Tryphon of Pechenga

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The Venerable Tryphon of Pechenga (Russian: Преподобный Трифон Печенгский, Кольский, Finnish: Pyhittäjä Trifon Petsamolainen (Kuolalainen), and Skolt Sami: Pââˊss Treeffan) was an ascetic missionary monk of the Church of Russia who lived on the Kola Peninsula and in Lapland in the sixteenth century. He is considered to be the founder of the Pechenga Monastery. He is now revered as the Enlightener of Lapland for his great missionary labors among the Lapps. His feast day is December 15. He is also remembered on the Saturday between the last day of October and November 6, the day of memory of All Enlighteners of Karelia.


In 1495, Tryphon was born into a priestly family in the town of Torzhok in the Novgorod region of Russia. He was baptized Mitrophan and, at an early age, felt the desire to serve God and to lead a life of a hermit. Although he only knew them from fish vendors, Mitrophan resolved early to go to the Sami - pagan Laplanders - and proclaim to them the Gospel of God. Prodded by a voice, while he was praying in the forest, to go into the "thirsty land" to preach to the pagans, Mitrophan journeyed north to the wild lands of the Kola Peninsula about the year 1520. He established himself on the banks of the Pechenga River and began to acquaint himself with the people, their language, and their pagan religious beliefs.

The Lapps greeted Mitrophan's preaching with great mistrust. Their sorcerers incited the people against him, causing him much hardship, insults, and even beatings. He often had to hide in caves. He lived a life of an ascetic, devoting his nights to prayer. Yet, through his wise and kindly words and meekness, he found that the number of those who listened to him increased. Soon, many became believers in Christ. He was greatly aided in his evangelism with the arrival of the future saint Theodoretos, a monk from the Solovetsky Monastery, who knew the Sami language. As the numbers increased, Mitrophan and Theodoretos, with the blessing of Archbishop Macarius of Novgorod, built for them a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. But, he did not try to baptize them himself.

In 1532, hieromonk, Father Elias, came to Mitrophan's hermitage to consecrate the church and baptize all those who wanted to be baptized. He also tonsured Mitrophan with the monastic name of Tryphon. Next to the church, Tryphon now established the Pechenga-Trinity Monastery, that he led. Later, Abbot Gury was appointed the superior of the monastery that began to attract those searching for a monastic life in the wilderness. In 1556, the two monks traveled to Moscow where they were presented with a rich donation, that allowed the poor monastery to continue, and a citation by Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible).

Tryphon later established the Dormition Hermitage on the site of his original cell on the Pechenga River. Dormition Hermitage he designated in his will as his place of burial. Also, near the then border between Norway and Russia, Tryphon built at the mouth of the Paats River (Paatsjoki) a church dedicated to the Holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb, a church that exists to today.

Tryphon reposed, as Enlightener of the Sami, on December 15, 1583 at the age of 88, having lived at Pechenga for almost sixty years. Soon after his death the local people began to venerate him as a saint.

Before his death, St Tryphon foretold the destruction of the Pechenga-Trinity monastery by the Swedes. This occurred in 1589, with the death of a hundred monks and workers. When the monastery was rebuilt, it was moved to the Kola Peninsula. There a church dedicated to St Tryphon was also built, and over his grave a church was built that was dedicated to the Meeting of Our Lord.


See also