Holy Nobleborn Prince Vsevolod of Pskov, in Baptism Gabriel (Gavriil)
Commemorated on February 11, April 22
Prince Vsevolod of Pskov, in Baptism Gabriel (Gavriil), a grandson of
Vladimir Monomakh, was born at and spent almost all his life in Novgorod, where
in the years 1088-1093 and 1095-1117 his father ruled as prince. His father was
the holy prince Saint Mstislav-Theodore (Feodor) the Great (+ 15 April 1132). In
the year 1117, when Greatprince Vladimir Monomakh gave Mstislav Kievan Belgorod
as his "udel" (land-holding), practically making him co-ruler, young
Vsevolod remained as vicar of his father in the Novgorod principality.
Holy Prince Vsevolod did much good for Novgorod. Together with the Archbishop of Novgorod, Saint Nyphontii (Comm. 8 April), he raised up many a church, among which were – the cathedral of the GreatMartyr George at the Yur'ev monastery, and the church of Saint John the Forerunner at Opokakh, built in honour of the "Angel" (i.e. "patron saint") of his first-born son John, who had died in infancy (+ 1128). In his Ustav (Law-code) the prince bestowed a grammota-deed of privileges to the cathedral of Saint Sophia and other churches. During the time of a terrible famine, to save people from perishing, he exhausted his entire treasury. Prince Vsevolod was a valiant warrior, he marched victoriously against the Yam (in 1123) and Chud peoples, but never did he brandish the sword for lucre or power.
In 1132, upon the death of holy Greatprince Mstislav, Vsevolod's uncle the Kiev prince Yaropolk Vladimirovich followed up the last-wishes of his brother and transferred Vsevolod Pereyaslavl'-South, then reckoned the eldest city after Kiev itself. But the younger sons of Monomakh – Yurii Dolgoruky and Andrei Dobry, were apprehensive lest Yaropolk make Vsevolod his successor, and so they marched out against their nephew. Not wanting internecine strife, Saint Vsevolod returned to Novgorod, but was received there with disaffection. The Novgorodians reckoned, that the prince had been "raised" by them and should not earlier have left them. "Vsevolod did go to Rus', to Pereslavl', – noted the Novgorod chronicler, – and did kiss the cross against the Novgorodians, saying, "Ye I would kill"".
Striving to restore good relations with the Novgorodians, the prince in 1133 undertook a new victorious campaign against the Chud people, and he annexed Yur'ev to the Novgorod domain. But an harsh Winter campaign in 1135-1136 against Suzdal' ended unsuccessfully. The stubborn minded Novgorodians would not heed their chastisement by God, and they could not forgive the prince their defeat. The veche-assembly decided to summon a prince from the hostile Monomakh line of the Ol'govichei, and Saint Vsevolod they condemned to banishment: "Thou didst suffer banishment from thine own", – is sung in the tropar to the saint. For a month and an half they held the prince with his family under guard at the archbishop's palace, and when prince Svyatoslav Ol'govich arrived, "he was expelled from the city".
Vsevolod went again to Kiev, and his uncle Yaropolk gave him as holding the Vyshgorod district near Kiev, – the place where in the X Century during the rule of her son Svyatoslav had lived holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Greatprincess Olga (Comm. 11 July). Saint Olga, "well preferring the cities of Kiev and Pskov", came to the defense of her unrighteously wronged descendant: in the following year of 1137 the people of Pskov, mindful of the campaigns of the Novgorod-Pskov army under the lead of the prince, invited him to the Pskov principality, the native region of Saint Olga. This was the first Pskov prince, chosen through the will of the Pskov people itself.
Among the glorious works of holy prince Saint Vsevolod-Gabriel at Pskov was the construction of the first stone church in the Name of the Life-Originating Trinity, replacing a wooden one from the times of Saint Olga. On the icons of the saint they often depict him holding a temple "of That Above – the Holy Trinity".
Saint Vsevolod ruled as prince at Pskov for only a year – on 11 February 1138 he died, at age 46. All Pskov gathered at the funeral of the beloved prince, and the church singing could barely be heard over the people's wailing. The Novgorodians, in retrospect, sent off an archpriest from the Sophia cathedral to take his holy body back to Novgorod, but the prince had become loatheful of Novgorod, and the coffin would not move from the spot. Bitterly then did the Novgorod people bewail and repent in their misfortune, and they then besought to be given but a small bit of the holy dust "for upholding their city". Through their prayers fell out a fingernail from the hand of the saint. The Pskov people put Saint Vsevolod into the temple of the holy GreatMartyr Demetrios. Alongside the grave they placed the military armament of the prince – shield and sword, in cruciform shape, with the Latin inscription to wit, – "I give away mine honour to no one".
On 27 November 1192, the relics of holy Prince Vsevolod were uncovered and transferred into the Trinity cathedral, in which a chapel was consecrated in his honour.
On 22 April 1834, on the first day of Pascha, the holy relics were solemnly transferred into the main church-area of the cathedral.
The deep spiritual bond of the city of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga with holy Prince Vsevolod was never broken: he always remained a Pskov wonderworker. At the siege of Pskov by Stefan Bathory in 1581, when the fortress walls were already breached and the Poles were ready to rush into the city, from the Trinity cathedral with a church procession they brought to the place of battle the holy relics of Prince Vsevolod, and the enemy withdrew. And with the appearance of the wonderworking Pskovo-Pechersk Icon (Comm. 1 October), holy Nobleborn Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel has stood amidst the Heavenly defenders of Pskov.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.