Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saintly Saturday: St. Dionysius the Archimandrite of St. Sergius Monastery

Today is the Feast of St. Dionysius the Archimandrite of St. Sergius Monastery. Born in 1570, St. Dionysius was the head of the Staritsky Dormition monastery (northwest of Moscow) and then, beginning in 1611, St. Sergius Monastery (northeast of Moscow). He died in 1633. Thus, he lived through the entirety of the Time of Troubles, an era plagued by succession wars, foreign invasions and famine. He was foremost aid to St. Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow who himself was imprisoned by Polish-Lithuanian invaders who sought to impose Catholicism on the Russians. St. Dionysius also set up a house and hospice for the injured, sick and homeless. He also ordered that his own monks distribute the best food they had to the poor while surviving on the left-overs.

Dionysius himself was jailed. Ironically, it was by his fellow Orthodox and not the Catholics. During the chaos of the Times of Trouble, discrepancies began showing up in service books. Therefore, Dionysius got involved in trying to remedy the situation by comparing current editions with both ancient Slavic texts and Greek texts. Without understanding what he was doing, the local officials accused him of heresy at Council in 1618. At the intervention of Patriarchs of both Moscow and Jerusalem, he was released and reinstated in 1619.

He is buried at St. Sergius Monastery.

For those who like to put a bunch of politics in their campaigns to create adventure ideas, interesting background noise and opportunities for players to have a huge impact on the campaign world, the Time of Troubles is excellent source material. The Time of Troubles refers to the years in-between the death of the last Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty in 1598 and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. There are several events that could provide center-pieces for major campaign events:
  • The last Rurik Tsar, Feodor, is described as being “mentally-challenged” and the realm was actually being run by his brother-in-law, the boyar Boris Godunov.
  • Prior to Feodor’s death, his younger brother Dmitri was assassinated in mysterious circumstances (some suspect at the order of Godunov).
  • Upon the death of Feodor, Godunov was elected Tsar; however, his reign is plagued by problems.
  • From 1601-1603 summer temperatures at night in Russia fell below freezing, killing crops. One third of the population starved to death.
  • Brigands freely roamed the countryside.
  • Tartars began raiding the southern borders.
  • The princes balked at the idea of taking orders from a mere boyar (akin to a Duke or Earl taking orders from a Baron). Conspiracies against the new Tsar abounded.
  • Godunov was painted as an usurper and rumors that Feodor’s younger brother Dmitri was still alive and in hiding.
  • False Dmitris started to declare themselves and were supported by both the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Catholic) and the Kingdom of Sweden (Protestant) to justify getting involved in a series of succession wars and political assassinations.
In the end, all of this foreign meddling (especially the attempts to impose Catholicism) united the Russians as a people across classes and out of the ashes rose what became the Russian Empire.

This sounds like the perfect place to drop a bunch of creative players to see what kind of mischief could be done…


porphyre77 said...

When you spoke about the problems Dionusius faced for trying to compare different editions of the sacred books, I thought you were going to make a post about editions wars in D&D ;-)

FrDave said...

Heresy I say! Heresy! ;)