Sister Joanna Reitlinger

I gave a talk recently in Northampton on the paintings and church decoration of Sister Joanna Reitlinger.

St Anne’s Orthodox Church in Northampton is in the process of installing a series of mural paintings by her originally done for the Society of SS Alban and Sergius when it was based in London. She was a Russian emigré living in Paris and for a while she was part of the Atelier d’Art Sacré founded by the French Catholic painter Maurice Denis. My talk was centred on Denis and on the encounter between Catholic and Orthodox approaches to painting in the early twentieth century. I’ve now posted it on my own website here

I also have a couple of pieces on another part of my website that may be of interest. One of them a general introductory account of the history of Orthodoxy and the other about the early days of the Moscow Patriarchate established, or re-established, in 1917 in the context of the formation of the Bolshevik state.


The Moscow Patriarchate and the Bolshevik Revolution

Note: There are many different ways of transcribing Russian words and names into the Western alphabet. For example:
Alexei may be spelt Alexey, Alexi, Alexii, Alexios, Alexius, Alexy, Alexiy, Akexis, Aleksey, Aleksi.
Sergey may be spelt Sergei, Serge, Sergios, Sergius, Serguei, Sergii
I have not myself settled on any given principle and in what follows transcriptions will vary according to the different sources I am using.


The centenary of the Bolshevik revolution is also the centenary of the institution of the Moscow patriarchate. The Bolshevik seizure of power took place on October 25th (November 7th) 1917 (1)  and the church council that was meeting in Moscow at the time voted to ‘restore’ the patriarchate two days later on October 27th (November 9th), the day the Kremlin fell to the Bolshevik forces. The actual choice of patriarch took place on November 4th (17th). The choice fell on Tikhon (Belavin) (2), Metropolitan of Moscow. Actually Tikhon had only recently become Metropolitan of Moscow earlier in the year when, in the mood of the February (March) Revolution, Makary, Metropolitan of Moscow and Pitrim, Metropolitan of Petrograd (3) – both appointed by the Tsar under the influence of Grigoriy Rasputin – were deposed by ‘diocesan assemblies’ of local clergy and laity.

(1)  I am trying to observe the convention by which both Julian and Gregorian calendar dates are given until 14th February 1918, when the new government formally adopted the Gregorian calendar.

(2)  I am trying to observe the convention by which the family names of monastics are put in brackets. Monastics in principle have rejected their family connections. In the Orthodox Church all the Bishops are chosen from among those priests who have taken monastic vows.

(3)  St Petersburg became ‘Petrograd’ during the war for much the same reason that the Saxe-Coburg family became the Windsors.


A patriarchate of Moscow had been instituted in 1589, under the Tsar Theodore, son of Ivan IV (‘the Terrible’). As the institution of the patriarchate in 1917 was immediately followed by the long battle with the Soviet government, a period of intense persecution, so the institution of the patriarchate in 1589 was soon followed by the ‘time of troubles’ – the Polish and Swedish invasions of the early seventeenth century which eventually resulted in the establishment of the Romanov dynasty.

The period of the seventeenth century patriarchate, even after the Polish invasion, was turbulent, marked by the violent schism with the ‘Old Believers’ or ‘Old Ritualists’ and by the claims of some of the patriarchs, notably Filaret (1619-1933), Nikon (1652-1658, but only replaced in 1667) and Adrian (1690-1700) to a form of co-sovereignty with the Tsar. (4) Indeed something of the kind may be implicit in the title ‘patriarch’. On the one hand it suggests that the Church is independent of any other patriarchates – most particularly the Patriarchate of Constantinople with its claim to be the ‘ecumenical’ (by implication universal) patriarchate. Russia, or Rus’, centred at the time in Kiev, was received into Orthodoxy under the aegis of Constantinople in 988 but it had been de facto if not de jure independent since Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

(4)  Filaret’s claim was especially strong since he was actually the father of the first Romanov Tsar, Mikhail. He had been forcibly tonsured and imprisoned in a monastery under Boris Godunov. According to the Wikipedia account: ‘From 1619 to 1633 there were two actual sovereigns, Tsar Michael and his father, the most holy Patriarch Filaret. Theoretically they were co-regents but Filaret frequently transacted affairs of state without consulting the tsar … His most important domestic measure was the chaining of the peasantry to the soil, a measure directed against the ever-increasing migration of the down-trodden serfs to the steppes, where they became freebooters instead of taxpayers.’

Patriarch Nikon with monks of the New Jerusalem Monastery, which he founded. I don’t have a source for this painting (apparently a collage).

The other role of the patriarch was to preside as a single sovereign over the Church in a given national territory but this was a role that could also be claimed by the Tsar as previously, in the case of Constantinople, it was the prerogative of the Emperor.

The patriarchate was suppressed by Peter I (‘the Great’). Initially, when Adrian, the last of the seventeenth century patriarchs, died in 1700, Peter simply declined to make the necessary arrangements for replacing him. He had only recently returned from his tour of the Netherlands and England and had been particularly impressed by conversations with Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury and one of the leading theorists of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of the Dutch William III. Peter would undoubtedly have seen parallels between the religious turbulence of England and of Russia in the seventeenth century, drawing the conclusion that the Church should not be allowed to act as a power independent of the state.

In the absence of a patriarch, Peter launched a series of measures designed to break the spirit of the Bishops. For example in 1718, following the defection of his son and heir, Alexei, to Vienna ‘All the bishops with whom Alexei had communicated in any way were brought to Petersburg. Submitted to violent torture they confessed having formed a plot to restore the old traditions in Russia upon Peter’s death. The Metropolitan of Rostov was broken on the wheel, the Metropolitan of Kiev died while being transported to Petersburg in chains, and several bishops were exiled in chains to distant monasteries.’ (5)

(5)  Dmitry Pospielovsky: The Orthodox Church in the History of Russia, Crestwood NY, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998, p.110.

Finally, in 1721, Peter instituted a ‘Spiritual Regulation’ drawn up by Feofan (or Theophan) (Prokopovich), a professor in the Kiev Academy. The Kiev Academy in the seventeenth century was on the fault line between the Catholic world and the Orthodox world. On the one hand it held the line for Orthodoxy against the ‘Uniate’ tendency (churches which practised the same rites as the Orthodox churches but acknowledged the ecclesiastical sovereignty of the Pope); but on the other it adopted a very western-influenced scholastic theology, taught in Latin. Feofan himself had studied in Catholic colleges and in Rome but had turned violently anti-papist, and, by extension, strongly opposed clerical power within the Orthodox Church. According to George Florovsky: ‘Theophan wasn’t close to Protestant theology, he was totally part of it.’ (6)

(6)  Georges Florovsky: Les voies de la théologíe russe, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1991, p.134. My translation from the French, the only copy I have to hand though an English translation does exist.

Theophan Prokopovitch. All I know of the painting (all Wikipedia tells me) is that it was done in the eighteenth century but after Theophan’s death.


The Spiritual Regulation replaced the Patriarch with a ‘Holy Synod’ completely dominated by an ‘overprocurator’ appointed by and responsible to the Tsar. This was the system that prevailed until 1917. According to Dmitri Pospielovsky:

‘Externally, the pre-revolutionary Church appeared to be very powerful. She was the official state Church, and until 1905 other religions were legally tolerated only as faiths of national minorities. Orthodox religion was an obligatory discipline in all general schools for all pupils born of the Orthodox faith, and children born of mixed marriages in which one of the parents was Orthodox had to be baptised Orthodox … In 1914 the Orthodox Church of the empire officially had 117 million members organised into 67 dioceses with 130 bishops and 48,000 functioning parishes with a total of over 50,000 clergy of all ranks. It ran 35,000 primary schools …’ (p.20) (7)

(7)  Dmitry Pospielovsky: The Russian Church under the Soviet Regime 1917-1982, Volume 1, Crestwood NY, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984. This is my major source for writing this article and page references will be given in the text not in footnotes.


‘The bishops in this system, living in an external luxury, were in fact like captive birds in a golden cage: a hierarch could not leave his residence to visit peripheral parishes in his diocese without theoretically having the tsar’s and practically the overprocurator’s special permission, requested and granted via the channels of the Ruling Synod in St Petersburg. The priests were in a particularly contradictory position. On the one hand they depended for most of their livelihood on the donations of their parishioners (which in many rural areas were extremely meagre because of the poverty of many peasants) and on the harvests from the piece of land allotted to the parish which they farmed like any other peasant. On the other hand, legally and according to the oath given at the time of their ordination, they were ex officio agents of the state, required to supply the Ministry of Defence with information on prospective recruits for the army and, in theory, obliged to inform the authorities on all confessions of an anti-state nature – even though the church canons ban this on the pain of immediate defrocking. Obviously, in this constrained position the Church as an institution could offer little moral leadership to the nation.’

Konstantin Pobedonostsev (1827-1907). Photograph 1903. Pobedonostsev was Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod from 1880 until shortly before his death in 1907. He was notable as a theorist of absolute autocracy (and friend of Dostoyevsky).

‘After the nationalisation of the monastic estates by Catherine II in 1763-1764, the Church as an institution became economically poor, receiving from the state but 10 per cent of her former annual income from those properties as compensation. It was only since the 1890s that a substantial regular state subsidy to support the clergy in the poorer parishes began to be paid. By 1916 it reached 18.8 rubles – 58 million short of making the Russian clergy economically independent from their parishioners.’ (pp.19-20)

It is hardly surprising that under such circumstances a movement for reform had developed within the Church. In the aftermath of ‘Bloody Sunday’, January 1905, the event that sparked the 1905 revolt, a group of 32 priests in St Petersburg, with the approval of their Metropolitan, Antony (Vadkovsky), published a memorandum calling for the immediate convocation of a council in which all sections of the Church would be represented:

‘We must hear the voice of the Russian church, the voice of ecclesial conscience that will embrace, under its authority, pastors and flock alike. For 200 years we have no longer heard that voice. For 200 years, the Russian Church has not assembled in a local council, even though for a long time the necessity of such a council has been felt and is now urgent.’ (8)

(8)  Hyacinthe Destivelle, O.P. (translated from the French by Jerry Ryan): The Moscow Council (1917-1918), University of Notre Dame Press, 2015, p.26.

The proposal had the support of Sergei Witte, President of the Committee of Ministers, Nicholas II’s most important adviser at the time, who was behind the ‘October Manifesto’, instituting the Duma and converting Russia, in theory at least, into a constitutional monarchy. In December, Nicholas asked Metropolitan Antony, together with the Metropolitans Vladimir of Moscow and Flavian of Kiev, ‘to determine the time for the convocation of this council, earnestly desired by all the faithful members of the Church’ (Destivelle, p.33).

A preconciliar commission was established which (in a report that ran to six volumes) proposed among other things the restoration of the patriarchate, working in conjunction with a council in which (albeit on a purely consultative basis) lower clergy and laity would be represented.

According to Destivelle (p.44): ‘On April 25, 1907, the Emperor ratified the commission’s decisions, the most important being the convocation of a local council of the Russian Church.’ But according to Pospielovsky (p.23): ‘these hopes and dreams … were, however, dealt a heavy blow by the refusal of Nicholas II to permit its convocation in the foreseeable future. This resolution by the Tsar was issued on April 25, 1907 …’


For the full article, please follow:




2017: Start of the New School Year

Our dearly beloved in the Lord,


On the auspicious and sacred occasion of the beginning of the new school year 2017-18, I am sending you all warm greetings to everyone working for the education of our children: the Parents, the Pupils, the Teachers, men and women who are serving the sacred institution of Education in the Countries of the United Kingdom and Ireland where the Greek-Orthodox Community resides under the jurisdiction of the Greek-Orthodox Church of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

I am fully aware of the effort and pains of every parent as well as of every teacher for the upbringing and the education of their children. For this reason I warmly congratulate you from my heart and pray for your health and progress. May the Lord guide and support your sacred struggle for the education and upbringing of your children according to God. On this point, I would like to stress the dire need for closer cooperation between parents and Teachers as well as between the School Committees and the heads of the Greek and Cypriot Educational Missions under the auspices of the Archdiocese. We should all contribute to the sacred effort for Education providing high quality training and teaching our children the beauty of ecclesiastical and secular education, the simplicity of life, the value of prayer, of work, or virtue, of thriftiness and toughening up to hardship and also of the sacred work of voluntary work and offering to others. For these reasons, our day and afternoon schools should comprise the “home church” in which children study and learn the greatness of God, which are extolled by the Creation and Science on a daily basis. I am writing all this to remind you of the value of Education and edification which help us praise God, love our fellow human beings and be meek and righteous.  However we should not forget that without respect towards the Family, our Parents, the Officers, our Teachers and Spiritual Fathers, the Elderly and the Weak, our education is curtailed and alien to the Gospel and Christian civilization.

On this occasion of the beginning of the school year and our own Schools, I am writing this letter to wish you all every success in your studies and extend a call to all of you engaged in the Education of our Diaspora, Parents, teachers, School Committees to join ranks and engage in a holy crusade. I am particularly extending a kind request to all the parents to send their children to our Day Schools, the Elementary School, the Middle School and the High School which have been established and operated by the Greek State for many years now here in London. I am reminding you all about the Greek-Orthodox Academy “St Cyprian” Croydon, the Greek-Orthodox Secondary School “St Andrew the Apostle” North London, as well as the Community Saturday Schools that are operating in London and the Countryside quite successfully for decades. All schools offer education to our boys and girls. For this reason, they deserve our support and love indeed. The various Communities and Churches and our Educational Organizations are supporting them with great effort and sacrifice and contribute positively to the education of the new Greek-Orthodox generation of the Country in which we all live and prosper. It is our duty to support our Schools, offer voluntary work in them and love them as they comprise our standing hope for the preservation of their Christian Faith and Orthodox identity.

In this connection, I mention the fact that there are Adult Education Classes in our Saturday Schools as well as regular Traditional Greek Dance classes, in addition to the School of Byzantine Music and Chant operating in London and the Countryside. The significance of this education as a necessary complement to the teaching of our language and Civilization cannot be overstressed as well as the need for the support of all of us, given that in most cases, teaching traditional dances is offered on a voluntary basis and is free to our students.

Every year, I also make reference to the vital contribution of both the Greek and Cypriot States to the education of the Diaspora youth. But a sine qua non for the success of the Educational Effort remains the contribution of all those who have been particularly blessed by God and created wealth: the rich, the successful businessmen but also all our Greek-Orthodox brethren, who should extend their financial and moral support to our Schools and show in deed their interest and concern for the Greek-Orthodox Education so that it can in turn fulfil its valuable and blessed function to our youth.

Connected to the above is also the concern shown by the Greek and Cypriot Missions for the continuing education of the teachers, the updating of the teacher as regards the new educational approaches but also the changes made by the Educational Boards responsible for the examinations in the Greek language.

Let me wish you all from the depths of my heart a good and blessed new School and Academic Year. May our Lord Jesus Christ, via the intercessions of Virgin Mary Mother of God, the Three Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, support you and enlighten us in our sacred work in Education and I remain with warm wishes and blessings in the Lord and honour.


London, September 2017

Archbishop Gregorios

of Thyateira and Great Britain

The Psalter and martyrology of Ricemarch

The Psalter and martyrology of Ricemarch


Publication date 1914

Digitizing sponsor MSN

Language English
Volume 47
Includes bibliographical references and indexes

V. 1. Text, notes, indices — v. 2. Plates



Key Stage 2: Life in Early Wales and Britain

Cymraeg / English
CPAT logo

Early Christian Wales: Saints and Kings

In AD 410 the Roman Emperor Honorius sent a message to the people of Britain informing them that they should no longer consider themselves part of the Roman Empire whose armies were now unable to protect them from attack. He advised them to look to their own defences. This message came after a lengthy period of unrest during the late fourth century during which there had been a number of major barbarian attacks on the province of Britain and on other parts of the Roman Empire. During this time there had also been attempts to remove Britain from the Empire the most well remembered been led by Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig) who was eventually defeated and killed in AD 388. In the Mabinogion Maximus is recorded as being the founder of a number of Welsh royal lineages.

After Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire in the early fifth century AD the romanised way of life did not immediately collapse but the centralised administration was weakened with the growth of new kingdoms throughout Britain. In Wales these included, among others, the kingdoms of Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed and Glywysing. Over the next few hundred years the borders of the kingdoms remained fluid as power shifted from one to another and new kingdoms, such as Ceredigion and Brycheiniog, emerged. The new kingdoms were each ruled by a king chosen from the ruling families.

Early Welsh Kingdoms (source: Davies, W. 1982)

The early Welsh law codes which set out details of social ties and obligations indicate that society was highly stratified. At the top were the ruling families and aristocracy distinguished both by their birth and by their wealth in land and goods. Below this were the free men who were farmers, craftsmen, bards and warriors with the bondsmen and slaves forming the lowest strata of society. The bondsmen were tenant farmers who while not slaves were not free to leave their land and service to their lord. The ties between a man and his lord were extremely strong, particularly between warrior and leader. The leader feasted and provided for his warband who in return fought for him to the death. The family provided the other strong bond in a restless warlike society where a person would be expected to know the names and deeds of his ancestors back for at least four, if not six, generations.

The rulers of the Welsh kingdoms resided in a court or llys, a defended settlement which was sometimes placed within an old hillfort as at Dinas Emrys which lies below Snowdon. Dinas Emrys has long been associated with Amhrosius (Emrys) recorded in Welsh folklore as an early ruler descended from Roman parentage. Another hillfort which was re-occupied is Caer Drewyn in Clwyd. Former Roman forts such as Brecon Gaer were also re-occupied. The royal court or llys consisted of a collection of dwellings (usually of wood) which housed the royal family, workers, soldiers, craftsmen and their families. The main building was a hall where the ruler and his followers feasted. The buildings were protected by a stone or earth rampart and wooden palisade.

Dinas Powys
Plan view of Dinas Powys (source: Alcock, L. 1963)


One of the most thoroughly investigated of these early power centres is Dinas Powys near Cardiff where a possible wooden hall and barn were excavated. They lay within an enclosure (c60 metres by 50 metres) surrounded by rock-cut ditches and protected by banks of clay and rubble. What makes the site exceptional is the quantity of high class metalwork, jewellery, glass and imported pottery and the quantity of cattle bones recovered indicating that the high status and material wealth of the occupants. Pottery found on the site was imported from as far away as Aquitaine (France), north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. This pottery is associated with the trade in wine. Different types and styles can be dated to between the fifth and seventh centuries AD.

Cefn Graeanog

Plan of Cefn Graeanog (source: White, R.B. 1978)

We know very little of the buildings or types of settlements where ordinary people lived. This is partly because these did not change much for over 1500 years covering the Iron Age, Roman period and early Middle Ages (up to the Norman Conquest). The other difficulty encountered is that, with the exception of the high class imported pottery, few dateable objects have been found on domestic sites in Wales. It is therefore difficult to know at what date for example, a group of round wooden or stone houses was occupied. During the early Middle Ages the majority of people were farmers living in wooden or stone houses which were circular or rectangular. Sometimes these were set within a stone or wooden enclosure. Other buildings were probably used as barns and byres. At Cefn Graeanog in the Lleyn Peninsula a rectangular, stone-built enclosure contained three circular huts, a garden and a rectangular barn and byre. Excavation produced evidence of ironworking and farming activities during the period between the third and fifth centuries AD.

The other main types of buildings were churches and monasteries. Most references to early churches in Wales suggest that they were built of wood. Some were small buildings made of woven hazel which housed only a hermit others were groups of buildings surrounded by an earthen bank and wooden fence where monks or nuns lived and worked. Later in the period some of the wooden buildings, particularly the churches, were rebuilt in stone. In the language spoken in the period (an early form of Welsh similar to that spoken in Cornwall and northern Britain) the work for enclosure was llan which often forms the first part of the placename denoting an old religious site. Documented sites include Llangorse (near Brecon), Llangollen and Llanelwy (Clwyd). Few physical remains of such religious centres now survive although the early circular enclosures can be traced in a number of places, as at Meifod (Montgomery).

Memorial stone

Although earlier churches and monasteries have rarely survived there are a considerable number of early Christian crosses and memorial stones. Many of the memorial stones are marked with a cross together with a memorial to the dead person written in an abbreviated form of latin. One of these, erected as a memorial to Dervacus, at Maen Madoc, Ystradfellte in Brecknock lies next to the old Roman road from Coelbren to Brecon Gaer. Some memorials are written in Ogham a non-alphabetical form of writing based on long and short lines scored across the corner of a stone or piece of wood. This form of writing was devised in Ireland and brought to Wales by Irish settlers.

5/6th Century memorial stone from Trallwng, near Brecon which in Ogham reads “CVNACENNIVI ILVVETO” = THE STONE OF CUNACENNIVI ILVVETO”,
(source Nash-Williams, V.E. 1950) National Museum of Wales

Contact with Ireland had its origins in the prehistoric period. Trade and contact were maintained throughout the Roman period but from the fifth century settlement of Irish people took place in parts of western Wales. This is reflected in placenames particularly in Dyfed. Settlers came also from northern Britain to north Wales. They were reputed to have been led by Cunedda who came from the northern kingdom of Gododdin (in the Edinburgh area). They brought with them the earliest “Welsh” poem the Gododdin which relates a tale of the warriors of Gododdin who fought and died at a major battle against the Saxons near Catterick (Yorkshire) in the late sixth century.

To the east, Wales was bounded by the kingdom of Mercia whose rulers were intermittently at war with the kingdoms of Powys and Brycheiniog. In AD 196 Aethelflaed of Mercia invaded Brycheiniog capturing the queen but no permanent conquest was made. Powys was subject to attacks from Mercia from the seventh century. In the following century the border was demarcated by the building of a great dyke which, although not continuous, ran from the north coast of Clwyd to the south coast near Chepstow. The dyke is named after the king who ordered its construction: Offa of Mercia.

In the early eleventh century AD the history of the kingdoms of Wales was dramatically altered by the Norman Conquest.

Suggested sites to visit:-
There are very few monuments of this period which are still surviving. However some sites with evidence of early medieval settlement were occupied in earlier periods and visits would be worthwhile when combined with the study of other National Curriculum archaeology topics. In southern Powys there are a considerable number of memorial stones some of which are now in Brecknock Museum, Brecon.

Dinas Emrys, Gwynedd (SH 606492).
Caer Drewyn hillfort, Corwen (SJ 087444).
Brecon Gaer Roman fort (SO 00332966).
Maen Madoc memorial stone alongside Sarn Helen Roman road (could be combined with visit to Roman fort and camp at Coelbren (SN 858107 and SN 963104).
Pillar of Eliseg memorial stone (near Valle Crucis abbey, Llangollen SJ 20454415).

(Leaflets prepared by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust are available for some of these sites. Details of other sites in your area can be obtained by contacting the SMR officer.)

Further reading:-
Howell, R (ed) Archaeology and the National Curriculum in Wales. CBA/National Museum of Wales/Cadw.
English Heritage. Resources 1994 (practical materials for teachers to use the historic environment for any subject).
English Heritage. The Archaeology Resource Book 1992.
Thomas, C. 1986. Celtic Britain. Thames and Hudson, London







Gan / By