Christian discourse. Therefore, any search for the paradigmatic urban Russian iurodivyi should concentrate on the Medieval period, when the Novgorodian and other regions of the Russian land-and later on Muscovy-emerged as completely Christianized socio-cultural entities.
     Indeed, as soon as the process of Christianization was completed, the holy fool became a part of the Russian urban scene. Along the way to its ultimate urban stage first represented in the Novgorodian hagiographies, Russian holy foolishness amassed a number of traits that came to distinguish its phenomenology from that of its Byzantine prototype.
     Novgorodian holy foolishness occupies a special place in the history of the phenomenon and thus calls for special scholarly attention. There are several reasons why this period calls for special attention. First, during the Novgorodian period (XIV-XVI cc.),  the Russian paradigm of holy foolishness was formed. Novgorodian vitae of iurodivye testify to emergence of the urban mode of Russian holy foolishness. Second, holy foolish Lives of that period are represented by both monastic and urban paradigms, thus providing commentary on the state of both. These two paradigms would henceforth be continuously representative of Russian iurodstvo. Third, during this period one of the best-crafted holy foolish vitae, that of Mikhail of Klopsko, was written. The several redactions of this vita exemplify the formation of the genre of medieval holy foolish hagiography. They show how holy foolish paradigm was continuously modified and adjusted to meet the requirements of the prevailing hagiographic model. Finally, at the Novgorodian stage of its developmental history Russian iurodstvo acquired the unique topoi that would characterize it henceforth. All in all, Novgorodian vitae reflect the genesis of Russian holy foolishness as a sui generis phenomenon.
     The fifteenth-century Life of Prokopii of Ustiug (d. 1303) marks the initiation of the holy foolish tradition in Novgorod and is also considered to be the first paradigmatic vita of a Russian holy foolish saint. Ironically, Prokopii of Ustiug was not an ethnic Russian. According to his vita, Prokopii, a German merchant,  was exposed to Orthodox Christianity while doing business in Novgorod. He was impressed by this faith to such an extent that he decided to convert. He distributed his wealth to the needy and stayed for a while in the Khutynskii Monastery near Novgorod. However, his career as a monk did not last and Prokopii went to Ustiug and took the path of iurodstvo. Thus, Prokopii's hagiographer shows his hero against the monastic backdrop just briefly. This is as if to remind the reader of the genealogical link between monastic asceticism and holy foolishness and to show how the roots of urban iurodstvo can be traced back to the monastic environment. Once in Ustiug, Prokopii began acting like a typical iurodivyi. By day he wandered around naked, ranted like a madman, disobeyed social rules and regulations. Because of these actions he endured the cruelty of the people, who mocked and beat him. He would accept alms only from poor and righteous people and refused to touch the offerings of the corrupt ones. At night, Prokopii prayed on the church steps. The difficulties and hazards of the iurodivyi life-style are highlighted in the account of his sufferings during one exceptionally cold winter. The iurodivyi was chased away by the people of Ustiug and was not even accepted by the dogs he tried to warm himself amongst. Nevertheless, he did not fall into despair nor did he lose his faith in God. His vita relates that, just like St. Andrew of Constantinople, Prokopii went into a church where he was not only saved by Christ, but also was granted divine grace of the ultimate knowledge.
     His usual pastime was to sit on the bank of the river Sukhona and pray for those who went by in ships-a topos that characterizes Prokopii both as a holy fool and a dweller of Novgorod lands. The river and the ships create the background, which is indicative of his geographical location. At the same time, this topos exemplifies a meditative practice directed not inward, as it would have been if the iurodivyi was trying to establish a link with the divine, but outward, towards the community at large. This is a sign of his sharing his spiritual power and grace with people. Prokopii's public service would also take the form of prophetic pronouncements and miracle working. While these spiritual gifts are invariably characteristic of saintly fools, their application in Prokopii's Life diverges from the applications found in the Lives of Byzantine holy fools. The Byzantine fools in Christ thoroughly concealed such gifts, keeping their saintliness a secret known only to God. Yet Prokopii does hide his spiritual gifts and in many instances his holiness is obvious rather than secret. Nevertheless, in accordance with the hagiographical convention, the residents of the town continuously ignored his prophecies and warnings. One episode tells of an incident where people saw Prokopii sitting near the church and weeping bitterly. When they asked him what the reason for his grief was, the iurodivyi begged them to pray to God so that he would spare them the fate of Sodom and Gomorra.  No one could figure out the meaning of his words, so they did not follow his directions. A week later a black cloud appeared and soon covered the whole city. It was full of lightning and roaring with thunder. Only then did the people recall Prokopii's words, and they rushed to the church where they found him praying. They prayed with the iurodivyi for the city to be saved and after a while the black cloud moved away. Later on the people of Ustiug learned that burning hot stones mixed with hail fell from that cloud and destroyed many trees in the forest. Only the prayers of the iurodivyi had saved the town of Ustiug and its people.
     Together with verbal prophecies, symbolic actions similar to those of the Jewish prophets  can be found in Prokopii's Life. For example, he would always carry three iron pokers, and the way in which he held them supposedly indicated the quality of next year's harvest. This topos is another demonstration of the social orientation of the holy fool's asceticism. The iurodivyi shares his divine knowledge with the people, but does not do so by means of direct, straightforward messages. Instead, he uses the cryptic language of symbols characteristic of prophets. The obscurity of the holy fool's discourse is his verbal trademark. Although, he himself is fluent in the divine discourse and is capable of perceiving the God's words directly, when passing God's message to the people he translates it into the language of symbols. The people's bafflement at the iurodivyi's words and their inability to understand his message are emblematic of their being barred from the divine. This lack of comprehension on their part exemplifies the separation between the sacred and profane realms.
     In keeping with this topos and paying tribute to the genre of holy foolish vita, Prokopii's hagiographer contrasts his hero's divine wisdom, devotion to his exploit, and his righteousness to the people's sinfulness and their ignorance of God's will. They persist in their reluctance and inability to see the iurodivyi's divine nature by continuously ignoring his predictions and warnings. Yet-and it is another convention of holy foolish hagiography-Prokopii's vita mentions his trusted friends. Just as St. Andrew shared his divine knowledge with Epiphanius and the author of his Life, Prokopii confides in the Blessed Kiprian and St. Stephen of Perm. They both know that Prokopii is an ascetic and a saintly man but cannot reveal this information until after his death. Prokopii dies in old age and the latter part of his Life is devoted to the miracles produced by his relics. These miracles start being recorded more than hundred years after his demise. 
     Like Byzantine fools in Christ, Prokopii has benefactors, Ioann and Maria. This component of his hagiography also reflects the time-honored Russian custom of offering hospitality to God's people, including wanderers and holy fools. This custom became an enduring topos of foolishness in Christ.  Even though Prokopii's vita specifies that he did not take advantage of conveniences available to him at the house of Ioann and Maria, the iurodivyi often visits them, as if thereby making a statement about the righteousness of his hosts. It is not difficult to draw a parallel between Prokopii's benefactors and the patrons of God's people portrayed in works of Tolstoi (Childhood (Detstvo), War and Peace (Voina i mir)), Dostoevskii (The Devils (Besy), Brothers Karamazov (Brat'ia Karamazovy)), Turgenev (A Strange Story (Strannaia istoriia), Garin-Mikhailovskii (On the eve of the holiday (Pered Prazdnikom)), Uspenskii (Paramon the Holy Fool (Paramon Iurodivyi)), and many more. Both hagiographic and secular writings dwell on this form of public acceptance of fools in Christ in Russia. Yet although Russian holy fools invariably have patrons and protectors, they do not spare the latter from their harsh criticism. On many occasions the iurodivye targeted and castigated their benefactors. Thus Vasilii the Blessed of Moscow chastised Ivan the Terrible for idle thoughts during the church service. Another classical example can be found in Bunin's adaptation of a holy-foolish Life, Ioann the Weeper (Ioann Rydalets) where the iurodivyi continuously stalks and aggressively attacks the old prince.
     Prokopii's vita was a milestone in the history of Russian holy foolish hagiography. It testified to the fact that in the fifteenth century Russian holy foolishness reached the apex of its development and emerged as an urban phenomenon. This vita is considered to be the first to describe Russian urban holy foolishness. Yet, the attempt by a hagiographer to emulate the vita of St. Andrew was ultimately unsuccessful. The author of Prokopii's Life, if the style of the work is anything to go by, was most likely a simple scribe lacking in both talent and education. As he struggled through his challenging venture, he acted more as a compiler eager to express popular love of and devotion to their favorite saint than as a competent hagiographer comfortable with the requirements of his chosen genre. As a result, Prokopii's vita has a great number of formal and factual inconsistencies that disqualify it from the status of a seminal Russian work that founded Russian holy foolish paradigm. The great Russian historian, Vasilii Kliuchevskii pointed out:

     The Life of the holy fool Prokopii of Ustiug-a poorly written [work]-consists of disconnected episodes that are not linked into a literary whole and are separated by chronological discrepancies. It is a set of legends, which had originated independently of one another from various local anecdotes and were not even given a skillful literary reworking. ... The vita's story about the burning cloud is an awkward adaptation of the tale that exists independently in sixteenth-century compilations. According to the biographer, the account of Prokopii's suffering during the winter is a recording of the iurodivyi's words by the Father of Stephen of Perm, Simeon. Yet the story as told in the vita is a remaking of an episode from St. Andrew of Constantinople's Life. (Kliuchevskii 1988: 277)

     Notwithstanding its flaws, Prokopii's vita is not only representative of the Russian hagiographical paradigm of holy foolishness, but also reflects the process of its genesis. The hagiographer was evidently eager to incorporate major features of the archetypal-Byzantine-iurodivyi into the image of his hero. According to his vita, Prokopii is an exponent of an extreme form of Christian asceticism. His madness is feigned. His exploit is a unique form of social service. He is a prophet and a miracle-worker. Yet at times the hagiographer fails to consistently treat certain established holy foolish topoi. Thus, even though Prokopii prays only at night (thereby following Byzantine convention and concealing his ascetic feat) he also attends church. As the result the topos of iurodivyi's role as God's secret servant is superseded: Prokopii makes obvious his belonging to the Church, which is exactly what the Byzantine iurodivyi opts to hide. Indeed, according to the Byzantine vitae, the iurodivyi's incognito as an ascetic and a saint is maintained at all times. This is how he is able to concurrently "berate the world" and implement his own self-abnegation, to remind people about divine reality and to challenge them with temptations. Consequently, he both goes on with his ascetic exploit and at the same time does not interfere with people's free will. Since his saintliness is obscured, people have the choice to either disregard, and even abuse him as a lunatic or accept his spiritual leadership. Prokopii's obvious saintliness makes him less of a iurodivyi (in Byzantine sense) and more of a conventional saint. Thus, having been transplanted onto Russian terrain, the Byzantine paradigm began to lose its defining traits.
     An interesting feature of iurodstvo is that at the climax of its developmental history its hagiographical representations lose the topos of asceticism, initially the essence of iurodstvo. The first time this crucial development occurs in the Byzantine vita of St. Andrew, who became a iurodivyi owing to intervention by divine providence, even though later he full-heartedly accepted his vocation.  Before undertaking his feat St. Andrew was an ordinary layman whose only merits were his good looks, appealing disposition, and industriousness. While in the Byzantine tradition the only paradigmatic holy fool who assumed his exploit as a layman was St. Andrew, in Russia the iurodivyi comes to be a non-ecclesiastic figure. Indeed, non-ecclesiastic character became an enduring topos and the trademark of Russian urban fools in Christ. As a rule, in the Russian vitae iurodstvo is not shown as merely an extension or another variety of asceticism, as was the case in the Byzantine tradition, but as a feat granted to the holy fools by God. They embark on the path of divine folly whilst living in their lay condition. Thus they give an additional emphasis to their marginality and to their position in-between sacred and profane domains. At the same time, the Russian hagiographers' determination to preserve a textual loyalty to the Byzantine paradigm resulted in the persistent repetition of the hagiographical formula of holy foolish asceticism. While the text of the vita seems to carry no indications of the fool's being an ascetic (either a monk or a hermit), it is inevitably stated there that his motivation for assuming his feat is ascetic. The iurodivyi's spiritual chores and hardships of his exploit are also identified as ascetic. Yet his iurodstvo is rather a devotional act of an extremely zealous Christian than a continuation of the ascetic career. As a result there occurs what we can call a clash of topoi: an ascetic formula is countered by the absence of the fool's formal and explicit allegiance to the ascetic paradigm of behavior and piety. This discrepancy is characteristic of Russian holy foolish hagiography and reflects the attempt on the part of Russian hagiographers to both emulate Byzantine paradigm and truthfully depict reality of Russian iurodstvo.
 The Lives of the next two holy foolish saints yet again incorporate this interpretation of the ascetic component of the paradigm and bring to the fore other uniquely Russian features. These two iurodivye, who came after Prokopii, were Fedor of Novgorod and Nikola Kochanov both of whom died in 1392. These holy fools were most notorious for their fights on the Volkhovskoi Bridge. That bridge was situated on the border between two Novgorodian districts, Sofiiskii and Torgovyi, to which Nikola and Fedor belonged respectively. Neither of the iurodivye allowed the other to cross the bridge. Attempts on the part of each of the opponents to trespass resulted in fierce physical clashes which symbolically represented the constant violent encounters between the residents of the two areas. Once whilst chasing his opponent, the enraged Nikola threw at him a head of cabbage, after which he received his nick-name Kochanov, or "Cabbage Head." During that same incident (as well as on other occasions) the saints were seen running on water. According to their hagiographers, the iurodivye opted to let their observers see how ugly, senseless, and contrary to Christian spirit the animosity of the two neighboring regions of Novgorod was, thereby putting them to shame and making them repent.
     Yet these fights also reflect another enduring topos of iurodstvo: the holy fool is an unconditional loner. He has neither allies nor followers. He lives among people, but has no personal attachments. Even though he represents the poor and abused members of society, he never bonds with them. In both the vitae of St. Andrew of Constantinople (X c.) and Vasilii the Blessed of Moscow (d. 1552) there is a story about the saint beating and chasing away a beggar woman. While the saints' hostility, as explained by their hagiographers, is motivated by the beggar woman's evil nature (she eventually assumes her real form as a demon), this episode also reflects the truth about the holy fool being a solitary figure. Once he assumes his exploit, the iurodivyi removes himself from human attachments. Thus he breaks the ties with his family, which from then on does not exist for him. The topos of the iurodivyi's unconditional commitment to his feat on the expense of disowning of his family is exemplified not only in hagiographical writings  but also in actual farewell letters of the would-be iurodivye.  Moreover, iurodivye prayed to God so that their families would die and free them from the ties with the profane plane of existence (a topos that divine folly shares with asceticism in general). The Byzantine ascetic St. Simeon, before embarking on the path of holy foolishness, prayed to God to grant release to his lonely mother, and the nineteenth-century Russian fool in Christ Pelagia Serebrenikova prayed that her children should die. Needless to say, their wishes were granted.
     Fedor of Novgorod and Nikola Kochanov each received typical hagiographic treatment. Their vitae depict their righteousness, ascetic life-style, and the miracles and prophesies associated with them, along with descriptions of their eccentric appalling behavior. Fedor's vita is the shorter of the two. He decided to become a iurodivyi after reading numerous vitae of the Christian ascetics and saints. Holy foolishness was the only form of asceticism that he ever practiced. His vita only outlines the saint's exploit, without describing any particular episodes. The vita of Fedor's fellow-iurodivyi is also very schematic. It does not dwell on the visible manifestations of his holy foolishness and all in all follows the conventional pattern. Nikola Kochanov came from a wealthy family. His parents were righteous and pious people. Even as a young boy Nikola revealed a contemplative disposition and preferred prayer to children's games. Very soon people noticed the youth's righteousness and started praising and admiring him. Yet, as his vita relates, because the blessed one shunned the things of this world and sought only the glory of God, he undertook the exploit of holy foolishness. Thus, in keeping with Byzantine tradition, holy foolishness is identified as the disguise of saintliness, yet the saint assumes his exploit as a layman and not as an established fully-fledged ascetic. In the vitae the meaning of the holy foolish exploit is explicated by a number of citations from the Gospels. Yet concrete details are outlined very sketchily. In fact, both the ascetic and the holy foolish aspects of the exploit are merely mentioned. Thus we are told that Nikola mortified his flesh and was concerned only with humbling his spirit, and that he committed indecent and violent acts only in order to appear as a great sinner. Yet we are not supplied with examples of Nikola's indecent behavior. The topoi of asceticism and foolishness in Christ are followed by another commonplace: people did not understand the true meaning of the iurodivyi's exploit.
     A number of formal characteristics of these vitae testify to the hagiographers' orientation towards the Byzantine prototype. Thus in each of them the iurodivyi appears mad, his actions are bizarre and therefore incomprehensible to people, he is chosen by God, and is unconditionally devoted to his exploit. Yet the interpretation and utilization of the elements of the Byzantine paradigm by Russian hagiographers make them distinct from their classical models. The topoi of asceticism are toned down or omitted entirely, and so is the iurodivyi's holy foolishness. Not only does the hagiographer take the edge off the controversial side of his hero's exploit, he also continuously accentuates his saintliness, which becomes evident to the people not after the fool's death but even as he lives. The latter is a manifest violation of the Byzantine paradigm where the fool cannot (and never does) survive recognition of his saintliness by the people.  The topos of secrecy of the fool's exploit, which was obligatory in the Byzantine Lives, is continuously violated and sometimes altogether obliterated in the Russian Lives. Thus the iurodivyi prays openly in church and is known to others as a pious and righteous man, which makes his exploit obvious rather than secret. He is not really an outcast even though the vita claims he is. He is God's chosen and beloved servant who because of that fact is revered by the people as a living saint. This marks the major deviation of the Russian holy foolish pattern from its Byzantine model.
     Indeed, the topos of the secrecy of iurodivyi's exploit is crucial to the holy foolish paradigm of Byzantium where it has several meanings and implications. First, the holy fool is an ascetic determined to hide his achievements and sanctity by intentionally drawing scorn and abuse to him. He fights the sin of pride, which is rooted in public appreciation, and simulates madness, which automatically makes him the most despised creature in society. Since madmen were regarded as possessed, the iurodivyi's condition not only dissociates him from the Church,  it actually puts him in the opposition to the Church. The holy fool's determination to feign madness in order to obscure his ascetic devotion is connected to still another element of his exploit: he mingles with members of the down trodden strata of the society, thereby following the kenotic example of Christ. Moreover, he symbolically testifies time and time again that the supreme, divine wisdom of God's chosen agents is but folly in the eyes of men. Thus the iurodivyi's role as God's secret servant is feasible only on condition that his exploit is not publicly recognized as such. Hence, the holy fool threatens to punish the witnesses of his saintly deeds and miracles, if they reveal his secret. This topos of holy foolishness, which is crucial in the Byzantine tradition, is overridden in the Russian hagiographies of iurodivye, becoming perhaps the first Russian holy foolish textual innovation. Significantly, this topos started taking shape as early as in the very first holy foolish Life written in Kievan Rus, the Life of Isaakii the Recluse of Kiev Cave Monastery (d. 1090) and was persistently present in the Lives of Russian fools in Christ thereafter.
     This hagiographic amendment was one among many introduced in Russian Lives in order to "smooth" the rough edges of holy foolish phenomenology. These changes amount to another distinct feature of Russian holy foolish vitae: the perpetual attempt on the part of hagiographers to make the narrative the least controversial possible. The iurodivyi is rarely described as a madman and almost never shown to shock society with his blasphemous acts. Also, he is no longer a rebel but rather a supporter of the Church and church policies. Thus, when in an apocryphal variant of his Life, Vasilii the Blessed horrifies and outrages the congregation by breaking a miracle-working icon of Virgin Mary, his righteousness is rehabilitated instantaneously (and his clairvoyance is proven yet again) as he reveals the depiction of the Devil hidden underneath the saintly image of the Mother of God. Moreover, in order to make the iurodivyi look much more like a conventional saint, his vita borrows a number of topoi from the Lives of the latter. Thus Nikola Kochanov's provenance, childhood, and motivation for his exploit adhere to the commonplaces of a non-holy-foolish saint's Life.
     By the time Russian iurodstvo reached its highest evolvement and became an urban phenomenon, the reputation and popularity of holy fools in Russian society was already so high that they became favored for canonization. Numerous vitae of iurodivye, written as a prerequisite for the many canonizations that took place in fifteenth-seventeenth centuries, feature uniquely Russian traits of holy foolishness. They mark the coming into being of the Russian paradigm of holy foolishness.
     Popular as they were, urban holy fools did not exhaust the repertoire of Medieval Russian iurodstvo. Monastic fools in Christ existed on par with the urban ones and their vitae are no less representative of phenomenology of Medieval Russian holy foolishness. It is also important to note that creators of hagiographical representations of Russian iurodstvo have never been limited to the Lives of urban Byzantine iurodivye. Quite to the contrary, at all times they had recourse to a variety of Byzantine vitae exemplifying all the developmental stages of the holy foolish paradigm. As a result, Russian hagiographers, from the very beginning, were not only able to choose from a number of holy foolish topoi, but also continuously composed holy foolish vitae representative of the different developmental stages of the paradigm.
     Mikhail of Klopsko (d. 1456) comes next in the chronological list of Russian holy foolish saints. His Life has long attracted scholars because of its outstanding literary qualities, yet it is no less interesting as an exposition of monastic holy foolishness. It also adds to our understanding of Medieval Russian holy foolish sanctity and of the Russian holy foolish paradigm. Mikhail's vita relates how on July 23, 1408 a hieromonk of the Klopsko Monastery, Makarii, found a stranger in his cell. The intruder, who was wearing a monk's robe, was busy copying the Acts of St. Paul. He had gained entry to the cell even through the door had been locked. Frightened, Makarii called the hegumen Feodosii and other brethren. When they saw the intruder through the window, Feodosii said his prayers three times, which the stranger repeated after him. The stranger continued echoing Feodosii's words when the latter asked him whether he was a man or a demon and asked him his name. Following three of these exchanges Feodosii tells the other monks to not be afraid as the starets (elder) was sent by God. When the monks went to the mid-afternoon service the newcomer accompanied them and sang the whole liturgy beautifully. When the service was over, hegumen Feodosii invited the elder to stay at the monastery and took him to his cell.
     The elder's stay in the monastery is essentially a succession of miracles. It is noteworthy that chapters in the variant A of the Life's first redaction are entitled "miracles." The Life consists of ten "miracles." For the first miracle he predicted thieves planning on robbing the monastery and punished them for their evil plans. The second miracle happened during the visit of prince Kostiantin. He recognized the elder's voice and told the hegumen that his name was Mikhail, son of Maxim and that he was of princely birth. He asked Feodosii to take care of the elder because he was his relative. That same summer Mikhail saved the monastery from a drought, which befell the area by identifying the spot where an "inexhaustible source of water" was to be found. Other miracles include him taming a deer, returning to the monastery after prolonged absence just in time to conduct a burial service for the deceased Feodosii, and making a great number of prophecies. For example, when the monastery's rich and malevolent neighbor threatened to break the arms and legs of anyone who would dare to fish in the river which he had declared his property, Mikhail retorted that the man's own arms and legs were in danger and that soon he was going to come close to death by drowning. The prophecy came true when the man, rushing toward some fishing monks, intending to beat them savagely, fell into the water. When he was rescued, he found that his limbs were paralyzed. The monks brought him to the monastery and were going to pray that he should be healed, but Mikhail forbade them to do so. Instead he dispatched the evil man of property on a pilgrimage to Russia's monasteries and churches so that he would regain his health through chastity and prayer. The man's health was restored after a year of travel, and after Mikhail himself offered prayers for him. "God punishes those who start the fight," (95) Mikhail said to the man. He also predicted to the monk Efimii that he would start his career as an ecclesiastic in Smolensk and that later on he would be called to Moscow to become a metropolitan. However, his predictions were not always agreeable and comforting. When Prince Dmitrii Iurievich came to ask for Mikhail's blessing for him to acquire supreme power, Mikhail answered, "[You shall not get power but] you shall get a coffin," (96). The prediction soon came true.
     Mikhail's utterances, dispersed throughout his vita, exemplify the peculiarities of the iurodivyi's discourse. His discourse is thoroughly metaphorical, saturated with symbols, and rich in proverbs, paradoxes, and parables. His pronouncements are never commonplace but always enigmatic, vivid, and succinct. He often speaks in rhymes and because of this quality his sayings become catchy proverbs. For example, Mikhail's characterization of the Prince of Lithuania, "not a prince, but a piece of filth" (to ne kniaz' a griaz'), has survived to this day. We encounter a variation of this saying in the speech of a Soviet era fool-in-Christ Maria who adapted it for her characterization of the Soviet state. When she was once arrested by the Soviet militia she smeared the walls of the cell with her own feces, saying, "so is the power, so is the filth (kakaia vlast', takaia mraz'). (Damaskin 1992: 218-219)
     Mikhail's vita exists in three redactions, each of which has several versions. The first redaction was written in 1478 or 1479 and the second one shortly thereafter. The third redaction dates from 1537 and was written by a nobleman, Vasilii Tuchkov, who was commissioned by Patriarch Makarii. At that time Makarii was starting the endeavor of his famous Velikie Chetii Minei (The Great Book of Menology) and was getting candidates ready for the numerous canonizations of 1547. Remarkably, Mikhail's Life was the first of many commissioned by the Patriarch to be written for his Menology. During the process of rewriting, Mikhail's vita underwent many changes. The differences between the first two versions of this Life and Tuchkov's version are revealing. According to a Russian Medievalist Dmitriev:

     In the first redaction of the Life, the portrayal of Mikhail of Klopsko drastically differs from the standardized hagiographical image of a saint. [There] Mikhail is presented as a live person with strikingly original features. (Dmitriev 1958: 83)

     Indeed, in keeping with Byzantine tradition of holy-foolish hagiography, the style of the first redaction is simple and the Life's hero, Mikhail, is presented and characterized more through his actions than by means of the hagiographer's interpretation of his demeanor. Yet even in this redaction he is far from being a holy fool. Rather, he is a sage resembling the eccentric Egyptian abbas. Like the latter, he is a monk enjoying the reputation of a saint and the highest possible esteem of both his fellow-brethren and other members of the community. He provides the community with spiritual guidance (cf. his advice to Prince Kostiantin to build a church; the penance that he inflicted on the malevolent neighbor of the monastery). He works miracles, and makes prophecies. His public service and interaction with the community are among his most important characteristics. He is described as an ascetic only in a short passage at the very end of his Life. In this connection the vita relates that the saint slept on the frozen dirt floor and would heat his cell by burning horse dung (two topoi, later on encountered in other holy foolish Lives).  His courage and boldness are extraordinary: he acts as a man who does not treasure his earthly existence and therefore does not fear anything or anyone. This is a typical reflection of the iurodivyi's apocalyptic stance but is also reminiscent of the courage of more conventional elders and saints who, like the iurodivye, do not identify with the profane plane of existence. Virtually, his only difference from a conventional saint is that, just like the iurodivyi, he always acts and speaks in a strange and eccentric way resembling a madman.
     Yet Mikhail's foolishness does not go any further. He never compromises his reputation as a righteous, pious man. Neither his actions nor his speech are blasphemous. Therefore, one of the key characteristics of the iurodivyi, his subversive behavior, is not a part of Mikhail's image. In fact, Mikhail can hardly be called the iurodivyi in the same sense as St. Simeon or even St. Isidora . Indeed, contrary to the holy foolish paradigm, it is unthinkable for this holy fool to be subjected to either contempt or abuse (inevitable fate of the iurodivyi and, indeed, an essential part of the holy fool's quest). Instead, he is respected as an elder and a saint. Even though he is strange, he is not mad, nor is he perceived as mad. On the contrary, he is depicted as the monastery's highest spiritual authority.  Another major difference from the holy foolish paradigm of Byzantium that we find in Mikhail's vita-and by then a permanent topos of Russian holy foolish Lives-is that his exploit is not kept secret.
     Thus, judging upon the first redaction of Mikhail's vita, we can conclude that he was an elder (starets) or a holy foolish elder (starets-iurodivyi)  rather than a pure iurodivyi. The likelihood of him being an elder is corroborated by the text. While the saint's behavioral pattern is completely distinct from the holy foolish paradigm, his asceticism is not identified as holy foolish either. In the first version of his Life, he is always referred to as a starets, never as a iurodivyi. Only after the changes to the second and third redactions of the Life took place, was the saint's exploit identified as iurodstvo and Mikhail himself was identified as a iurodivyi. In Tuchkov's redaction, Mikhail is called every possible name of the holy foolish saint-bui, pokhab, urod, blazhennyi. Tuchkov even applies to him the Greek term salos. While Mikhail is repeatedly identified as iurodivyi, he is never described or presented as such. In the third redaction of his Life, Mikhail continues to be a slightly eccentric elder, a miracle-worker and, a saint.
     The transformation-even though merely nominal-of Mikhail the elder into Mikhail the iurodivyi was not the only modification done to this character. The saint's image underwent some other crucial changes. Dmitriev notes:

     In the second redaction [of his Life] Mikhail acquires traits, which are meant to show him as the ideal Christian ascetic, but at the same time all the typical traits of his portrait are retained in their original form. (Dmitriev 1958:83)

     Yet the most drastic divergence from the first redaction is to be found in the third one. There the hero is stripped of any individual traits and depicted as an idealized Christian. Dmitriev gives this transformation the following assessment:

     Tuchkov's redaction of the Life is written in accordance with all the hagiographical rules: an account of the saint's life is preceded by a diffuse, verbose introduction. Besides the justification of the hagiographer's motives for undertaking this task and the statement of his unworthiness as an author, which are obligatory in works of this genre, Tuchkov contrives to put on a show of his own learnedness. [To this end] he relates the story of the Russian land beginning with Biblical times. He pays special attention to Novgorod. Tuchkov interrupts the story of the saint's life, inserting his own wordy speculations about the events he describes. After the story about Mikhail's death Tuchkov inserts an extensive and florid eulogy in which he compares his hero to the Biblical prophets. To the only extant story of a posthumous miracle performed by the saint he added four additional miracles, saying that it would be impossible to describe all of them. (Dmitriev 1958:79-80)

     As in the second and third redactions Mikhail's vita undergoes dramatic changes, it is brought in line with the hagiographical standard of the period. If the style of the original is marked by narrative simplicity, direct manner, and vernacular language, then Tuchkov's version is pompous and formulaic. The hagiographer makes use of "word braiding", a fashionable stylistic technique of that period, known as the period of the Second South Slavic Influence.  This florid style deprived the narrative of its originality, practically erasing the putative holy foolish slant of the original. As a result, the hagiographer's effort to conform to the hagiographic formula of the period clashed with his intent to present Mikhail as a holy fool. It is, indeed, ironic that Mikhail, not yet a iurodivyi in the first redaction (which stylistically befits the holy-foolish narrative) became such in the subsequent canonical version of his vita, pompous manner of which was hardly appropriate to describe a holy fool.
     Stylistic changes made to the initial, 'simpler' versions of the Russian holy foolish Lives were a common practice, as indeed was the case with all saints' Lives. Following such changes, the holy foolish vita would lose the spontaneity of the original and start showing a discrepancy between the ornate and embellished style and the lowly and humble hero. These incongruities between the style and the main character would distort and even suppress the image of the iurodivyi. The holy fool would become a stilted and schematized figure whereas his foolishness would be rather stated than described.
     While the third version of Mikhail's vita illustrates this stylistic tendency, the hagiographer's considerations are by far solely stylistic. The transformation of the Life's hero, from the elder to the holy fool, as well as the new stylistic atmosphere of the narrative, are directly linked to the narrative's express political intent. In the fifteenth century this vita was allotted an important role as a piece of political propaganda. It pursued the purpose of promoting the submission of Novgorod to Moscow. Therefore in Tuchkov's redaction Mikhail of Klopsko was made an ardent partisan of Moscow. In this, canonical, version of his vita, Mikhail holds and expresses manifestly pro-Moscow views. His prediction of Moscow's future supremacy sounds not only like a saint's prophesy but in fact amounts to a declaration of God's. After all, because he is a iurodivyi he is also regarded as God's mouthpiece. Thus the topos of the iurodivyi as God's herald comes to serve the role of deification of certain political developments.
     Like many of his holy foolish compatriots, Mikhail entered the political arena-an unthinkable thing for a Byzantine saint, yet a most prominent topos of the Russian iurodstvo.  Indeed, in Russian hagiographic tradition of foolishness in Christ the holy fool becomes thoroughly politicized.  Canonical and apocryphal hagiographies endowed his figure with a variety of political meanings, ascribing to him numerous political activities, statements, and remarks. The fool in Christ of the Russian hagiographies became an instrument of social justice. Similar to the case of Mikhail of Klopsko, political coloring of other holy foolish Lives would come forth as the result of later additions and changes. Yet while in other holy foolish Lives the iurodivye would frequently voice popular resentment and protest, Mikhail's political role was different. He was chosen by the politicized ecclesiastical elite of Novgorod to become the spokesman for their pro-Muscovian political stand. It was a highly appropriate choice as, like all iurodivye, Mikhail was God's prolocutor and, because of his status as a holy fool, he was the people's spokesman.
     Thus, the political role assigned to Mikhail's Life and character sheds light on the otherwise seemingly unmotivated transformation of Mikhail the elder of the original vita into Mikhail the holy fool of its canonical version. This metamorphosis also reflects the pro-iurodivyi bias of that time.
     After considering the first Novgorodian vitae of holy foolish saints we can conclude that they represent Russian iurodstvo as a sui generis phenomenon. As early as the fifteenth century, when the hagiographic image of the Russian fool in Christ acquired its defining traits, it began to considerably deviate from the Byzantine prototype. First, contrary to the Byzantine paradigm, holy-foolish actions of Russian iurodivye were almost never described explicitly. Russian hagiographers attempted to take the edge off the holy fool's controversial and scandalous stance and almost never allowed their heroes to trespass civil and religious laws and regulations. While Russian hagiographers did not completely get rid of the topos of holy foolish behavioral aggression, they utilized it very sparingly and cautiously in fact reducing it to a mere atavistic formula. If St. Simeon's Life has dozens of episodes exemplifying his foolishness, acerbity, and controversy of his mode, in the Lives of Medieval Russian holy fools we usually find just a generic statement that the iurodivyi would play the fool. More often than not this statement would not be corroborated by any episodes displaying the saint's folly. Very seldom would the vita contain one or two examples of the fool's strange actions. The iurodivyi came to be portrayed as a prophet, a clairvoyant, and a sage endowed with divine wisdom rather than as a provocative and audacious religious eccentric. His foolishness would be mostly associated with his being chosen by God and with being endowed with divine power, rather than with aggression against the indifference of the world. Thus, Russian hagiographers annihilated the iurodivyi's divine folly to such a degree, that it became possible to transform Lives of conventional saints into the holy foolish ones by simply adding a few statements declaring that the saint was the iurodivyi! The Life of Mikhail of Klopsko provides a vivid example that such changes were not only theoretically possible but could also take place in real life.
      The second notable feature of Russian holy foolishness-and another major point where it diverges from the Byzantine prototype-manifests itself in the elimination of the topos of the secret character of the holy fool's exploit. Russian holy fools do not hide their piety and asceticism, even though, paying tribute to the Byzantine paradigm, the narrative usually contains a statement that they do. In actuality, contradicting the Byzantine canon, the Russian iurodivyi's Christian role and sanctity are always explicit and admired by the people. Even if, in the beginning of the fool's Life, the community is unaware of his or her sanctity, by the end of the Life this sanctity inevitably comes to the fore. This topos of Russian hagiography makes holy foolish saints considerably different from their Byzantine forefathers whose saintliness would become revealed only upon their death.
     Thirdly, not only did Russian holy fools acquire the status of figures of power, they were also viewed as political figures. They came to represent the voice of the divine justice. As such the fools in Christ would defend the defenseless and castigate their oppressors. Moreover, at times their vitae were utilized to meet concrete political goals, and then the fools in Christ would make concrete political pronouncements. Stylistically, Russian holy foolish Lives (at least in their later redactions) also came to be different from their Byzantine prototypes. These narratives lost the spontaneous, dynamic quality and were brought in line with the Lives of conventional saints.
     The Lives of Novgorodian holy foolish saints testify to a number of modifications that the holy-foolish paradigm underwent on Russian soil. This paradigm was adapted to a concrete socio-political reality of Russia's Medieval North-West-the only Russian area that in the Middle Ages was not overrun by the Mongols. After the fall of Novgorod, the topoi formulated by Novgorodian hagiographers were inherited by their Muscovite followers, who accounted for a tradition that survives to our day.


Challis, Natalie and Dewey Horace W.
1977 "Byzantine Models for Russia's Literature of Divine Folly (Jurodstvo)." Papers in Slavonic Philology, No. 1. (Ed. Benjamin A. Stolz). Ann Arbor.

Challis, Natalie and Dewey Horace W.
1978 "Divine Folly in Old Kievan Literature: The Tale of Isaakii the Cave Dweller." Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 22, No. 3.

Damaskin (Orlovskii), Ieromonakh
1992 Mucheniki, ispovedniki i podvizhniki blagochestiia Rossiiskoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi XX  stoletiia. Tver'.

Dmitriev L. A.  (Ed.)
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Fedotov, G. P.
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Kobets, Svitlana
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  1. St. Simeon lived in the first half of the sixth century. His first, short, Life was written in the sixth century. In the beginning of the seventh century Leontius of Neapolis composed the canonical Life of this fool thus inaugurating the hagiographical tradition of holy foolishness. See the English translation of his vita in Simeon the Holy Fool: Leontius's Life and the Late Antique City (Krueger 1996: 131-173) and its Russian translation in Vizantiiskie legendy (Poliakova 1972: 53-83).
  2. The vita of St. Andrew the Fool was modeled after the Life of St. Simeon. It repeats basic parameters of the paradigm slightly adjusting it to the changed spiritual reality of the tenth-century Byzantium and to the concurrent requirements of hagiographical style and form.
  3. see Panchenko's discussion of the fool as a simpleton in "Smekh kak zrelishche" in: Smekh v Drevnei Rusi (Likhachev 1984: 80).
  4. Many a vitae of Russian holy foolish saints did not survive the cataclysms that befell Russia during Middle Ages. In fact, only an insignificant number of Medieval Russian iurodivye have their own fully-fledged hagiographies (e.g. St. Mikhail of Klopsko, St. Avraamii of Smolensk, St. Nikola Kochanov). The only sources of information about many iurodivye are eulogies and church services devoted to them (e.g. the service to St. Fedor the Blessed (d. 1392)), or merely disconnected episodes from their lost hagiographies (e.g. The Life of St. Prokopii of Ustiug (d. 1303). Many iurodivye are remembered because they were allotted remembrance days in the church calendars (e.g. St. Maxim of Moscow (d. 1433) or were mentioned in chronicles (e.g. St. Nikola of Pskov (d. 1576)). The only source of information about still others are the apocryphal folk tales which were preserved by the people of the saint's native locale (e.g. St. Iakov the Miracle Worker of Borovichi). Moreover, a number of holy foolish vitae were composed only in the nineteenth century during the revival of Russian Christian tradition.
  5. Byzantine Orthodox Church canonized nine fools in Christ. After Russia had been Christianized these Byzantine iurodivye became a part of Russia's pantheon of saints. Some thirty-six holy fools were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church on both the all-Russian and local levels prior to the eighteenth-century State- and Church-sponsored repressions against this type of Christian piety (see the entry on foolishness in Christ in: Marcel Viller. Dictionnaire de Spiritualite ascetique et mystique. Doctrine et l'histoire; in his article, "The Social and Political Role of the Muscovite Fools-in-Christ: Reality and Image," Mikhail Petrovich discusses different opinions evinced by scholars and theologians concerning the number of the canonized iurodivye.
  6. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries canonizations of the holy fools continued. In the post-Soviet period there were composed new hagiographies of contemporaneous holy fools, see Ieromonakh Damaskin (Orlovskii), Mucheniki, ispovedniki i podvizhniki blagochestiia Rossiiskoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi XX stoletiia.
  7. See, for example, Panchenko, Fedotov, Kologrivov.
  8. Scholars of iurodstvo have always tended to treat Byzantine and Russian paradigms interchangeably. There have been no attempts to consistently compare and contrast these two national paradigms. Thus scholars usually talk about the generic paradigm of holy foolishness, implying that the same parameters apply to both Byzantium and Russia. The article of Natalie Challis and Horace W. Dewey, "Byzantine Models for Russia's Literature of Divine Folly (Jurodstvo)" touches upon certain related issues but its focus is different.
  9. After the Cathedral of Trullo (692) had pronounced holy foolishness a dubious practice, Byzantine ecclesiastics conducted an uninterrupted attack on this controversial form of asceticism. Practitioners of this ascetic exploit faced criminal charges.
  10. see Ivanov's discussion of the Byzantine ban on holy foolishness in Chapters 4 and 6 of his monograph, "Vizantiiskoie iurodstvo."
  11. see Natalie Challis and Horace W. Dewey. "Divine Folly in Old Kievan Literature: The Tale of Isaac the Cave Dweller" (2: 255-264).
  12. Developmental stages of Russian iurodstvo are associated with three urban areas: Kiev (XI-XIII c.), Novgorod (XIV-XVI c.) and Moscow (XIV-XVII c.). These cities have also been major centers of Russian Christian spirituality. The fact that at times of their cultural, political, and religious prominence each of these cities domineered the hagiographical arena (and produced the majority of the holy foolish Lives) does not mean that at those times holy foolishness was not observable in other areas. Thus, during the prominence of Muscovy, holy foolishness did not vanish from the Novgorodian lands. Its most famous holy fool was Nikolai of Pskov, the iurodivyi who had defied Ivan the Terrible.
  13. For a discussion of the holy fool's foreignness see Svitlana Kobets, "Foolishness in Christ: East vs. West." 361-363.
  14. This parallel is drawn in the review article by Ju. M. Lotman and B. A. Uspenskii. "New Aspects in the Study of Early Russian Culture." In: Ju. M. Lotman and B. A. Uspenskii, Ann Shukman (ed.) The Semiotics of Russian Culture. Ann Arbor: 1984.
  15. It is interesting to note that Prokopii was venerated by the local people but their attempts to consecrate the shrine built over his grave and to canonize the iurodivyi met with fierce resistance from the clergy. This shrine has been destroyed more than once. Only in 1547 was the local veneration of this holy foolish saint approved by Moscow Cathedral. He has never been granted the status of an all-Russian saint. His present sepulcher was built only in 1833.
  16. Before iurodstvo acquired its distinguishing traits and emerged as a distinct phenomenon, many of its characteristics could be found in the legends and tales representing Lives of lay Christians. The so-called "God's secret servants," saintly figures belonging to the secular realm, are the most momentous forerunners of iurodstvo. See the discussion of "secret sanctity" in Ivanov.
  17. See, for example, The Life of Alexis the Man of God (IV c.) (Poliakova 1972: 156-161) and The Life of the Fool in Christ Pelagia Serebrenikova (XIX c.).
  18. See the letter of a would-be iurodivyi Stefan Trofimovich Nechaev to his mother and wife in Ponyrko's publication, "Pis'ma iurodivogo XVII v." (Likhachev 1984: 205)
  19. By means of this topos the lot of the fool is compared to that of Christ. Similar to the Lord's, the iurodivyi's divine nature is validated only after his death.
  20. It has to be noted that Christian mythology posits that the possessed cannot enter sacred places, namely churches, because dwelling in them demons prevent them from doing so. Satanic forces cannot tolerate sacred places, objects, and prayers.
  21. The Life of Isidora the Fool was written in the fourth century by Isaac Syrin. It is the first canonical holy foolish vita where the holy foolish exploit is set in the monastic environment.
  22. Elders and holy fools share a number of traits. They belong to the ascetic tradition; both are characterized by eccentric behavior; both are miracle-workers and saints. Besides, they both serve people yet are dissociated from the society. It is because of the elder's detachment from the profane plane of existence that he reveals holy foolish traits. Thus asceticism of the starets has a strong admixture of holy foolish elements.
  23. For the discussion of this style and its place in Russian hagiography see Joseph Patrick Manson, Studies in Russian Hagiography during the Period of the Second Slavic Influence. (PhD thesis) (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University, 1968)
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