Nicholas (Salos) of Pskov

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The Blessed Nicholas (Salos) of Pskov, the Fool-for-Christ, was an ascetic of the sixteenth century, known as Mikula the Fool, and, who during his lifetime, was revered by the people of Pskov as a saint, even calling him Mikula, the saintly. He is commemorated on February 28.


Little is known of his early life. Nicholas lived the life of a holy fool for more than three decades. During his lifetime he acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and was granted the gifts of wonderworking and of prophecy. It is for his confrontation with Tsar Ivan the Terrible that the Blessed Nicholas is remembered.

After a devastating campaign against Novgorod, Tsar Ivan moved in February 1570 against the city of Pskov, suspecting its inhabitants of treason. As the Pskov Chronicler relates, "the Tsar came ... with great fierceness, like a roaring lion, to tear apart innocent people and to shed much blood." On the first Saturday of Great Lent, the whole city prayed to be delivered from the wrath of Tsar Ivan. After hearing the peal of the bell for Matins in Pskov, Ivan's heart softened when he read the inscription on the fifteenth century wonderworking Liubyatov Icon of the Mother of God of Tenderness[1] in the Monastery of St. Nicholas at Lubyatov. "Be tender of heart," he said to his soldiers. "Blunt your swords upon the stones, and let there be an end to killing."

As the Tsar entered the city, all the inhabitants of Pskov came out upon the streets where each family knelt at the gate of their house, bearing bread and salt to the meet him. On one of the streets the Blessed Nicholas ran toward Tsar Ivan astride a stick as though riding a horse, and cried out: "Ivanushko, Ivanushko, eat our bread and salt, and not Christian blood." The Tsar gave orders to capture the holy fool, but he disappeared.

Though he had forbidden his men to kill, Tsar Ivan still intended to sack the city. As the Tsar attended a Molieben at the Trinity cathedral and venerated the relics of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel, he expressed his wish to receive the blessing of the holy fool Nicholas. St. Nicholas instructed the Tsar, "by many terrible sayings," to stop the killing and not to plunder the holy churches of God. But, not heeding the holy saint, Ivan gave orders to remove the bell from the Trinity cathedral. Then, as St. Nicholas prophesied, the Tsar's finest horse fell dead.

The Blessed Nicholas invited the Tsar to visit his cell under the bell tower. When the Tsar arrived at his cell the saint said, "Hush, come in and have a drink of water from us, there is no reason you should shun it." Then, the holy fool offered Tsar Ivan a piece of raw meat to which Ivan responded, "I am a Christian and do not eat meat during Lent". To which the saint replied, "But you drink human blood".

Thus, frightened by the fulfillment of the saint's prophecy and denounced for his wicked deeds, Ivan ordered a stop to the looting and fled from the city. The Oprichniki having witnessing this, wrote, "The mighty tyrant ... departed beaten and shamed, driven off as though by an enemy. Thus did a worthless beggar terrify and drive off the Tsar with his multitude of a thousand soldiers."

Blessed Nicholas died on February 28, 1576. He was buried in the Trinity cathedral of Pskov, the city he had saved, an honor granted only to the princes of Pskov, and later on, to bishops.

The local veneration of Nicholas Fool-For-Christ began five years after his death. In the year 1581, during a siege of Pskov by the soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Bathory, the Mother of God appeared to the blacksmith Dorotheus together with a number of Pskov saints praying for the city. Among these was the Blessed Nicholas.