Philotheus of Pskov

From OrthodoxWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Philotheus of Pskov, also Filofei (Russian: Филофей) of Pskov, was the igumen of the Yelizarov (Spaso-Eleazar) Monastery in Pskov in the sixteenth century. He is credited with the formulation of the concept that Moscow had become the Third Rome after the fall of Constantinople, the Second Rome.


Little is known of the life of Philotheus. He was born about 1460, in what is now Ukraine, and became a monk at the Spaso-Eleazar Monastery in Pskov, Russia. He became noted for his epistles and writings among which are his letters to Grand Prince Basil III and to Tsar Ivan IV. He was a supporter of the principles of the Josephites (Possessors).

Philotheus was familiar with the biblical prophecies of Ezra and Daniel, with historical precedents from Serbia, [1], and the second Bulgarian Empire, with the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius and the Chronicle of Byzantine Manasses, as well as the Legend of the White Cowl. At the time such knowledge was not unique. Philotheus was unusual only in their use by him for the benefit of the princes of Muscow. Like Novgorod, Pskov lived in fear of Moscow. The monks of these cities were fiercely anti-Muscovite. When they made references in their Chronicle to Nebuchadnezzar's Dream, or to the four beasts of Daniel's Vision, they did so in a manner that identified Nebuchadnezzar with Moscow. For whatever reason, Philotheus was prepared to turn the material round to Moscow advantage.

In 1493, he held no office of authority in Eleazar monastery where he would later be the igumen or abbot. Nor had he written any of the public letters which were to make him famous. Yet the ferment within the Church that shaped his views was already in progress. In time he became an advocate of the complete submission of all Christians to the Tsar as well as total opposition to the Latin Church. In his letters to Grand Prince Basil III, to Tsar Ivan IV, and to M. G. Misiur-Munekhin, the head of administration in Pskov after its incorporation into the Russian state, Philotheus supported in his writings the principles of the Josephites as well as the theory of Moscow as the third Rome. His letters affirmed the idea of the succession of Moscow and the Russian state to the leadership of the Orthodox Christian world after Constantinople had lost that leadership with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. He also supported the annexation of Pskov by Moscow which occurred in 1510.

Philotheus reposed in Pskov in 1542. In 2009, archaeologists of the Pskov archaeological center, reported the discovery of Philotheus' grave in the cemetery by the Cathedral of the Three Hierarchs of the Monastery of the Saviour and St. Eleazar in Pskov.