The Venerable Anthony of the Caves (died in 1073) was the founder of the first monastic hermit in Kievan Rus – Kiev-Pechersk Assumption monastery. St. Anthony went to Mount Athos and brought to Kiev his experience of ascetic life and general principles of monastic life. Before the emergence of Kiev-Pechersky hermitage in Kiev, Kiev had only small monasteries founded by the grand princes which operated with their donations.

The surviving historical accounts of Anthony of the Cave’s life are few in number and controversial. According to chronicles, the Venerable Anthony was born in Liubech. In one of the copies of the Tale of Bygone Years St. Anthony is referred to as Antipas. Antipas was tonsured in one of the monasteries on Athos. Upon return to Rus, the Venerable Anthony settled in the vicinity of Kiev, in a cave over the river Dniepr near the village of Berestovo, the estate of the grand prince. Soon thereafter the monks, wishing to model themselves on St. Anthony, began to settle near his cave. Having appointed one of them – Barlaam – hegumen of the monastery, St. Anthony secluded himself in a neighboring cave. He blessed the construction of a wooden Assumption church. However, a conflict with a Kievan prince forced him to leave the monastery. Some sources claim that he headed for Athos, while others tell that the saint went to Chernigov where he founded the Boldinsky cave monastery. Shortly before his death the Venerable Anthony returned to Kiev. He died in a cave and was buried there.

In iconography the Venerable Anthony Pechersky is depicted as an old man with grey hair and a beard, in clerical attire, with a baptismal cap on the head and a scroll in the hand. The earliest known image of the saint is an icon of Anthony of the Caves on the horseback – The Mother of God Pecherskaya (Svenskaya) with the interceding Theodosius (1288?) from the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. In addition to this icon, there are frontal images of the Venerable Anthony, both single and group ones, such as, for example on an early 16th century embroidered cloth from the collections of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. If there existed a throne dedicated to the saint, his image would have had to be included in the Deesis row of an iconostasis.

St. Anthony Pechersky is commemorated on July 23 (July 10, O.S.), September 15 (September 2, O.S.), October 11 (September 28, O.S.) and in the second week of the Great Lent – in the Synaxis of all saint Kiev-Pechersk fathers and all the saints who shone forth in the Land of Small Russia.
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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