Metropolitan Vladimir, in the world Basil Nikiforovich Bogoyavlensky, was born on January 1, 1848 in the village of Malaya Morshka in the Morshansky uyezd of Tambov province. His father, Nicephorus, was a priest who later himself suffered a martyr's death. He received his primary education in the theological schools of Tambov diocese.
Unpretentiousness which bordered on timidity, complemented by eagerness and diligence in schoolwork, were the most distinctive characteristics of the child and future metropolitan. In a book dedicated to the memory of the late Metropolitan Anthony Vadkovsky, who was formerly from the same district as Metropolitan Vladimir, there appears the following story about an incident in the latter's childhood. Once Basil Bogoyavlensky's father went with him to the home of Alexander Vasilyevich Vadkovsky, the future Metropolitan Anthony. When he saw A.V. Vadkovsky's older brothers, who were theologians, Basil Bogoyavlensky was so frightened by these important persons that he ran into the barn and hid under a carriage, where they had great difficulty finding him.
Basil continued his education at the Kiev Theological Academy, from where he graduated with the degree of candidate of theology in 1874 as a member of the twenty-seventh graduating class of students in the Department of Church Practices. He was among the top graduates in his class. Several professors of the Department of Church Practices even suggested that he stay at the Academy to prepare for a professorial post.
While he was still a student at the Academy, Basil ventured into the field of literature as a writer and translator. By his efforts G. Hageman's work on logic was translated from German and published in Kiev in 1874.
On leaving the Academy, Basil became a teacher of homiletics, liturgics and pastoral theology at the Tambov theological seminary. A year later, he was appointed to teach Holy Scripture in the seminary. He also taught German at the seminary and gave lessons in geography in the girls' high school in the diocese and later in the local girls' gymnasium.
After seven years of work in education, Basil decided to dedicate himself to serving the Church as a priest. On January 13, 1882 he was ordained a priest for the Pokrov cathedral in Kozlov, Tambov diocese, and soon thereafter became a parish priest in that city. Fr. Basil invested a great deal of time and effort into preaching the word of God in the city of Kozlov. In 1883 he became superior of the Trinity church in Kozlov and the dean of the churches of Kozlov.
On February 8, 1886, after the deaths of his wife and only child, Fr. Basil was tonsured into the mantia with the name Vladimir, and the next day was raised to the rank of archimandrite, being appointed superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in Kozlov.
On October 6, 1886, he was transferred to Novgorod and appointed superior of the St. Anthony monastery in Novgorod.
On June 3 or 13, 1888, Archimandrite Vladimir was consecrated Bishop of Stara Russa, a vicariate of the Novgorod diocese.
Both in Kozlov and in Novgorod Bishop Vladimir, in addition to carrying out his duties as vicar bishop under the current Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Novgorod, Isidore, laboured much over the preaching of the word of God and thus brought great benefits to the people. He frequently and zealously instructed the people, for he gave this priority. His sermons attracted his listeners' attention by their unusual simplicity, sincerity and candour. At this time he also began trying to organize all the preaching in Novgorod and in his diocese by gathering together all of the parish clergy. He was particularly interested in instituting informal dialogues between priests and lay people in addition to the sermons delivered during services. This practice was initiated, and Bishop Vladimir attached very great significance to it. He was always fondly remembered in Novgorod, and he similarly cherished pleasant memories of his service in Novgorod to the end of his days.
On January 19, 1891, Bishop Vladimir was appointed Bishop of Samara and Stavropol. His rather brief term of service in Samara (less than two years) constitutes a special chapter in the life of the martyr-metropolitan. It coincided with a famine in Samara, which was followed by a cholera epidemic. During these terrible calamities that befell the Samara region, Bishop Vladimir put exceptional energy into developing various means of helping the people. Through the work of a special committee which he established, he organized widespread assistance for the hungry, cooperated with the parish relief organization, and recommended that arrangements be made for partially and fully subsidized dining halls and tea rooms to feed the hungry. In all of this he not only acted as an organizer and leader of the clergy, but was also actively involved in the work. In his sermons and printed appeals he prompted the clergy and the local populace to assist their unfortunate brothers who were suffering from the famine.
Bishop Vladimir showed the same energy and initiative during the cholera epidemic. In his sermons and various publication, he tried to communicate to the people a healthy, proper attitude toward the epidemic and suggested effective ways of fighting against it. He organized and served at gatherings for the purpose of praying for deliverance from this terrible misfortune. He also conducted funeral services at the cemeteries for those who had died during the epidemic, and fearlessly appeared among the worshippers in places where the threat of cholera was greatest. His personal example inspired other priests to forget their own troubles and alleviate the sufferings of others.
These actions evoked sympathy for the young hierarch among the people. Thus, when on October 19, 1892 Bishop Vladimir was appointed Exarch of Georgia and elevated to the rank of Archbishop of Kartelia and Kakhetia, the people of Samara unanimously expressed their regret that Bishop Vladimir would have to leave Samara. His very appointment to such a responsible post in the Church administration reflected favourably on his work in Samara, where he had distinguished himself among the bishops of Russia.
Archbishop Vladimir served as Exarch of Georgia for a little more than five years. There he devoted special attention to the spiritual enlightenment of the ethnically heterogeneous Orthodox peoples of the Caucasus. In order to accomplish his goals, he supported increased dissemination of Christian teachings, in addition to building new churches and parish schools. Meanwhile, he persistently encouraged the clergy of the Georgian exarchate not only by his words but also by his example.
In 1897 he was appointed honorary member of the Kazan Theological Academy.
On February 21, 1898 Archbishop Vladimir was appointed Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, and on March 28 of the same year took over the administration of the Moscow diocese. The new metropolitan was immediately faced with great difficulties. Moscow was accustomed to having in this post archpastors who had great authority, as a result either of their scholarship (such as Metropolitans Plato Levshin, Philaret Drozdov and Macarius Bulgakov), or of their record of service in an academy (such as Metropolitans Joannichius Rudnev and Sergius Lyapidevsky), or who were famous for having performed some exceptional service (like, for example, Innocent Veniaminov, the apostle of Alaska). The new metropolitan did not enjoy such fame among the Orthodox, despite his meritorious service in Samara and Georgia. He was also comparatively young when he was appointed metropolitan, for he had just turned fifty.
In his leadership of the clergy in the capital, Metropolitan Vladimir maintained his usual principles. He was simple in his manner of address, yet firm and insistent when giving orders and instructions. He wanted very much to bring the clergy of the capital close to the people and for them to conduct services and deliver sermons as frequently as they could. In order to invigorate and strengthen the Muscovite clergy, Metropolitan Vladimir began making new posts in the capital's parishes and appointing new priests.
At first this, in conjunction with certain of the metropolitan's personal traits, served to upset the Muscovite clergy and even the lay population of the capital. With time, however, the Muscovite flock came to understand how kind the meteropolitan was, and how full of the best of intentions for the people. Moscow gradually accepted Metropolitan Vladimir's personality and methods. Unfortunately the events of 1905 impaired the good spiritual relationship which had been established between the archpastor and his flock in Moscow. Only his tenacity and strength of purpose combined with unusual patience made it possible for him not only to survive the lamentable events of the 1905 revolution, but even to restore a normal relationship with his flock. He spent the last few years of his service in Moscow in such relative calm that he subsequently remembered them with satisfaction as the best years of his archpastoral service.
During this time, Metropolitan Vladimir signed the decrees of the Holy Synod on the uncovering of the relics of Saints Seraphim of Sarov, Pitirim of Tambov and Joasaph of Belgorod. Being the spiritual father of the future martyr, the Great-Princess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, he helped her to found the Martha-Mary convent in Moscow. In 1912 he founded the journal The Voice of the Church.
Metropolitan Vladimir was particularly interested in strengthening the Church's role in education. For example, he was inspired with a desire to communicate genuine Christian morals and teachings to the workers, who were being led astray by socialist propaganda. From time to time he even attended Moscow workers' meetings and presented the Christian teachings, explanations and solutions to the social questions which most interested and troubled the working class. In order to promote among the workers and people in general a Christian understanding of the social aspect of government, the metropolitan published his own sermons and speeches, and also translated the best works of foreign literature which dealt with socialism.
The metropolitan was instrumental in establishing in Moscow the so-called "Diocese House", which subsequently acquired his name. This building became the centre not only of the diocesan administration, but also of spiritual enlightenment. Sermons were always given at the daily services in its church, and lectures on theology were read in the main hall, as well as special lectures for factory workers and speeches on theological science and religious philosophy.
As time went on and the presiding member of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Anthony of St. Petersburg, became chronically ill, Metropolitan Vladimir had to devote much of his energy and attention to the highest administration of the Russian Church. And when, on November 2, 1912, Metropolitan Anthony reposed in the Lord, Metropolitan Vladimir was transferred to St. Petersburg and assumed the title and rights of the presiding member of the Holy Synod. This took place on November 23, 1912, and shortly thereafter Metropolitan Vladimir took over the administration of the capital's diocese.
His three years' service as Metropolitan of Petrograd undoubtedly constituted a most difficult period in his service to the Church. Serving as the capital's hierarch was in itself exceedingly difficult, but for Metropolitan Vladimir it was complicated by the particular problems caused by the unusual events of the time. Above all, he endured repeated and cruel attacks, both at open meetings and in the press. To some it seemed that he paid too much attention to the political aspects of his high rank, but according to others he was not sufficiently bold and decisive in his censure of the irregularities and abuses which took place in the Russian Church and society at that time.
Once, in a private audience with Tsar Nicholas II, he expressed his opinion on the disastrous influence exerted by Rasputin. For his open non-acceptance of Rasputin he was punished by being transferred to Kiev, where he was appointed to replace Metropolitan Flavian (Gorodetsky), who reposed on November 4, 1915. Metropolitan Vladimir was appointed to serve in Kiev on November 23, 1915, but he retained the title and rights of the presiding member of the Holy Synod. On December 22, he arrived in Kiev and officially took over the administration of the diocese. He thus became the first hierarch in the history of the Russian Church to occupy all three of the leading sees of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev - he was truly the metropolitan "of all Russia".
At first the Kievan flock genuinely sympathized with its new hierarch. He was esteemed as a victim of persecution. But they did not see the heaviness of spirit and exhaustion that was reflected in the metropolitan's speech, work and gestures...
After Theophany, 1916, Metropolitan Vladimir hurried to Petrograd to take part in a meeting of the Holy Synod. He ended up spending most of his service as Metropolitan of Kiev in Petrograd, and he was in Petrograd at the time of the revolution of February, 1917.
The fall of the Tsar elicited surprisingly little reaction in view of the enormous, indeed apocalyptic significance of the event. This was owing, not so much to the fact that many members of the Church welcomed the revolution (although this was true), as to the fact that a revolution was taking place within the Church herself, and this drew the attention of the leaders of the Church away from political events.
The revolution consisted in the fact that all over the country the elective principle with the participation of laymen was taking the place of the system of "episcopal autocracy" which had prevailed thereto. In almost all dioceses Diocesan Congresses restricted the power of the bishops with special "diocesan councils" or committees composed of clergy and laity elected by the Congresses. The application of the elective principle to almost all ecclesiastical posts, from parish offices to episcopal sees, resulted in the removal of several bishops from their sees and the election of new ones in their stead. Thus the staunchly monarchist Archbishop Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov was forced to retire before by the revolutionaries being reinstated at the demand of the church people. And among other changes Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin) of Lithuania was elected metropolitan of Moscow, Archbishop Benjamin (Kazansky) - metropolitan of Petrograd and Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) - metropolitan of Vladimir.
These changes were in fact sometimes beneficial to the Church. Thus Rasputin's nominees, such as Metropolitan Pitirim of Petrograd, were removed. Nevertheless, the winter session of the Holy Synod, presided over by the Metropolitan Vladimir refused to sanction the results of the elections, because the hierarchs recognized, correctly, that whatever the immediate good results, the spirit behind these changes was the spirit of the revolution. This led the new procurator of the Holy Synod appointed by the Provisional Government, Prince V.N. Lvov, to petition for the early disbanding of the Synod and the appointment of a new Synod for the summer session. Only two members of the old Synod - Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Vladimir and the Exarch of Georgia, Metropolitan Platon - agreed to serve in the new Synod; and ten years later Sergius became the main architect of the Sovietization of the Russian Church, while Platon became the architect of the schism of the American Metropolia...
On March 24, 1917, after leaving the Synod, Metropolitan Vladimir returned to Kiev, where his prolonged absence had created problems among his flock. However, when the Local Council of the Russian Church opened its proceedings in Moscow in August, 1917, Metropolitan Vladimir, being Honorary President of the Council and President of the section on ecclesiastical discipline, was obliged to move to Moscow. On November 21 / December 4, 1917, he led the triumphant rite of the enthronment of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
Then, with a heavy heart full of forebodings about the future, he returned again to his flock in Kiev. Already in March, on his first return to Kiev after the February revolution, he had had to hold back the waves of incipient revolution there. For an "Executive Committee of clergy and laymen" was organized in Kiev at this time, and a "Commissar for ecclesiastical affairs" was appointed. The longsuffering Orthodox city of Kiev, which had witnessed in the many centuries of its history all manner of hideous events and changes, was shocked at the spectacle of an Orthodox parish priest in the role of a revolutionary commissar, "a policeman in a riassa" as he was called. According to the brochure A True Account of the Church Advisory Council to the Metropolitan of Kiev (Kiev, 1917), he is described as "at all times of the day and even sometimes at night, always with his briefcase in his hand or under his arm, racing about in an automobile with representatives of the executive committee, either to oversee the searching of monasteries in order to discover counter-revolutionary or pogromist literature, or seizing confidential documents at the Church Consistory..." (p. 30).
In a dialogue with representatives of the executive committee, Metropolitan Vladimir stated candidly that "the Executive Committee of clergy and laymen is an illegitimate institution which is trying gradually to expand its power and to usurp prerogatives which do not belong to it."
However, in spite of this his opinion of the new organ of the Kievan Church which had been formed as a result of the revolution, Metropolitan Vladimir did not refuse in principle to work with its members to lead the Church in a new direction. He gave his blessing for "the Executive Committee of clergy and laymen" to convene, in Kiev on April 12, 1917, a "Congress of the clergy and laymen of the Kievan diocese", which was for reasons that remain unclear transformed into "the Ukrainian congress of the clergy and laymen of the Kievan diocese".
Metropolitan Vladimir had a negative opinion of this congress. During it bishops were publicly insulted in a manner unheard of in the Orthodox Christian world; clerics in attendance branded them as "parasites". Metropolitan Vladimir likewise had a negative opinion of the resolutions which this congress passed, among which was the declaration that "the autonomous Ukraine must have a Ukrainian church which is independent of the Synod." He also opposed the formation by this congress of a so-called advisory committee to the Metropolitan of Kiev.
This is how the members of this committee characterized the metropolitan's attitude towards them in their account of a meeting which took place on July 1, 1917: "At this meeting, in the presence of three vicar bishops, the metropolitan expressed what can only be called a hostile attitude toward the Church Committee in such clear and candid terms that all of its members wished to leave the metropolitan's inhospitable chambers. One of the committee members (Archpriest E.A. Kapralov) suggested that they do so and that it be recorded in the minutes that the metropolitan's attitude precluded any possibility of cooperative and fruitful labour."
The metropolitan's feelings were best expressed in an "archpastoral address" which he published in early August, 1917, on the eve of the convocation of an extraordinary congress of the Kievan diocese: "The great misfortune of our times is that people consider it to be a virtue to have a liberal attitude toward matters of faith and morality. Many consider it their duty to implant such a liberal attitude toward faith and morality in the souls of the Russian people... To justify themselves, they present arguments that seem to merit our attention. They say: every man can judge religious matters from his own point of view and freely express his convictions, whatever they may be, according to his conscience, and he must respect the religious convictions of others. No one will object to freedom of religion and of the conscience. One must not, however, forget that Christian faith is not a human invention, but rather the word of God, and it cannot be changed to suit people's concepts. If people's convictions stand in opposition to the Divine truth, is it reasonable to recognize these convictions, to consider them correct and to guide one's life by them? We must, of course, be tolerant of those who do not agree with us, and bear with even those who have clearly gone astray, but we must turn away from their errors, and prove that they are unfounded. The pastors of the Christian Church and all sincere followers of Christ's teachings should consider this their duty...
"Our local and rapidly growing sorrows add to the misfortune experienced by the whole of the Russian land. I am speaking about a tendency which has surfaced in southern Russia and which threatens to destroy the peace and unity of the Church. It is terrible for us even to hear people talk about separating the churches of southern Russia from the one Orthodox Church of Russia. After their long cooperation, can there be any grounds for such aims? What is their origin? Did not the preachers who spread Orthodoxy throughout Russia come from Kiev? Among the God-pleasing brethren of the Kiev-Caves Lavra do we not see men who came from all corners of Holy Russia? Is it not true that the Orthodox of southern Russia have laboured in all parts of Russia, serving the Church and as scholars in various fields? And conversely, is it not true that the Orthodox of northern Russia have laboured for salvation in various professions in southern Russia? Did they not erect the one great Russian Orthodox Church together? Could the Orthodox of southern Russia possibly reproach the Orthodox of northern Russia for falling away from the faith in some way or for distorting the teachings of faith and morality? Certainly not. Based on my personal experience I can testify that in all the dioceses where God has allowed me to serve, the Orthodox teachings of faith and morality are kept pure and unchanged, and there is everywhere unity in the Church's teachings and liturgical practices. Why should there be any separation? Where will it lead? Indeed, only the enemies both without and within will have cause to rejoice. Our love for our native soil should not suppress and stifle our love for the whole of Russia and for the one Russian Orthodox Church."
The metropolitan concluded by appealing to the clergy and laymen to "take every possible measure to promote unity among themselves and with the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church," and to "devote serious thought and proper preparation to the upcoming congress, thoroughly to discuss the issues presented there, and pass resolutions which are correct, legal, beneficial and which merit implementation."
However, the congress, which took place on August 8 and 9, 1917, took an entirely different direction. On August 9, the metropolitan was so offended by the proceedings of the congress that he fell seriously ill and had to leave the meeting immediately. In a defiant public statement, the delegates interpreted the metropolitan's departure as escapism and an expression of his lack of respect for the meeting.
In October, 1917, the Provisional Government fell. The Ukrainian government wished to use the change to turn their autonomous status into one of full independence. And the same tendencies were strongly present in the Church.
A special committee in charge of convening a Council of the Orthodox clergy and lay people of the Ukraine was organized in Kiev in mid-November of 1917 according to a resolution passed at the third Cossack military assembly. Archbishop Alexis Dorodnitsyn (formerly of Vladimir), who was in retirement in the Kiev Caves Lavra, stood at the head of this committee. This committee was joined by representatives from among the clergy of Kiev (Fathers Lipkovsky, Tarnavsky, Filipenko and others), who played active roles in the above-mentioned organizations, such as the Executive Committee, Church Advisory Council to the Metropolitan of Kiev, etc.
At a meeting on November 23, this committee "discussed the present position of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine now that the Ukrainian government is being separated from the government of Russia, and took into account the pronouncement of the Russian Patriarch, who might extend his authority to include the Ukrainian Church as well". Thye passed a whole series of resolutions, which amounted to sweeping changes in the status and administration of the Church in the Ukraine. The organizational committee was renamed "the provisional Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council", and an executive committee established to convene a provisional Ukrainian Orthodox Church Council was proclaimed "the provisional government of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". It was also decided that this new ecclesiastical government should appoint commissars to all the dioceses of the Ukraine. The priest Fr. Pashchevsky was appointed commissar of the Kievan diocese. And the chairman of the Council, Archbishop Alexis, was forbidden to go to Moscow, where he had been summoned to become the abbot of a monastery by Patriarch Tikhon.
On November 24, a general meeting of the Orthodox parish councils of Kiev was convened at which these moves towards Ukrainian ecclesiastical autocephaly were condemned and the fear was expressed that an autocephalous Church might join the uniates and come under the Pope.
A few days later the metropolitan arrived in Kiev. On December 4 a meeting convened by the Union of Orthodox Parish Councils was held under the presidency of the metropolitan and attended by Metropolitan Platon of Georgia. In the days that followed several attempts were made by the autocephalists to remove Metropolitan Vladimir and his vicar bishops from Kiev. At one point, sharply reversing course, they offered him the post of Patriarch of the Ukrainian Church, while at the same time demanding one hundred thousand rubles from the coffers of the metropolia. It was only with difficulty that the unwanted night visitors were removed.
At the end of the month another delegation came to the metropolitan and demanded that he leave Kiev. He replied with emotion: "I am not afraid of anyone or anything. I am at all times prepared to give my life for Christ's Church and for the Orthodox faith, to prevent its enemies from mocking it. I will suffer to the very end in order to preserve Orthodoxy in the very place where it first took root in Russia."
And then, going up to one member of the delegation and pointing at his heart, he said: "Do you know that the first revolutionary was the devil, and you are making a revolution in the Church of Christ?"
Then he wept bitterly.
The metropolitan considered the convening of an All-Ukrainian Council untimely and useless in view of the development of the revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, he was forced to prepare for the opening of a new Council, and opened its first session on January 7, 1918 with a moleben on Sophia square and a welcoming speech to the delegates. The metropolitan was unanimously elected to the chairmanship of the Council, and attended every single meeting until the civil war broke out in Kiev.
Artillery shells began to fall on the Kiev Caves Lavra on January 15 and continued for several days. However, the metropolitan continued with his religious duties, displaying great calm, and on January 23 celebrated his last Divine Liturgy with the brotherhood of the Lavra. On the evening of January 23 the Bolsheviks broke into the Lavra, committing unparalleled acts of sacrilege and looting, mocking and whipping the monks and killing the officers and other military personnel who were there. In spite of all the commotion, the metropolitan served an akathist to the Dormition of the Mother of God in the great church of the Lavra, which proved to be his last service on earth. Then he and Bishop Theodore of Priluki moved to the altar of the lower church, which was dedicated to St. Michael, first metropolitan of Kiev.
The night of January 25 was full of alarm. Four armed men and a woman, dressed as a Red Cross nurse, broke into the quarters of the superior, made a thorough search and took everything of value. In the middle of the night, three of them went out "for reconnaissance" and robbed the treasurer and the provost. Later, three armed Reds searched the metropolitan's rooms and, being unable to find any valuables, carried away a golden medal from the safe.
At half past six in the evening, the doorbell rang loudly three times. Five men, dressed in soldiers' uniforms and led by a sailor, entered the house and asked for "Vladimir, the Metropolitan". They were directed downstairs to the cell of the archpastor. The metropolitan came out to meet them, and was taken into the bedroom where they remained for twenty minutes behind locked doors. There Metropolitan Vladimir was tortured and choked with the chain of his cross, insulted and ordered to give them money. Later, the attendants found on the floor of the room pieces of a broken chain, a silk cord, a tiny case with holy relics and a small icon which the metropolitan always wore around his neck.
When the metropolitan came out twenty minutes later, surrounded by his torturers, he was wearing his cassock, a panagia and a white klobuk on his head. On the front steps he was approached by his old cell-attendant, Philip, who asked for a blessing. The sailor pushed him aside, shouting:
"Stop showing respect to these bloodsuckers. Enough of that!"
The metropolitan went up to Philip, blessed and kissed him, and, shaking his hand, said:
Then he wiped away his tears. Philip later reported that when they parted the metropolitan was calm and solemn, as if leaving for church to celebrate the Holy Liturgy.
This old, humble and innocent servant of God went to his death without any sign of weakness or fear. As he was led out of the monastery he crossed himself and softly chanted a prayer.
An eyewitness relates that Metropolitan Vladimir was driven from the gates of the monastery to the place of execution. On his way from the car to a small clearing by the fortified wall, he asked:
"Is it here that you want to shoot me?"
One of the murderers answered:
"Why not? Do you expect us to stand on ceremony with you?"
When the metropolitan asked for permission to pray before he was shot, the reply was:
"Be quick about it!"
Lifting his arms to heaven, Metropolitan Vladimir prayed aloud:
"O Lord, forgive my sins, voluntary and involuntary, and accept my spirit in peace."
Then he blessed the murderers with both hands and said:
"My God bless and forgive you."
In the silent night four shots were heard, then two more, then more...
"They are shooting the metropolitan," said one of the monks at the Lavra.
"There are too many shots for one murder," replied another.
At the sound of the shots, some fifteen sailors with revolvers and lanterns ran into the yard of the monastery. One of them asked:
"Did they take the metropolitan away?"
"They led him out of the gates," replied the monks timidly.
The sailors ran out, and in about twenty minutes returned.
"Yes, we have found him," they said, "and we'll take every one of you out in the same way."
There is another account of the metropolitan's death. Archimandrite Nicanor Troitsky recalls that when he was a boy his mother hurried with him to the Lavra, where a ring of soldiers were holding a crowd back from the scene of the execution. He recalls that the metropolitan was given a series of questions, and each time he gave an (unsatisfactory) answer a bayonet was thrust into his body until he became a fountain of blood. After the execution the crowd burst through the cordon of soldiers. Then Fr. Nicanor's mother told him to put his fingers into the blood of the martyred metropolitan, make the sign of the cross with them on his forehead, and remember that he had witnessed the death of a true martyr, to whose confession he must remain faithful for the rest of his life...
The silence was not broken again that night. The monastery slept, and no one seemed to realize that only a thousand feet from the northern gates of the Lavra, in a pool of blood, lay the shattered body of the holy metropolitan.
At sunrise, some women pilgrims appeared at the Lavra gates, and the monks learned from them where the mutilated body of the metropolitan was to be found. The brotherhood decided to bring the body into the monastery, for which permission from the communist authorities was obtained. At nine o'clock, Archimandrite Anthimus, accompanied by four medical orderlies, went to the scene of the murder.
The metropolitan was lying on his back covered with an overcoat. Missing were his panagia, his klobuk and cross, galoshes, boots, socks, gold watch and chain. The autopsy showed that he had been shot with exploding bullets and stabbed in several places with cold, sharp weapons. His hands were frozen in the position of blessing.
After serving a litiya at the spot where the metropolitan had died, they laid the body on the stretcher and, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, they brought it into the church of St. Michael, where the murdered metropolitan had spent the last few hours of his life. As Archimandrite Anthimus was lifting the body, he was surrounded by about ten armed men who started to mock and insult the remains.
"You want to bury him! But he deserves to be thrown into the ditch! You intend to make holy relics of him, that's why you are picking him up!" they shouted.
As the mournful procession was making its way to the Lavra, pious women who were passing by wept and prayed, saying:
"The sufferer and holy martyr, may God's Kingdom be his!"
"A heavenly kingdom! His place is in hell, at the very bottom of it," replied the fanatics.
After the metropolitan's body had been photographed and dressed in the proper vestments, the deputy abbot of the Lavra, Archimandrite Clement, and the senior brethren of the monastery served a panikhida. On January 27, Metropolitan Platon of Tbilisi, who was representing the Russian Patriarchate at the Ukrainian Council, served a panikhida for the metropolitan in Kiev. On January 29, the body was transferred to the Great Church of the Kiev Caves Lavra, and after the burial service it was buried in the church of the Elevation of the Cross in the Near Caves.
On February 15/28, 1918, a session of the Russian Church Council meeting in Moscow was dedicated to the memory of the murdered metropolitan.
Metropolitan Vladimir was the hierarch who bore the brunt of the first revolutionary assault on the Russian Church. It was therefore fitting that he should become her first hierarchical new martyr. And on April 5/18 the Russian Council decreed that the Sunday nearest the date of his martyrdom, January 25 / February 7, should become the date of the annual commemoration of all the holy new martyrs and confessors of Russia.
(Sources: Archimandrite Nicanor Troitsky; Archpriest Theodore Titov, A Wreath on the Grave of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Vladimir, 1918, translated into English by Antonina Janda, published by the St. John of Kronstadt Press, Liberty, TN, 1987; M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 852-853; Protopriest Michael Polsky, The New Martyrs of Russia, Montreal: Monastery Press, 1972, chapter 1; B. Bakulin, "Nyesvoyevremennye vospominaniya", in Bessmertny, A.R. and Filatov, S.B. Religiya i demokratiya, Moscow: Progress, 1993, pp. 149-163; Bishop Gregory Grabbe, Russkaya Tserkov' pered litsom gospodstvuyushchago zla, Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1991; Archbishop Leontius (Philippovich), "Ukrainskiye shovinisty i samsvyaty", Russkij Pastyr, II-III, 1995, pp. 154-159; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, pp. 260-261)
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