Pavel of Taganrog
The blessed starets Pavel of Taganrog (Pavel Taganrogskiy, Святой блаженный Павел Таганрогский) dramatically influenced the belief in God and spiritual outlook of inhabitants of Taganrog, Don Land, South of Russia and Ukraine. A plain layman, who lived in Taganrog in the 19th century, he conciliated love and worship of Russian Orthodox Christians, who flowed to him for a piece of advice and spiritual support. His feast day is celebrated on March 10.
Pavel Pavlovich Stoykov was born on November 21 (November 8th OS), 1792, in Malorossia guberniya of the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) in a rich noble family. His parents—collegiate registrar Pavel and Paraskeva—were devoutly religious people; they infused in the heart of their son belief in God and piety. Since his youth Pavel had felt a flaming love for holy places and pilgrimage. He related about himself: "All my desire was to pray to God, my intention was to go on pilgrimage to rescue my soul, because surrounding life was full of secular vanity and impeded my holy wish." His father would never let him become a clergyman; he wanted to provide his son with a higher education. Instead of this, the 16-year-old young man followed the voice of his heart, secretly left the home of his parents and went on pilgrimages to monasteries for a year and finally received a severe punishment from his father.
When Pavel was 25 years old, his father decided to divide the property between him and his elder brother Ivan. With a comfortable inheritance, the young ascetic dispensed it in Christ's name; his father gave his blessing and young Pavel left home forever. He wandered to holy places, including Kiev Pechersk Lavra and Pochaiv Lavra several times. He often went to the north of Russia, visiting Solovetsky, Verkolskiy, Kojeozerskiy cloisters and many others.
After 10 years of pilgrimage, blessed Pavel settled in Taganrog in the years from 1825 to 1830. Taganrog became the saint's second home city, where he lived a simple life with no regard for his noble birth. Blessed Pavel spent the first years of his life in Taganrog renting different flats. Later, he moved into a house on Depaldo Street (now "Pereulok Turgenevskiy"), not far from St. Nicholas Church. Thanks to the dean of Taganrog county, archpriest Alexander Klyunkov, this house still exists and is known among people as the "keliya of starets Pavel."
Pavel devoted all of his life to serving God. Although Pavel was not in orders, essentially he led an ascetic monastic life in a bustling town; he kept constantly a severe fast and gave himself to incessant prayers. He ate a little. In his old age he drank only one cup of kvass with a soaked rusk a day. He slept also only a little, commonly on a bare bench without a pillow. He put on plain peasant clothes and spoke simple Low-Russian language. He told no one about his noble birth. Throughout his life he went to the church every day to pray; at night he made all-night vigils. Insensibly he accustomed his novices to this way of life. While there was the strength Blessed Paul often traveled to holy places, including journeys of 3000 versts on foot to Solovki more than once. However, in old age he could go no longer; he dispatched to monasteries the novices and believers who came to him.
Blessed Pavel was full of love. All of his life, he received everyone in his keliya, liked to present people with gifts, and gave counsels on how to live and how to rescue their own souls. For the righteous life God endowed Pavel with gifts of astuteness and prevision, with gifts to work miracles and to heal people. Pavel became very famous during his lifetime. In the five final years of his life, Pavel never went out of his house, and ate and slept little. He died on March 23 (OS March 10), 1879, at the time of the Great Fast at the age of 78.
On June 20, 1999, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Pavel. Many people saw and remember a unique aureole in the sky over the St. Nicholas Church in Taganrog on the day of Blessed Pavel's canonization. Today many people come from all corners of Russia to the shrine with his holy relics, which are kept at the St. Nicholas Church in Taganrog. The chapel at the old cemetery is never empty; the lamps in front of holy icons in his keliya never die down. Thanks to St. Pavel's prayers, believers receive from God healing, consolation, and divine help.