TIKHON OF ZADONSK

This fellow is Tikhon of Zadonsk (Тихон Задонский/Tikhon Zadonskiy), also called Tikhon of Voronezh (Тихон Воронежский/Tikhon Voronezhskiy).

His partly-abbreviated title inscription reads:

С[ВЯТЫЙ] ТИХОН ЕПИ[СКОП] ВОРОНЕ[ЖСКИЙ]
SVYATUIY TIKHON EPISKOP VORONEZHSKIY

“HOLY TIKHON, BISHOP OF VORONEZH”

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The more naturalistic depiction of his features as well as the position of the fingers of his right hand as it blesses tell us that this is a State Church icon, not one painted by the Old Believers.  And in fact he would not be numbered among Old Believer saints, because he was not officially “glorified” (somewhat the Russian Orthodox equivalent of canonization) until 1861, and then only by the post-Schism State Church, whose authority was not accepted by the Old Believers.  We know from all this that his icons will be from the latter part of the 19th century or later.

Tikhon (born Timofei in 1724) had a miserable, very poor and very difficult childhood, but later studied at the Novgorod Seminary.  He became a monk in 1758, then a year later Rector of the Tver Seminary.  He was made a bishop in 1761, at the age of 37, being first in Novgorod, then in Voronezh.

Now very interestingly, even though this was in the latter half of the 18th century, the people of Voronezh still celebrated an annual holiday in the late spring in honor of the deity Yarilo (Ярило) — a god of the return of spring, of growth of vegetation and fertility.

The holiday was observed in rather riotous fashion — and had been so carried on since the days before the arrival of Christianity.  Now as one might imagine, Bishop Tikhon did not like this at all, and he showed up in the public square in the middle of the festivities, denouncing the celebration with such vehemence that the fun stopped, and that was the end of the Yarilo celebrations each year in Voronezh — at least according to the traditional story of Tikhon’s life.

Tikhon’s health declined, and he spent the years from 1767 until his death in 1783 at the Zadonsk Monastery, where he lived in a small stone house attached to the bell tower by the monastery gate. His health was likely not helped by his sleeping only four or five hours in the day, and his difficult lifestyle.

If accounts of his life are to be believed, he was a very humble person with a sincere care for the poor and suffering, visiting prisoners and donating his pension to charity.  Supposedly he was telepathic, able to read people’s minds, and clairvoyance is also attributed to him, as it is said he predicted (in so many words) the later invasion of Russia and defeat of Napoleon.  Whatever the truth may have been, Tikhon was credited in popular belief with the ability to work miracles.

Tikhon died on August 13, 1783.  His relics — meaning his bodily remains — were said to be incorrupt (you will remember that in Russian folk belief, that indicated either a saint or a vampire), and in 1861 his official “glorification” as a saint took place.

Icons of Tikhon of Zadonsk are rather frequently encountered.  Sometimes they make him look rather haughty and arrogant, as in the icon shown above, but here is a more gentle example:

The inscription reads:

СВЯТВЫЙ ТИХОНЪ ЗАДОНСКИЙ ЧУДОТВОРЕЦЪ
SVYATUIY TIKHON ZADONSKIY CHUDOTVORETS
“HOLY TIKHON OF ZADONSK, WONDERWORKER”

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)