Macarius of Moscow

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Our father among the saints Macarius of Moscow (In Russian: Макарий) was archbishop of Novgorod from 1526 to 1542 and Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia from 1542 until 1563. He was a writer and iconographer. His feast day is December 30.


Little is known of his early life. He was born in the region near Moscow about the year 1482. Only his mother's monastic name is known from his dedication to her in the Great Menaion Reader. His secular name is believed to have been Mikhail. [1]

In the late fifteenth century, Macarius received his tonsure as a monk at the St. Paphnutius Monastery in Borovsk, where he served through the holy orders as a reader, subdeacon, deacon, and then priest. It was at the monastery that Macarius mastered the art of iconography. He is also known to have been a firm supporter of Joseph Volotsky, the proponent of monastic land ownership (possessors/Josephites), and his disciples.

In February 1523, Metr. Daniel of Moscow raised Macarius to the rank of archimandrite of Luzhetsk Monastery in Mozhaisk, west of Moscow. It was at Luzhetsk Monastery that Macarius became acquainted with Basil III, the Grand Prince of Moscow. He was one of a few clerics who supported Basil's divorce (confounded to a convent) from the barren Solomonia Saburova and blessed his second marriage with Elena Glinskaya, mother of Ivan IV.

On March 4, 1526, Macarius was appointed Archbishop of Novgorod and Pskov, a see that had been vacant since 1508. While archbishop of Novgorod, Makary undertook reorganization of the monasteries and promoted missionary activity to the population in the northern reaches of his jurisdiction. He sent the monk Il'ia and others as missionaries among the Finno-Ugric peoples along the Neva River and Lakes Ladoga and Onega, as well as up into the Kola Peninsula.

In 1531, Abp. Macarius participated in a council that tried the monks Maximus the Greek, Isaac Sobaka, and Vassian Patrikeyev for holding heretical views. Later in 1551, as Metropolitan of Moscow, Makary released Maximus from imprisonment and allowed him to move to the Trinity - St. Sergius Monastery now in Sergiyev Posad. However, he would not allow Maximus to return to Greece. In 1541, Macarius and his co-workers completed work on the first edition of the Great Menaion Reader (Velikie Minei-Chetii in Russian). This compilation of lives of the Russian saints comprised twelve volumes arranged in a monthly order. He is also credited with beginning the Stepennaia Kniga (The Book of Degrees of Royal Genealogy) which traced Ivan IV, the Terrible's lineage back to a fictitious brother of Caesar Augustus named Prus.[2] He is also said to have painted the icons of the little iconostasis of St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. [3]

On March 16, 1542, Abp. Macarius was elected Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia. During Ivan IV's legal minority and Shuisky's regency, Macarius' relations with the Boyar Duma gradually worsened due to his constant "grief" over the disgrace of courtiers and church dignitaries. His independent-mindedness induced a number of attempts to dislodge him. In the summer of 1544, Metr. Macarius escaped a sure death in a fire raging in the Moscow Kremlin. Three years later, he took part in removing Ivan's maternal relatives, the Glinskys, from the Russian government.

Upon becoming one of the closest advisers of Ivan the Terrible, Metr. Macarius arranged his coronation on January 16, 1547. That same year, he blessed the tsar's marriage with Anastasia Zakharyina-Yuriyeva. Macarius was an active participant at the zemsky sobors of 1547, 1549, and 1550, advocating conciliation between the opposing boyar groups.

During the synod of 1549, Metr. Macarius achieved the excommunication of the associate of Maximus the Greek, Isaac Sobaka who was archimandrite of Chudov Monastery. Curiously enough, Macarius would later correspond with the exiled Maximus and include some of his essays in the Great Menaion Reader. However, Metr. Macarius rejected his appeals for pardon. During Stoglav and other such synods (traditionally known as Macarius' synods in Russian historiography), Macarius carried out the glorification of 39 Russian saints. In 1551, Macarius (together with the tsar) convened the so called Stoglavi Sobor (Council of the Hundred Chapters). He also blessed the Russian army before its departure to Kazan in 1552.

During his Kazan campaign in 1552, Ivan the Terrible left Macarius in Moscow to "protect the tsardom", which made him a temporary head of state. Macarius was in charge of diplomatic negotiations and dispatching messengers abroad with different deeds. In 1552 and 1554, Metr. Macarius completed the second and third editions of the Grand Menaion. During the church councils in 1553-1555, Macarius supported the accusations of heresy, aimed at a boyar's son Matvei Bashkin, starets Artemiy, and monk Theodosius Kosoy. However, he took the side of Sylvester, a monk at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin who had been accused by diak Ivan Viskovatyi of uncanonical wall-painting of Annunciation Cathedral.

In 1555, Metr. Makary established the Diocese of Kazan.

The painting of the Saint Basil's Cathedral and Kremlin's Golden Chamber was carried out with his assistance. He also took part in compiling the Chronicle of the Beginning of Tsardom of Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasiliyevich, i.e., an official chronicle of Ivan the Terrible's reign, and the Regal Book, an illuminated manuscript about Ivan's reign and policies.

In his declining years, Metr. Macarius moved away from the affairs of the state. He supervised the creation of the Stepennaya kniga (or the Book of Generations), supported Ivan Fyodorov's book-printing, and renovated icons. Metr. Macarius died on January 12, 1563 in Moscow. He was buried in Cathedral of the Dormition of the Moscow Kremlin. After his death, his life and A Tale of the Last Days of Metropolitan Macarius were written. Metr. Macarius was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1988, although his name is found in lists of saints dating back to the 1700s.[4] His icon hangs in a niche over the archway of the entrance to the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents in Moscow.

Succession box:
Macarius of Moscow
Preceded by:
Archbishop of Novgorod
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Metropolitan of Moscow
Succeeded by:
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  1. Makarii, (Petr Ivanovich Veretennikov, Archimandrite) Zhizn' i trudy Makariia, Mitropolita Moskovskogo i vseia Rusi (Sergiev Posad: Ves' Sergiev Posad, 2002).
  2. David B. Miller, “The Velikie Minei Chetii and the Stepennaia Kniga of Metropolitan Makarii and the Origins of Russian National Consciousness.” Forschungen zur Osteuropäischen Geschichte 26 (1979): 263-382.
  3. T. Iu. (Tatiana Iur’evna) Tsarevskaia, St. Sofia’s Cathedral in Novgorod, D. G. Fedosov, trans. (Moscow: Severnyi Palomnik, 2005). This is an English translation of Sofiiskii sobor v Novgorode. 2nd ed. (Moscow: Severnyi palomnik, 2005).
  4. Makarii, Zhizn' i Trudy Makariia.


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