Commemorated on February 15 and June 25
Saint Dalmatius is venerated as a pioneer of the movement that
took many ascetics to dwell in the wilderness of Siberia, establishing a new
company of Desert Fathers and causing the Russian Far North to be called the
'Northern Thebaid.' He was born in Tobolsk and reared in piety by his family,
recently-converted Tatars. When grown, he entered the imperial army as a Cossack
and served with such distinction that the Tsar awarded him a noble title. He
married and lived in Tobolsk in comfort and prosperity. One day — after the
destruction of Tobolsk in a great fire in 1643 — struck by a realization of the
vanity of worldly things, he left family, wealth and property and went to a
monastery in the Ural Mountains, taking with him only an icon of the Dormition
of the Theotokos.
He was tonsured a monk with the name of Dalmatius, and devoted himself to
prayer and ascesis with such fervor that, a short time later, the brethren
elected him Abbot. Fearing pride and fleeing honor, Dalmatius fled with his icon
of the Theotokos to a remote cave, where he lived a life of silence and
continual prayer. His presence did not long remain secret in that
sparsely-settled region, and soon Christians were coming from far and wide to
ask his prayer and counsel; many pagans came to him for holy Baptism. Soon his
habitation became too small for those who had chosen to stay as his disciples,
and the Saint received a blessing from the Bishop of Tobolsk to build a wooden
chapel and some cells. This was the beginning of the great Monastery of the
Dormition (also called the Monastery of St Dalmatius).
Over the years the brethren endured many tribulations. Once the Tatar Prince
of the region, provoked by false rumors, planned to destroy the monastery and
kill all the monks. The night before the attack, the holy Mother of God appeared
to the prince in resplendent clothes, holding a flaming sword in one hand and a
scourge in the other. She forbade the Prince to harm the monastery or the
brethren, and commanded him to give them a permanent concession over the region.
Convinced by this vision, the Prince made peace with the monks and became the
Monastery's protector, though he was a Muslim.
In the succeeding years the Monastery was repeatedly burned down by the fierce
pagan tribes which inhabited the area; once all the monks except St Dalmatius
himself were butchered, but always the monastery was rebuilt. The Saint reposed
in peace in 1697, and was succeeded as abbot by his own son Isaac, who built a
stone shrine at the Monastery to house the relics of the Saint and the icon of
the Mother of God which he had kept with him throughout his monastic life.