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Life of St. Ignatius of Mariupol

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It is hard to imagine that it was in Mariupol land about two centuries ago that a man lived whose personality both his contemporaries and descendants compared with the personality of God’s prophet Moses. “Moses of the Mariupol Greeks” – this is the name of St. Ignatius of Mariupol, Metropolitan of Gottya and Kafay. Just as the prophet of biblical times, Moses, delivered the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery, so St. Ignatius delivered the Crimean Greeks from subjection to the Tatars.

The future Saint Ignatius was born in 1715 on the Greek island of Thermia (today’s Kythnos) into a noble, pious Gozadino family. His parents named him Jacob. Fermia Island at that time was under the rule of the Turks. The Greeks conquered by the Gentiles, although they had certain rights – both civil and religious – never forgot that their homeland was in the past the center of the entire Orthodox world. They dreamed of its revival and raised their children in this hope.

Monastic service

Jacob received his education in Venice, in the Greek College established there. In Greece itself, the state of education was then not the best. After school, Jacob felt a monastic vocation, took the blessing of his parents and went to Mount Athos, where one of his close relatives carried out the monastic feat. Jacob wholeheartedly loved the monastic life with renunciation of worldly fuss, therefore, as a young man, he took monastic tonsure with the name Ignatius in honor of the great Saint Ignatius the God-bearer. Having gone through all the hierarchical degrees of the priesthood, up to the episcopal rank, Ignatius (Gozadino) proved himself to be a kind and hardworking pastor, for which he earned the love and respect of his flock.

Metropolitan Sanctuary

In 1769, by decision of the Hierarchy, the bishop, in the rank of metropolitan, headed the Gottya-Kafai department in Tauris. He settled in the Holy Assumption Monastery near Bakhchisarai. At that time, the Holy Assumption Monastery was a beacon for all Christians of the peninsula. From this monastery St. Ignatius ruled the diocese, here he prayed for the flock, meditated on its difficult fate. The great-nephew of the Saint, Ignatii Ivanovich Gozadinov, tells about the life of the Greeks under the rule of the Tatars and cites horrific facts: “What was the life of the poor Greeks, completely enslaved by the Asian peoples? -an eyewitness, who at that time was a boy under the Metropolitan One Greek comes to His Eminence and says with tears: “Effendi! (This is how the Turks and Tatars call noble persons) Efendi! My four-year-old son, having heard the muezzin shout on the minaret: “Magomed irresul alla”, shouted the same himself; the Tatars seized the child and, saying that he had converted to Islam, Muslimized him.” “Efendi! calls another. – The Tartar knocked out the rest of the still burning tobacco from his pipe in the street in order to light a newly filled pipe from it. My old and almost blind father, without noticing this, stepped on the fire. Seeing this as an insult to himself, the Tatar, without hesitation, and without saying a word, shot him like a dog.

For seven difficult years St. Ignatius ruled his cathedra, offering tearful prayers for the oppressed flock. The Lord opened the way for deliverance from the oppression of his co-religionists. Like Moses, the difficult mission of the exodus of Orthodox Greeks from the Tatar Crimea to the Christian land of the Russian Sea of ​​Azov was entrusted to St. Ignatius.

At the head of the Greek settlers

Diploma of Catherine II.

Made for the Crimean Greeks who moved to Russia

May 1779

When the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774 broke out. and Crimea was occupied by Russian troops in 1771, Archbishop Ignatius, through the commander of the Russian occupation corps in Crimea, V. M. Dolgorukov, sent letters to the Holy Synod and to Empress Catherine II with a request to accept Christians into Russian citizenship. Negotiations began, during which it was decided to start campaigning for the resettlement of Orthodox Greeks to the territory of the Russian Empire. Russia itself was interested in this resettlement, because 30 thousand people who could be withdrawn from the Crimea would significantly weaken the Crimean Khanate. The qualities of a diplomat helped Saint Ignatius obtain great economic and land benefits for his flock, but the main thing was that the Greek people had the opportunity to forever get rid of oppression in the sphere of religious life.

The call to begin preparations for the Exodus was made after the Divine Liturgy on April 23, 1778, in the cave church of the Holy Assumption Skete. Messengers throughout the peninsula alerted fellow believers. It is noteworthy that there was not a single traitor among the Greeks: the Turkish-Tatar authorities of the Crimea did not learn anything about the impending event and were unable to prevent it. Leaving the houses and graves of their ancestors, in the month of June, with the great shrine – the Bakhchisaray icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria, whose name translates as “Guide”, – the Greeks set off. They also took with them the icon of St. George the Victorious from the monastery on Fiolent.

Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov led the military side of the exodus, and Vladyka Ignatius led the spiritual and administrative side. About twenty thousand people left the Turkish-Tatar Crimea.

“The Great Transition of the Greeks to Azov”

Mariupol wood carver Georgy Korotkov


During the journey, the Greeks faced many difficulties and terrible illnesses, which were successfully overcome thanks to the prayers of Archpastor Ignatius. So, when an unknown terrible epidemic happened on the way, Saint Ignatius prayed to Hieromartyr Kharlampy, and the people were saved. Metropolitan Ignatius, sparing no effort, worked for his flock, helped them endure the hardships of the path – not a single person was bypassed by his care. But just as the Jews once lived in the wilderness, so the Greeks were not always grateful to the one who laid down his life for them. Many grumbled, offered to go back, complained about the difficulties of the path. However, nothing could lessen Vladyka’s love for his spiritual children, and he sincerely rejoiced that the miracle of God’s mercy had taken place and his people had been saved.

In the city of Mariupol

On the Russian coast of the Sea of ​​Azov, where the settlers stopped, with the blessing of Metropolitan Ignatius, the city of Mariupol was founded, named after the Queen of Heaven, the Patroness of Christians on the road and in later life in a new place. Vladyka passed under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church as a vicar bishop of the Kherson and Slavic diocese, retaining the title of Metropolitan of Gottya-Kafai. For the feat and courage shown, Empress Catherine II awarded the Saint with a high award – a diamond panagia.

The first concern of Metropolitan Ignatius was the arrangement of the spiritual life of the flock: living under the auspices of an Orthodox state, the Greeks were now free to confess the faith of Christ. Vladyka founded new settlements, built and consecrated temples in them. In one of the churches of Mariupol, an icon of the Mother of God brought from the Crimea was installed. Vladyka kept another icon – St. George the Victorious – in front of this icon, St. Ignatius constantly prayed for the well-being of his people.

The hardships of life in a new place, the danger of an attack by Turkish landing forces, which often landed on the coast in order to return the fugitives – all this aroused the murmur of faint-hearted people. They began to blame the Saint for all their troubles and discords. The Metropolitan endured everything with humility. Archbishop Gabriel of Kherson and Taurida, whose manuscript is in the Notes of the Odessa Society of History and Antiquities (Volume 1, 1861), indicates: He lived, along with the poorest of his fellow tribesmen, in a wretched, gloomy, damp dugout. Moreover, misfortune visited him here: a fire that broke out turned all his property to ashes, after which, although a comfortable house was built for him, but the saint did not find perfect peace in him, being disturbed by frequent upsets from his compatriots.

The manuscript of Archbishop Gabriel tells about the place where St. Ignatius stayed: “He chose a special place for spiritual rest, six miles from the city up the river Kalmius, where he planted a good orchard, building in it a stone cell for prayer. , also a stone, tiled house with five windows. Here the Right Reverend intended to build a monastery in the name of the great martyr and victorious George, especially revered by the Greeks; but with his death, all his noble intentions crossed.”

Attitude of compatriots

In 1786, after a two-week illness, Vladyka reposed in the Lord. He was buried in the first church in Mariupol – in the Cathedral of St. Kharlampy. But the ingratitude of compatriots did not dry up for a long time, both in relation to the saint and to his relatives. “The suburban orphanage of the Right Reverend has fallen into disrepair, the garden has died out with nettles, and the cells and the prayer house are being destroyed. With his death, the existence of the diocese of Gotthia and Kathia in Russia ceased to exist, with him it arose and lasted for almost seven years,” says Archbishop Gabriel.

The saint died on February 3, 1786, after a two-week illness. He was buried in the first church in Mariupol – the Cathedral of St. Haralamp.

After some time, the name of the saint, hitherto under the cover of semi-forgetfulness, again awakened a grateful memory of him among the Orthodox of the Russian Sea of ​​\u200b\u200bAzov. Requiem services at the grave of the righteous man gathered many people, readings and historical research were conducted about his life and work.

In 1936, the atheists destroyed the St. Kharlampi Cathedral, and opened the coffin of the saint. Then it was discovered that his relics were incorruptible. During the occupation, when churches were reopened, his body was transferred to a church building. During the liberation of Mariupol on September 10, 1943, the city set on fire by the Germans burned, and the holy relics burned with it. Thus the prediction of the saint was fulfilled, that his body would be burned along with the city. And yet part of the relics survived. Through the efforts of believers, this part was kept by them until 1992, when the tomb with the shrine was transferred to the Mariupol Nikolo-Preobrazhensky port church.

On June 11, 1997, and on November 15, 1998, the Divine Liturgy and the rite of glorification of St. Ignatius of Mariupol, Metropolitan of Gottya and Kefay were served as locally venerated saints.

On November 30, 2017, the all-church veneration of St. Ignatius of Mariupol, Metropolitan of Gotha and Kafa, began with the inclusion of his name in the calendar.

Photo: Portrait of St. Ignatius of Mariupol

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