MITROFAN OF VORONEZH

One often sees later icons of certain members of the Russian Orthodox State Church clergy, saints not accepted by the Old Believers.  Given that they are State Church icons, they tend to have a very strong western European influence, which means they are painted more realistically than the traditional stylization in iconography favored by the Old Believers.  One of the commonly-seen figures is Mitrofan (Mitrophan) of Voronezh (1623-1703).

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The very clear title inscription on this icon identifies him as:
S[vya]tuiy Mitrofan Voronezhskiy Chudotv[vorets]
“Holy Mitrofan, Wonder-worker of Voronezh”

He is called a “Wonder-worker” because it was said he could work miracles.

Voronezh is a city in southwestern Russia, and Mitrofan was made first bishop of that city.  Here is an 18th century view of it.  Note the abundance of churches:

 

There are cannons and stacks of cannonballs in the foreground, as well as a boat and another under construction.  This was the time of Peter the Great, who used Voronezh as a boat-building site for the fleet he used in the Russo-Turkish War in the campaign to capture the Turkish fortress of Azov.  Mitrofan was a strong supporter of Peter’s activities in that war.

Originally a married parish priest, Mitrofan became a monastic in 1663, after the death of his wife.  Three years later he was made head of a monastery, then in 1675 became an archimandrite.  In 1682 he was consecrated bishop of Voronezh.

Though Mitrofan was an avid supporter of the reforms and the military campaign of Peter the Great, he refused to visit the Tsar in his court, because he said there were “pagan idols” there — statues of classical deities.  It was only when Peter removed the statues that Mitrofan would come.  Not only an advisor of the Tsar, Mitrofan even contributed monetarily to the building of the Azov fleet.

At this point it is worth briefly mentioning the Azovskaya icon of Mary, even though it was created after the Russian victory on the Sea of Azov in a later campaign, the Austro-Russian–Turkish War (1735–39).  One can hardly find a more obvious symbol of how intimately connected Church and State had become in Russia:

Mary, with the child Jesus on her breast, stands before the Russian double-headed eagle, the symbol of the Russian State.  At left just above here is St. Peter, who calls to mind Peter the Great.  On the opposite side is the Evangelist John.  At her left and right stand the monks Antoniy and Feodosiy and Alipiy Pecherskiy as well as Moise (Moses) Ugrin, Prokhor, and Mark Pecherskiy.  At lower left, St. George slays a dragon, used here as a symbol of the defeat of the Ottoman Turks by Russia.    At the base is the Fortress of Azov.  It is the kind of icon favored by nationalists.

But back to Mitrofan.  Here is another icon of him:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Let’s take a quick look at the title inscription:

We see an abbreviated Svyatuiy for “Holy,” then Mitrofan is written in full (note the “t” above the “r”.  And it finishes with the abbreviated words Episko for Episkop, meaning “Bishop”  and Vorone for Voronezhskiy, meaning “of Voronezh.”  Remember that when you see the curved horizontal line above a word, it indicates an abbreviation.

Finally, let’s take a look at the text on the book he is holding:

It is a partial variant of one of Mitrofan’s best-known maxims:

Употреби труд, храни мерность — [богат будеши.] Воздержно пий, мало яждь — здрав [будеши. Твори благо, бегай злаго — спасен будеши].

“Do labour, keep a balance, and you will be rich. Drink temperately, eat little, and you will be healthy. Do good, shun evil, and you will be saved.

 

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