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Isidore of Yuriev

The Holy Hieromartyr Isidore of Yuriev is remembered with his seventy two companions for their martyrdom during the days of the Livonian Confederation of the fifteenth century for upholding their Orthodox Faith against the Roman Catholic authorities demand they convert. He and his companions are commemorated on January 8.


Nothing is known of the life of Isidore other than the incident that led to his martyrdom. He was a priest of the church of St Nicholas in the city of Yuriev (Derpto), now Taru in Estonia, which was part of the Livonian Confederation, then controlled by the Roman Catholic Livonian knights. Under a treaty of 1463 between the knights and Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow, the knights were obligated to protect the Orthodox people at Derpto. However, the Livonian knights broke the treaty and initiated a campaign to force the Orthodox believers to become Roman Catholics.

In the face of this campaign, the Fr. Isidore bravely defended the Orthodox faith and people against the demands of the Latin bishop and nobility of Yuriev who had been listening to the claims that Fr. Isidore and the Orthodox population of the city had spoken against the faith and customs of the German rulers.

On the day of the Feast of Theophany, January 6, 1472, Fr. Isidore, with seventy two parishioners, went to the River Omovzha, now the Emajogi, to bless the waters. After they had prepared a hole in the ice for the blessing, Fr. Isidore and his parishioners were arrested by the German authorities and brought before the Latin bishop Andrew and the civil judges of the city. Under Fr. Isidore's lead, his companions held firm in rejecting the demands for conversion and refused to renounce Christ or the Orthodox Faith. This enraged the authorities who then had them thrown into prison.

Understanding the dire times, Fr. Isidore encouraged his flock to prepare themselves for death, and not to fear torture. He partook of the reserved Gifts he carried with him, then communed all the men, women, and children with the Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries of Christ.

The bishop and the judges again summoned the Orthodox people to appear before them, this time demanding that they convert to Catholicism. Bravely refusing to do so, the congregation were dragged back to the river. There, they were manhandled and pushed through the hole in the ice they had previously cut to bless the water. So they all suffered and died for Christ, Who bestowed on them crowns of unfading glory. It was January 8, two days since Theophany.

During the spring floods, some three miles upstream from Yuriev, the incorrupt bodies of the holy martyrs, including the fully-vested body of the hieromartyr Isidore, were found beneath a tree by a hill. Orthodox merchants who traveled along the river bank found them. They lay facing east as though they were laid there by human hands with their Father laying in their midst in his vestments. They were buried with the saints around the church of St. Nicholas.

Although people locally began to venerate these sainted martyrs shortly after their death, the Church did not officially glorify them until 1897.