Akathist to the Protection of the Theotokos

Akathist to the Protection of the Theotokos

Kontakion 1
O Chosen by the pre-eternal God, Queen of heaven and earth higher than all creation, who hast in days past entered praying into the Church of the Blachernae we, offering Thee with thanksgiving due veneration, flee with faith and compunction under Thy shining vestment for we lie in darkness. And Thou who hast invincible power dost set us free from every affliction that we may cry to Thee:
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Ikos 1
Archangels and angels with John the Forerunner, John the Divine and the choir of all the saints, were present with Thee, their Queen, in the Church of the Blachernae and hearing Thy moving supplication for all the world, they cried out with wonder as follows:
Rejoice, O pre-eternal good will of God the Father Who has no beginning of days.
Rejoice, timeless and most pure who contained God the Son.
Rejoice, Thou chosen dwelling-place of God the all-holy Spirit.
Rejoice, Thou never-ceasing wonder of the angelic hosts on high.
Rejoice, Thou all-threatening terror of the dark forces of hell.
Rejoice, Thou whom the many-eyed cherubim meet in the air.
Rejoice, Thou to whom the six-winged seraphim ascribe praises.
Rejoice, Thou whose most precious veil we born on earth thankfully venerate.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 2
Saint Andrew with Epiphanios having seen Thee inside the Church praying God in the air for all Christians, acknowledged Thee to be the Mother of Christ our God Who ascended into heaven and falling to the ground they joyfully venerated Thine all-precious veil, crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 2
Thou, O Theotokos Virgin art knowledge unknowable in defense of Orthodox people. Therefore our enemies know not how strong is the prayer of the Mother of God: while we well aware of Thine all-mighty protection cry to Thee with tender feeling:
Rejoice, Most merciful Comforter of all the afflicted and heavy laden.
Rejoice, never sleeping Guide of all those who have strayed and gone blind.
Rejoice, Thou who by Thy supplication dost swiftly appease the wrath of God rightly poured out on us.
Rejoice, Thou who by an all-powerful behest dost tame our evil passions.
Rejoice, strong waker of sleeping consciences.
Rejoice, easy overcomer of sinful practices.
Rejoice, Thou for whose sake hell groans and the spirits of evil tremble.
Rejoice, Thou for whose sake the gates of paradise are opened to all.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 3
Power from on high overshadows those who run for refuge with faith and reverence to Thy precious protection: for to Thee alone, O all holy and all pure only Mother of God is it given that every petition of Thine be fulfilled. Therefore the faithful of all ages glorify Thee and Thy Son, crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 3
O Lady, having a never-failing wealth of mercy, Thou dost stretch the hand of help to all the ends of the earth: and dost give healing to the sick, relief to the suffering, sight to the blind, and to all everything that is expedient for them as they cry aloud in thanksgiving:
Rejoice, indestructible fortress and bulwark of Orthodox kingdoms.
Rejoice, principle adornment of holy churches and altars.
Rejoice, truest guard of holy monasteries.
Rejoice, vigilant Helper of stouthearted city governors.
Rejoice, unconquerable Leader of Christian captains and armies.
Rejoice, holy mirror of justice for judges who take no bribes.
Rejoice, perfect knowledge for teachers and those who bring up children.
Rejoice, Blessing of pious homes and families.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 4
O Lady, Thou dost help us held fast by a storm of many afflictions: for Thou dost stand before the altar of the Lord, lifting Thine hands and praying that the Lord of glory look down on our unworthy prayer and hearken to the petitions of those who call upon Thy holy Name crying to Thy Son: Alleluia!

Ikos 4
The Lord God heard Joshua, son of Nun, praying and He commanded the sun to stand still until he defeat the enemy. The Lord Jesus now hears Thy supplication, O chosen dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we sinners, putting our trust in Thy protection, make bold to say to Thee, Mother of God:
Rejoice, Thou who art lit by the Sun of the mind and who dost enlighten us with the light that never sets.
Rejoice, Thou who hast illumined the whole earth by the brightness of Thy most pure soul.
Rejoice, Thou who hast made glad the whole heavens by the purity of Thy body.
Rejoice, Protector and Provider of the holy monasteries of Christ.
Rejoice, Thou who art the strength and understanding of the pastors of the Church.
Rejoice, Guide of God-fearing monks and nuns.
Rejoice, untroubled rest of the pious aged.
Rejoice, secret gladness of pure virgins and widows.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 5
When Moses who saw God lifted his arms while the battle with Amalek raged, Israel overcame and when he let his hands fall, Amalek was victorious and strengthened by those who hold up his arms, Israel defeated the enemy: and Thou, O Mother of God, having raised Thine hands in supplication, even though no man hold them up, dost always conquer the enemies of Christ and art an invincible shield for us who cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 5
The assemblies of saints when they had seen Thee in the air inside the church of the Blachernae stretching Thy hands in prayer to Thy Son and God, sang Thee a song in thanksgiving with the archangels and angels: while we, our hands fortified by Thee made stronger than the arms of Moses, cry aloud with compunction:
Rejoice, Thou whose love and mercy towards us alone hold up Thine hands for us.
Rejoice, Thou before Whom our enemies, visible and invisible, cannot stand.
Rejoice, Thou who drivest away the dark hordes of our passions and lusts.
Rejoice, Thou who holdest in Thine hand without being consumed, the divine fire of Christ and who with it dost set us in our coldness aflame.
Rejoice, Thou who crownest with a fair crown of chastity those who fight against the flesh.
Rejoice, Thou perpetual Converser with those who strive in fasting and silent prayer.
Rejoice, Thou speedy Comforter of those who fall from despair and sadness.
Rejoice, Thou who dost by grace provide us with humility and patience.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 6
Saint Roman the Melodion, appeared as an unfailing proclaimer of Thy grace and mercy when he had received from Thee in a dream a paper roll to swallow: for thereby made wise, he began to sing with skill in Thine honour and to write praises for the saints, calling out with faith: Alleluia!

Ikos 6
O Virgin, Maid of God, who hast shone forth the Dawn from the true Sun of righteousness, enlightening all with the wisdom of Thy God and Son and who leadest all to knowledge of the truth those who cry to Thee:
Rejoice, Thou who hast given birth to Christ in the flesh, Power of God and wisdom of God.
Rejoice, Thou who hast confounded the foolish wisdom of this world, and who hast guided those blinded by it on the way of truth.
Rejoice, Preserver of our holy faith and teacher of Orthodox dogma.
Rejoice, Uprooter of impious heresies and corrupting divisions.
Rejoice, Thou who well knowest secret and unforeseen difficulties and dost tell those whom it is proper about them.
Rejoice, thou who puttest to shame false seers and vain divining.
Rejoice, Thou who in the hour of perplexity dost put a good thought in our hearts.
Rejoice, Thou who dost turn us from perilous purposes and senseless desires.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 7
The all-seeing, long-suffering Lord, wishing to manifest the unsearchable deep of His mercies and love for mankind, chose Thee alone to be His Mother, and made Thee into an invincible defense for His people: that even though one of them appear worthy of condemnation by the righteous judgement of God, yet all the more shall he be preserved for repentance by Thy mighty protection, crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 7
O Lord, Thou hast shown in Thine all-pure Mother, how wonderful are Thy works when Her most marvellous veil was revealed in Her hand shining brighter than the rays of the sun and with it She protected the people in the Church of Blachernae: for hearing of such a sign of Her defense, held by fear and joy, all say:
Rejoice, thou veil not made by hand of man that is spread over the whole world like a cloud.
Rejoice, Thou who dost hold in Thine hands the banner of Thy Son, the pre-eternal Bishop.
Rejoice, Thou who hast thereby made manifest a new mercy and new grace in the Orthodox Church.
Rejoice, pillar of cloud who protects all of us in the world from temptations and scandals.
Rejoice, pillar of fire amidst the darkness, showing us all the path of salvation.
Rejoice, visible strength of manifest strivers for godliness.
Rejoice, secret Giver of understanding to the secret servants of God in this world.
Rejoice, Thou who also leavest not without Thy grace and protection me who am stripped of all good works.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 8
Angels sang Thy praises when Thou didst appear in wondrous wise from heaven in the Church of the Blachernae and apostles gave Thee glory. The choir of holy Bishops and monks and the band of holy women extolled Thee, the Forerunner with John the Divine venerated Thee, and the people present in the Church cried aloud with joy: Alleluia!

Ikos 8
The Lord Who reigns over all things above and below, when He had seen Thee, His Mother, standing in the Church and praying with tender feeling to Him, said: Ask, O my Mother, because I shall never turn from Thee but will fulfil all Thy petitions and teach all to sing to Thee in thanksgiving:
Rejoice, Ark of the law in which is kept the sanctification of all mankind.
Rejoice, all-holy Jar in which the bread of eternal life is preserved for those who hunger for righteousness.
Rejoice, all-golden Vessel in which the flesh and blood of the divine Lamb are prepared for us.
Rejoice, Thou who dost receive in Thine all-powerful arms those forsaken by the physicians.
Rejoice, Thou who dost raise from their bed of sickness those crippled in body but not in spirit and faith.
Rejoice, Thou who givest a new and better understanding to those who are perishing from infirmity of mind.
Rejoice, Thou who dost wisely trip us up on the stubborn path of sin and passion.
Rejoice, Thou who dost turn to mercy the cruelty of our unrepentant hearts.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 9
The whole assembly of angels offers Thee praises, Thou true Mother of God and Defender of all who run to Thee, knowing how with Thine unfailing protection Thou dost
Rejoice the righteous, protect and deliver the poor, and pray for all the faithful crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 9
The wordy orators, become as dumb fish, are at a loss as to how to praise as is due, the great feast of Thine all-precious protection: for all the things said by them about Thee suffice not to number Thy mercies alone. And we, seeing Thy good works without number, cry with gladness:
Rejoice, Thou who dost guard us from the deadly plague in which all perish.
Rejoice, Thou who dost preserve cities and villages from sudden earthquakes.
Rejoice, Thou who dost lead us out with Thy strong arm from flood and drowning.
Rejoice, Thou who by the dew of Thy prayers dost deliver us from the kindling of fire.
Rejoice, Thou who dost provide against hunger of soul and body by the Bread of life.
Rejoice, Thou who dost lead away from our heads the blows of lightning and thunder.
Rejoice, Thou who dost save us from the attacks of strangers and secret murderers.
Rejoice, Thou who dost guard us with peace and love against family quarrels and the enmities of those of our own blood.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 10
Wishing to save mankind from the error of the enemy, the Lord Who loves mankind gave us on earth Thee His Mother to be our help, protection and defense, for Thee to be the Comforter of those that sorrow, the Joy of the afflicted, the Defender of the injured, and to raise all from the depth of sin, singing: Alleluia!

Ikos 10
“O King of heaven,” spoke the all-pure Queen in prayer as She stood with the angels, “do Thou accept every man praying to Thee and calling upon my name for help, that he go not away from my face empty and unheard.” Hearing this most good supplication, the assemblies of the saints cried in thanksgiving:
Rejoice, Thou who crownest with blessed fruits the husbandmen pure in hand and heart.
Rejoice, Succour and righteous Rewarder for all those who honestly trade.
Rejoice, Reprover before all nations of those who keep not their oaths and whose gains are unjust.
Rejoice, unexpected Helper of those in distress in their travels by land and water.
Rejoice, Thou who makest glad with the fruits of faith and the spirit childless couples.
Rejoice, unseen Tutor of motherless orphans.
Rejoice, strong Defender of those in captivity and exile.
Rejoice, ever-watchful Guardian of those sitting in bonds and prison.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 11
Hearing a most moving song and attending to Thy prayer for us, we beg Thee, O Virgin Theotokos, look not away from the voices of Thy servants for we run to Thee in assaults and affliction and in our distress we pour out our tears before Thee, crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 11
Seeing Thee in the air inside the Blachernae Church burning in prayer as a candle aflame with light, I gave voice together with a multitude of people there present: how can this be that the Mother of my Lord has come to me? And Saint Andrew with Epiphanios prayed warmly to Thee, crying:
Rejoice, abundant Giver of all spiritual and bodily gifts.
Rejoice, true Advocate of sinners who have started to repent.
Rejoice, perpetual Champion of those fighting with enemy passions and intents.
Rejoice, invisible Tamer of cruel and bestial masters.
Rejoice, secret Rest and Consolation of humble and suffering servants.
Rejoice, most longed-for Fulfiller of blessed marriages.
Rejoice, swift and painless relief of mothers in childbirth.
Rejoice, our only Help in the hour of death.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 12
Ask Thy Son to give us divine grace; stretch towards us a helping hand; ward off from us every enemy and adversary and give our lives peace that we parish not grievously without repentance, but accept us, O our Protector, in the eternal mansions, that, rejoicing we may cry to Thee: Alleluia!

Ikos 12
Singing the praises of Thy mighty protection, we praise Thee for Thou art to us all our firm Advocate and we venerate Thee who dost pray for us: for we believe and we trust that Thou wilt beg of Thy Son and God eternal and temporal good things for all who cry thus to Thee with love:
Rejoice, strong Defense of the whole inhabited earth.
Rejoice, sanctification of all the earthly and heavenly elements.
Rejoice, Thou Blessing of all the seasons of the year.
Rejoice, Thou Conqueror of all assaults and temptations that come from the world, the flesh and the devil.
Rejoice, unhoped for Reconciliation of those who are at daggers drawn.
Rejoice, Amendment without their knowledge of unrepentant sinners.
Rejoice, Thou who dost not turn away those despised and forsaken by all.
Rejoice, Thou who dost pluck from the pit of destruction those that indeed despair.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 13 [3 times]
O all-praised Mother, Most pure Lady, Virgin, Theotokos, to Thee do I lift up the eyes of my soul and body, to Thee do I stretch forth my hands grown feeble and I cry from the depth of my heart: look down on the faith and humility of my soul; shelter me with Thy almighty protection, that I be saved from all assault and distress, and in the hour of my death, be by me, O Thou all-blessed, and deliver me from the torment prepared for me because of my sins, that, venerating Thee, I may ever cry: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Ikos 1 Repeated
Archangels and angels with John the Forerunner, John the Divine and the choir of all the saints, were present with Thee, their Queen, in the Church of the Blachernae and hearing Thy moving supplication for all the world, they cried out with wonder as follows:
Rejoice, O pre-eternal good will of God the Father Who has no beginning of days.
Rejoice, timeless and most pure who contained God the Son.
Rejoice, Thou chosen dwelling-place of God the all-holy Spirit.
Rejoice, Thou never-ceasing wonder of the angelic hosts on high.
Rejoice, Thou all-threatening terror of the dark forces of hell.
Rejoice, Thou whom the many-eyed cherubim meet in the air.
Rejoice, Thou to whom the six-winged seraphim ascribe praises.
Rejoice, Thou whose most precious veil we born on earth thankfully venerate.
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

Kontakion 1 Repeated
O Chosen by the pre-eternal God, Queen of heaven and earth higher than all creation, who hast in days past entered praying into the Church of the Blachernae we, offering Thee with thanksgiving due veneration, flee with faith and compunction under Thy shining vestment for we lie in darkness. And Thou who hast invincible power dost set us free from every affliction that we may cry to Thee:
Rejoice, our Joy, protect us from every ill by Thy precious Veil.

First Prayer
O all-holy Virgin, Mother of the Lord of the hosts on high, Thou Queen of heaven and earth and almighty Defender of our country, accept from us Thine unworthy servants this song of praise and thanksgiving and bring our prayer up to the throne of Thy God and Son, that He be merciful towards our unrighteousness, and extend His grace to those who honour Thy name and venerate with faith and love Thy wonder-working ikon. For we are not worthy to be forgiven by Him hadst Thou, O Lady, not made Him merciful towards us, for all things from Him are possible to Thee. Therefore we run to Thee as Thou art our swift and undoubted Protector. Hear us who pray to Thee: overshadow us with Thine almighty veil and ask from Thy God and Son zeal and vigilance for our shepherds, wisdom and strength for the souls of those who govern our cities, righteousness and impartiality for our judges, understanding and humility for our leaders, love and concord for the married, obedience for our children, patience for those who have been offended, the fear of God for those that offend, stoutheartedness for the afflicted, restraint for those that rejoice, and for all of us the spirit of understanding and godliness, the spirit of mercy and meekness, the spirit of chastity and truth. Yea, O all-holy Lady, be merciful towards Thy feeble people: gather together the dispersed, guide on the right way those that have gone astray, uphold old age, make the young pure, bring up the children and look down upon all of us with the care of Thy merciful protection. Raise us from the depth of sin and enlighten the eyes of our hearts to see salvation. Be merciful to us both here and yonder, during our wandering in the land of this earth and at the Last Judgement of Thy Son: and make our fathers and brothers who have departed this life live the eternal life with the angels and all the saints. For Thou, O Lady, art the glory of those in heaven and the trust of those on earth. After God, Thou art the hope and Defender of all who flee to Thee with faith. We then pray to Thee and to Thee as our almighty Helper, do we commend ourselves and one another, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Second Prayer
O my most blessed Queen, my all-holy hope, Receiver of orphans and Defender of the strangers, Helper of those in poverty, Protector of the sick, behold my distress, behold my affliction. On all sides am I held by temptation, and there is none to defend me. Help me then as I am weak, feed me as I am a pilgrim, guide me as I have strayed, heal and save me as I lie without hope. For I have no other help, nor advocate nor comforter, save Thee, O Mother of all the afflicted and heavy laden. Look down then on me, a sinner lying in sickness, and protect me with Thine all-holy Veil, that I be delivered from all the ills surrounding me and may ever praise Thy Name that all men sing. Amen.

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




The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Fathers of Nicea,


The Orthodox Church of the Holy Fathers of Nicea (Shrewsbury) is a medieval church of the Early English style, with Tudor and modern additions and alterations. It was originally the parish church of the village of Sutton, which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The manor belonged to the Wenlock Abbey as far back as the ninth century so it is highly probable that some church existed from that time and possible that it was on the site of the present church. The church fell into disuse in the 19th century and was virtually unused in the 20th until it was bought by the Orthodox community in 1994. It has been extensively restored since.

The Church Building


As you approach the church from the gate into the field what you see is the red brick west wall with the medieval door and a gothic style wooden window. This wall was built in 1702. The bell cote is modern and replaces the original, a painting of which may be seen inside the church. At the ends of the stone walls on either side you will notice evidence of the continuation of the church particularly a door jamb on the north side. The north, south and east walls are medieval and were built in at least three stages. If you look at the south wall you will see that there is a distinct line in the stonework just below the dressed stone window sills. This is a ‘setting-out’ line and below the line the stonework is entirely composed of red sandstone. Above the line however the stone is both red sandstone and buff coloured Grinshill stone. (This feature is equally observable in both the north and the east walls). This suggests that these walls were built in two distinct stages. This might imply that the wall below the setting-out line is older, perhaps much older, than the wall above the setting-out line. It is not now possible to know. What we can do is to date the higher part of the walls by the thin lancet windows to the Early English period: late 12th to early 13th century. Notice that above the windows there are courses of later dressed Grinshill stone. These date from the Tudor restoration of the building in about 1545.

The Church
We know that by 1538 the church was in poor repair. We discovered this when the wall paintings were first identified (1996) and it was observed that there were marks of water running down the face of the painting of Thomas à Becket. All images of this type had to be covered with lime wash or destroyed in 1538 on the orders of King Henry VIII. Assuming that this happened in our case it implies that water was pouring down the painting before it was covered – suggesting that there were serious holes in the roof.

From recent (2010) geophysical archaeological surveys we now know that originally the church was about three yards longer (to the west) than at present. So, enough room for a north and south door (the door jamb of the north door can still be seen) and a west wall. Perhaps this had three lancet windows to match those in the east wall. It seems likely that some time in the early 16th century this west wall collapsed and the church fell into serious disrepair. The collapse of the west wall may account for the truss that now supports the east wall. At the apex of this east wall the stonework is very thin so the restorers may have decided to support the roof with three wooden trusses: the one in the east that covers the top of the central lancet window, one in the middle and one that is encased in the brickwork in the brick west wall.

Geophysical Survey 2010
We believe that soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries the church was roofless and undergoing demolition, this is why five of the six lancet windows in the north and south walls have lost their ‘gothic tops’. However after a few years there seems to have been a change of mind and considerable repairs were initiated. The height of the north and south walls were restored and the roof was renewed. The west wall is rather curious. It would seem that at first this wall was a wooden frame with wattle and daub in-fill. The rest of the church (to the west) was demolished and squared off (though it is not in fact square). In 1702 the wattle and daub was replaced with brick and faced with the bricks that we see today.

Interior: Ancient features

The door is medieval. Water colours of the church in the 18th century do not show this door but it probably was recovered from use elsewhere and had originally belonged to the church.

The ancient font stands in the North West corner of the church. It is made low like this so that the candidate for baptism could climb into the font. It therefore is made for a time when adults or children – rather than babies – were being regularly baptised. This would put its date around the time of King Alfred – circa 900 A.D.

Lancet windows. These are typical of the Early English style. Long, thin but with pointed rather that rounded tops. Only the window in the north east corner and those in the east wall have retained their original arches. It is suggested that the reason for these narrow windows is that they were a security feature – they were too thin for anybody to climb through.

The central truss is Tudor work and is considered to be very fine. Originally it seems to have been painted a grey green. The roof that you see is almost entirely new but notice that some of the original purlins remain – they are significantly smaller than the modern ones.

Niches. On either side of the central lancet in the east wall there are two crudely cut niches. These were for statues and are of considerable interest. They appear to have had three manifestations. Originally their bases were in line and about six inches above the window reveal sill. Later the bases were raised about 15 inches bringing them in line with bottom of the east window – and the sill at this point was blocked up as well. Later still they were bricked in entirely and cemented over. When the church was restored these developments were removed. A reasonable conjecture as to why these developments took place is as follows.

  • When the church was built as we have it, the floor of the sanctuary was significantly lower than at present and the altar was free-standing. The statues then stood in their niches with no connection to the altar. Later on in the 15th century liturgical fashion changed and the altar was pushed back against the wall and raised on steps and surrounded on three sides by curtains – the normal practice in England in the early sixteenth century. The niches were then raised and the statues stood at the corners of the altar. However what we can be sure of is that the statues stood out from the niches. The one to the south is significantly taller than the other. Who were the saints placed in the niches? Who can now say? But the Virgin Mary in one and St Milburga, who was probably the original patron of the church in the other, seems a reasonable guess. At the Reformation the statues were destroyed and the niches blocked up.

    Wall Paintings

    From the central lancet widows all around the eastern half of the church you will notice that the walls are painted with red and ochre designs. For most of this area the designs consist of tendrils with small stencilled flowers. These are medieval wall paintings that were discovered during the restoration of the church in 1996. On the north wall there is a figurative painting showing the assassination of Thomas à Becket the archbishop of Canterbury. He was murdered for political reasons in Canterbury cathedral in 1170 by four knights attendant on King Henry II. The Pope declared him a martyr saint soon afterwards and a considerable cult developed with pilgrimages to his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. We do not know why this subject should have been chosen for our church. One suggestion is that there was local interest in Thomas because Shrewsbury Abbey had numerous important relics associated with him. Although our painting has lost a great deal of paint and its original lustre, it is still possible to make out the most significant features.

    Thomas à Becket
  • We see four knights in armour. They have plate armour covering their arms and legs, bascinet helmets (two with visors raised). Protecting their bodies are brigandines[1]. Thomas kneels before the altar and his chaplain stands to the right of the picture holding Thomas’s archiepiscopal cross. One of the knights has struck the fatal blow that killed Thomas by removing the top of his skull. His cross has been cut in two by the blow from the sword.Experts date these paintings to about five years either side of 1380 because of the style of one of the knights’ gauntlets. This is of the ‘hour glass’ type. The brigandines suggest a slightly later date. So we have here depicted four men-at-arms in armour of exactly the type that would have been worn at the battle of Shrewsbury (1403).

    The wall paintings are of considerable interest and historic importance. First of all they are a complete scheme, which may in fact be unique, for in most churches there are succeeding layers of paintings as they were renewed over the years. Second the subject of the martyrdom of Thomas à Becket is unusual and nowhere has the cross been cut as it is here. This is the oldest figurative painting in Shrewsbury.[2] Originally the painting would have been very brightly coloured.

    Modern Features of the Church

    The most striking modern feature in the church is the new icon- screen. These are present in all Orthodox churches. They serve to join the things of God, behind the screen, with the people in front of the screen. They normally have central doors, only used during the services and two doors on either side for normal access. Our screen was carved and built by a member of the congregation, Aidan Hart, using materials found in the church when we bought it, particularly the oak joists supporting the floor and parts of some of the dilapidated pews. The screen is thus made of English oak, and follows the design of many Early English rood screens but the carving is in the Byzantine style, reflecting both the ancient fabric and the traditions of the Orthodox Church.

    The hand painted icons are also painted by Aidan Hart. In the lower tier from left to right there are:


  • The Holy Fathers of the First Oecumenical Council (the patrons of our community)
  • St Michael on the deacon’s door
  • The Theotokos (Virgin Mary)
  • The Royal doors with the Annunciation above and Sts John Chrysostom and Basil below
  • Christ the Pantocrator (ruler of all)
  • St Stephen (on the deacon’s door)
  • St John the BaptistIn the upper tier there are (L-R):
  • The Nativity of Christ (Christmas)
  • The Baptism of Christ
  • Seraphim
  • Crucifixion
  • The Communion of the Apostles
  • The Anastasis (Resurrection)
  • Seraphim
  • The Transfiguration of Christ
  • Pentecost

    These icons are all of the middle Byzantine style found in the 11th century churches of Daphne and Osios Loukas in Greece. This style is serene, confident and optimistic, characteristics so badly needed in our contemporary society but typical of the Orthodox Church today.

    The Holy Table is carved in a Byzantine style from three different types of English stone. The design is based on a Holy Table in a Byzantine church in Ravenna.

    You will also notice the modern gallery which runs across the church. This serves two functions: to hold the walls together and to provide space used by the choir during services and various other activities. Notice the painting underneath the gallery on the ceiling. This shows a canopy with the cross between the symbols for the four Evangelists. An eagle for St John, an angel for St Matthew, a lion for St Mark and a bull for St Luke. This was painted by a member of the congregation, Derek Simons.

    Other icons. Above the bishop’s throne there is a Greek icon showing Christ in Bishop’s vestments. This subject is normally placed near the throne. On the back wall there is a large icon of St Ninian one of the earliest British saints associated with the Lake District and South West Scotland. On one of the window sills is an icon of the five British saints most closely related to the local area:


  • St Teon – the last Archbishop of London
  • St Tysilio said to have been born in Pengwern thought to be the early name for Shrewsbury. He became a missionary in Wales but fled to Brittany during the outbreak of plague in 545.
  • St Llywelyn
  • St Teon’s grandson
  • St Gwenerth – these last three started a monastery at Welshpool, and their mission helped convert mid Wales particularly through the work of their disciples St Gwyddfarch who was abbot of the monastery in Meifod and subsequently lived as a hermit on the hill to the South West of that place.Other interesting icons are the icon of St Winifride whose shrine was in Shrewsbury Abbey, St Milburgha of Much Wenlock, and St Melangell from Pennant Melangell. The icon of the Theotokos in the black and gold ornate frame is the oldest in the church. It is Serbian of the early 19th century and donated to the church by the internationally noted local flower arranger Howard Franklin.

    History Of The Church

    Early History

    We do not know when Christianity arrived in Shropshire. Tradition tells us that St Simon the Zealot came to Britain soon after the arrival of the Roman Legions (43 AD) but his activities are related to Yorkshire. What we do know however is that the Romans established a very substantial city about five miles East of Shrewsbury at what is now called Wroxeter. It was called Viroconium Cornovii and was the fourth largest city in Britain. The words ‘Wroxeter’ and ‘Wrekin’ (the hill that dominates East Shropshire) are directly derived from Viroconium. Probably it was pronounced ‘Wrekonium’.

    With the withdrawal of the legions at the beginning of the fifth century a period of considerable political instability followed. However Viroconium continued to flourish for some time. For instance St Germanus of Auxerre came to Britain to counter the teachings of the heretic Pelagius in 429 and again in 447. He certainly visited Viroconium. Indeed it seems to have been the base for his mission into what is now mid and north Wales. The last British Archbishop of London, Theonas (Teon) fled to Viroconium in 586 when London fell to the pagan Saxons. The range of hills known now as the Stiperstones is called, in Welsh, Carneddi Teon in memory of him.

    There have been important excavations at Wroxeter where a bath house has been revealed. Perhaps more interestingly, it is now known that the city was extensively re-planned in the 5th century and a building has been discovered which some suggest was the house of the bishops of Viroconium. At some point the city was abandoned. Two of the very earliest churches in Britain exist close to Viroconium: St Andrew, Wroxeter and St Eata, Atcham, both dating to at least the 7th century. So as the British migrated westward, abandoning Viroconium, the English moved behind them, being converted in due course following the missionary drive of St Oswald and St Aidan and then St Chad. It was following this period that a monastery for nuns was established at Much Wenlock by St Milburga around 670. The monastery quickly attracted substantial endowments and the land which is now the parish of Sutton was part of that endowment. It is from this time that Sutton (which means ‘South Town’) begins to be mentioned in recorded history. The church itself may be significantly older however. From excavations in the 1970’s we know that Sutton was occupied from prehistoric times and right through the Romano-British period. Amongst a number of interesting finds was a Neolithic watercourse which ran to a stone lined basin a few yards South East of Sutton church. It is suggested that this may have been a pagan site, Christianised to become a baptistery. This might account for the siting of our church.

    The Middle Ages

    Sutton is mentioned in the Doomsday Book as belonging to St Milburga (i.e. Wenlock Priory) “In Shrewsbury Hundred … The Church itself held and holds Sutton. 1 hide[3], 8 men both free men and villagers, with 4 ploughs. The value was 12s; now 16s.”

    The manor of Sutton remained in the ownership of the monastery at Much Wenlock until the Hundred Years war when it passed to Shrewsbury Abbey. It is unthinkable that any monastery would own a manor without erecting some kind of church for the enlightenment of their tenants and we may assume this to be the case in Sutton. That it was not mentioned in the Doomsday Book is not odd. Only half of the known Saxon churches are mentioned, simply because the others were not reckoned to have a taxable value. The church was probably a very simple wooden building and about all we have to show for this period is the ancient stone font.

    Between 1054 and 1204 the Western half of what had been the Roman Empire split away from the Orthodox Church in the East and became Roman Catholic. This event is referred to as “The Great Schism” and it was towards the end of this period, about 1200, that the church that we now see was built. The present church building was certainly built before 1278 because it is recorded in an inquisition document of that year as St Milburga’s. In 1535 the rent from the manor was worth £11 7s 0d to Wenlock Priory. The tithes of Sutton, paid to the vicar of Much Wenlock were worth £3 per annum. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Sutton along with a number of other monastic properties was bought by James Leveson, a Wolverhampton wool merchant, for £2,725 – a vast amount of money. Exactly who was looking after Sutton is not clear but the Rector was also Vicar of Much Wenlock, one Thomas Butler. This man, a University graduate, kept a journal of events in the parish which survived until 1859 when it was burnt in the fire at Wynnstay but not before it had been copied. Amongst the items in the journal is the following:-

    “1547 Nov 7th The bones of the blessed virgin Milburga (with four images from neighbouring villages) were burnt at the churchyard entrance.” (Perhaps one of these images was one that stood in a niche in the East wall of Sutton church).

    With the Reformation came another change of Faith for the worshippers in our church – Protestantism (Anglicanism). Judging by nineteenth and twentieth century histories of the period it could be thought that the English were eager and willing to accept the Reformation, the Dissolution of the monasteries and the Protestant faith. In fact this was very far from the truth, the changes were resented and unpopular and there was widespread resistance. In fact Protestantism was imposed by force: fines, imprisonment and, for some, the executioner’s axe. Some of this may be gleaned from Thomas Butler’s journal.


  • “1553 July 22nd at Bridgnorth in the fair there was proclaimed Lady Mary Queen of England… the people made great joy … lauding thanking and praising God Almighty … and making bonfires in every street … a triumphal solemnity made in Shrewsbury and also in this borough of Much Wenlock.
  • 1553 Sept 3rd I, Thomas Butler, vicar celebrated divine services and also the mass in Latin words according to the old custom … by authority of the most excellent virgin Queen Mary.
  • 1558 Nov 17th To be had in remembrance that this day departed by death the noble Queen Marie … and the same day was Elizabeth proclaimed queen in London.
  • 1559 June 25th It is to be had in remembrance that the celebration of the divine service in the English tongue was begun this day.”During this Anglican period Sutton church was repaired from time to time, particularly at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. However the church was used very seldom. The last recorded burial was in 1857, the last baptism in 1868 and the last marriage in 1870. The furnishings were stripped out, services were held less and less often until by 1948 it became a farmer’s store. It was in this condition when it was bought back by its original owners, the Orthodox Church, for £50. It was in a state of very serious disrepair needing re-roofing, major support to the walls, and re-flooring. All the major work has now been completed.

    [1] Brigandine. These were typically padded sleeveless jackets which had strips of plate armour riveted to the padding on the inside. They were developed on the continent and were adopted in England towards the end of the 14th century. They became very popular in the 15th century.

    [2] There is another medieval painting in Shrewsbury of the Last Supper in the King’s Head pub in Mardol. It is later than ours.

    [3] Hide: a land unit reckoned at 120 acres.