“Whoever loves the Tsar and Russia loves God” – Father Guryanov

PHOTO: Father Nikolai (Guryanov), holding a portrait of Tsar Martyr Nicholas II,
painted in 2017 by the contemporary Russian artist Vladimir Latyntsev

“Whoever loves the Tsar and Russia loves God” – Father Guryanov

Nikolai Alekseevich Guryanov (1909-2002), is regarded as one of the most revered elders of the Russian Orthodox Church of the late 20th – early 21st centuries. He is greatly respected by Orthodox Christians and Russian Monarchists for keeping the memory of Emperor Nicholas II alive, during the Soviet years.

He was born on 24th May 1909, into a peasant family in Chudskiye Zakhody (now the village of Zakhody), a village situated in the Gdovsky District of the Pskov Oblast. Nikolai’s father, Alexei Ivanovich Guryanov, was the regent of the church choir, died in 1914. The elder brother, Mikhail Alekseevich Guryanov, taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory; younger brothers, Peter and Anatoly, also had musical abilities. All three brothers died in the First World War (1914-18). Nikolai’s mother, Ekaterina Stepanovna Guryanova, helped her son in his labours for many years.

Nikolai’s father died in 1914. His mother lived a long life, she died on 23rd May 1969, and was buried in the cemetery on Zalit Island, situated on the Zalitsky Islands, located in the south-eastern part of Lake Pskov, 25 km northwest of Pskov.

From childhood, Nicholas served at the altar in the church of Michael the Archangel. As a child, Metropolitan Veniamin (Kazan) visited the parish . Father Nikolai recalled this event in the following way: “I was still a boy. Vladyka served, and I held his staff. Then he hugged me, kissed me and said: “How happy you are that you are with the Lord …“.

Teacher, prisoner, priest 

From 1958, Father Nikolai served as rector of St. Nicholas Church for 44 years, until his death in 2002. Orthodox Christians came from all over the country for spiritual support.

Next to the church stands a cross erected in memory of the service Nikolai Guryanov provided to the Russian Orthodox community.

PHOTO: the home of Father Nikolai (Guryanov) in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk

PHOTO: Father Nikolai (Guryanov) at his tiny home in Ostrov-Zalit

PHOTO: the cemetery in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk, where Father Nikolai (Guryanov) is buried

PHOTO: the grave of Father Nikolai (Guryanov), at the cemetery in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk

PHOTO: a framed portrait of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II wearing a crown of thorns, and a wooden carving depicting the Holy Royal Martyrs, adorn the grave of Father Nikolai (Guryanov)

PHOTO: the 18th century Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk, where Father Nikolai (Guryanov) served as rector for 44 years

Veneration of the Holy Royal Martyrs

During his life, Father Guryanov’s room was filled with photos and images of Nicholas II and family. He kept albums, films, and documentaries about the last Russian Tsar. Guryanov also honoured Grigori Rasputin.

Father Nikolay had the gift of foresight: not only did he predicted the collapse of communism, he also predicted the canonization of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to Father Guryanov, Nicholas II said The Jesus Prayer to himself daily: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

“The sword of a terrible war constantly hangs over Russia, and only our prayers to the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas will take away the wrath of God from us. We must ask the Tsar that there should be no war. He loves and pities Russia. If only you knew how He cries for us!” – Father Nikolai (Guryanov) – 1909-2002

© Paul Gilbert. 27 November 2022


Russia’s only church built in honour of Nicholas II’s Coronation

PHOTO: view of the Holy Trinity Church, built in the Neo-Russian style in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The beautiful Holy Trinity Church, in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka, Rostov Oblast, was built in the Neo-Russian style[1], it is the only church in Russia constructed in honour of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, held in Moscow on 27th May (O.S. 14th) May 1896.

The Holy Trinity Church was built on the site of the original wooden church, built in 1799, which consisted of a parish school, a hostel for pilgrims, a priest’s house, as well as service and outbuildings. In May 1895, the inhabitants of Bolshaya Martynovka decided to demolish the old wooden church, and in its place build a new stone church.

The site of the new church was consecrated on 14th (O.S.) May 1896, on the day of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. The first stone of the buildings foundation was laid the next day.

For the construction of the new church, the inhabitants made 300 thousand baked bricks, collected 3 thousand measures of grain and raised about 15 thousand rubles, which was then an impressive amount. Unfortunately, this money was not enough and in 1900, the residents were forced to turn to the diocesan authorities with a request to allow them to collect additional donations. Their request was granted and by 1902, the additional funds had been collected, which allowed construction to resume.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The Holy Trinity Church was completed in 1904. It consisted of three chapels: the central one – in the name of the Holy Trinity, the right one – in the name of the Holy Tsarina Alexandra[2], the left – in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker[3].

According to local residents, the renowned Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) visited Bolshaya Martynovka on two separate occasions. The first time was in 1904, shortly after the consecration Holy Trinity Church. It was during this visit that Chaliapin sang along with the church choir. His second visit occurred during the Russian Civil War, when he came to visit the local landowner Suprunov. It was during this visit that Chaliapin was almost shot, having been mistaken for a bourgeois, due to his attire, which included a luxurious fur coat and hat. A singer of the church choir recognized the opera singer and saved him from execution.

In 1930 the Soviets ordered the Holy Trinity Church closed. Local residents recall how Bolshevik thugs broke the iconostasis, destroyed the domes, removed the bells and threw them in the river, and plastered over the unique frescoes made by the icon painter Elisey Grigoryevich Cherepakhin (1837-1922). In the years which followed, the former church housed a granary, a convoy and an MTS workshop, and from 1951, a utility warehouse.

When the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, the artists who began the restoration discovered bullet holes made by drunken Bolsheviks some 60 years earlier.

In 1991, the Holy Trinity Church was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and restoration began, which was completed in 2004. In 2013, the windows of the church were replaced and heating installed, while a beautiful garden was planted on the grounds surrounding the church. According to Father Vladimir, additional restoration work is ongoing.

Situated near the church is a small brick chapel commemorating the martyrdom of Emperor Alexander II[4].

PHOTO: views of the interior of the Holy Trinity Church, showcasing it’s frescoes and icons (above) and view of the main iconostasis of main central chapel (below)

The Holy Trinity Church exists today only thanks to donations, which, unfortunately, are not enough and the abbot has to ask for financial assistance for the upkeep of the church from local business representatives. Today, the church is once again open to locals for prayer and worship, but there are few parishioners who attend. About 50 people attend the service on weekends. The relics of Paul of Taganrog, the Great Martyr Timothy and the Matrona of Moscow are even kept in the church.

Despite the fact that the Holy Trinity Church in Bolshaya Martynovka is recognized as a historical and cultural monument of the 19th century, the rector of the church Father Vladimir notes that church is virtually unknown to pilgrims and tourists visiting the region, as it is not even listed in any tourist guide. In addition, the village Bolshaya Martynovka [pop. 6,000] has no hotels or places where one could eat and rest.

PHOTO: icon depicting the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, located in the chapel of of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, located in the Holy Trinity Church, in Bolshaya Martynovka

On 14th May 2021, a memorial plaque (above) was installed on the facade of the Holy Trinity Church, bearing the images of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The plaque marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the church and the historic Coronation in 1896. The inscription reads:

The Holy Trinity Church
was founded on 14 May 1896
on the day and memory of the
sacred coronation of
Sovereign Emperor Nicholas
and Sovereign Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna
125 years from the date of foundation 2021

© 12 November 2022


[1] Neo-Russian style is also referred to as Russian Revival, Pseudo-Russian, or Russian Byzantine style: a number of different movements within Russian architecture that arose in the second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of Byzantine elements and pre-Petrine (Old Russian) architecture.

[2] St. Alexandra, Empress, Martyr, Wife of Diocletian

[3] St. Nicholas the World Wonderworker is the patron saint of Emperor Nicholas II

[4] the chapel was built in memory of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II in St. Petersburg on 13 March (O.S. 1st) March, 1881

ROC delays decision on Ekaterinburg Remains “INDEFINITELY!”

PHOTO: His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia presides over the meeting of Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, 2017

On 25th August 2022, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church announced that it has once again postponed the dates for the Bishops’ Council meeting – which was scheduled to meet in Moscow next month – and has now been postponed “indefinitely”, citing the “current situation in the world”.

“Since the international situation continues to make it difficult for many members of the Bishops’ Council to arrive in Moscow [from foreign countries], a decision has been made to postpone the meeting indefinitely . . . ” the Synod’s resolution states (Journal No. 66) dated 25th August 2022.

Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patrairchate) from more than 70 countries cannot travel to Moscow, due to Western sanctions, which have banned air travel to Russia from many countries around the world.

The Bishops’ Council was originally scheduled to meet in Moscow from 15th to 18th November 2021, however, this was delayed “due to the difficult COVID-19 situation.” The meeting was thus rescheduled for 26th to 29th May 2022. This meeting was also delayed due to the Russian-Ukranian conflict, and postponed until the end of 2022.

A key item on the agenda of the Bishops’ Council meeting is a definitive decision of the Church on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains.

The Council of Bishops is the highest body of the hierarchical administration of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Council reviews and approves church dogmas, determines the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on important issues of public life. Thus, at the council of 2000, a decision was made to canonize more than a thousand new martyrs – which included Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

According to the charter of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Council of Bishops is convened at least once every four years. The previous council took place in Moscow, from 29th November to 2nd December 2017. Between councils, issues of church life are decided by the Holy Synod, which meets every four months.

PHOTO: on 29th November 2017, some 347 bishops from across Russia and around the world, took part in the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow

As of 2019, the Russian Orthodox Church was present in 77 countries – including Russia; with 309 dioceses (of which 19 are in foreign countries); 382 bishops; 40,514 clerics (35,677 presbyters, 4,837 deacons); 38,649 churches or other places of worship where Divine Liturgy is served, not including 977 parishes abroad; 1012 monasteries (972 monasteries in the canonical territory (474 ​​male, 498 female) and 40 in other countries); 5,883 monks and 9,687 nuns (including cassocks) live in monasteries; 5 academies and 50 seminaries in which, at the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, approx. 14 thousand students; OK. 11,000 Sunday schools with over 175,000 pupils; 145 Orthodox educational organizations; almost 150 maternity protection centers; there are 70 rehabilitation centers, 18 resocialization centers, 67 counseling centers for drug addicts; over 90 shelters for the homeless; there are 10 mercy buses (mobile points for helping the homeless); over 450 charity canteens; more than 160 church humanitarian centers; more than 450 sisterhoods of mercy; over 500 volunteer charity groups; more than 250 charitable voluntary associations of various profiles.

According to the Press Service of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the Bishops, members of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will return to this issue, when they meet again in December.

Sadly, whatever decision the Bishops’ Council makes, it is sure to cause a schism among Believers who are divided on the authenticity of the remains. Many still adhere to Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov’s (1882-1924) theory that the bodies of the Imperial Family were completely destroyed with fire and acid at the Four Brothers Mine.


The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains
By Paul Gilbert


Full-colour covers, 206 pages + 90 black & white photographs

Originally published in 2020, this NEW REVISED & EXPANDED 2021 EDITION features an additional 40+pages, new chapters and 90 black and white photos. It is the most up-to-date source on the highly contentious issue of the Russian Orthodox Church and their position on the Ekaterinburg Remains.

The world awaits a decision by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, who will meet in Moscow at some point, during which they will review the findings of the Investigative Commission and deliver their verdict on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg Remains.

The reopening of the investigation into the death of Nicholas II and his family in 2015, caused a wave of indignation against the Russian Orthodox Church. This book presents the position of both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Investigation Committee.

This is the first English language title to explore the position of the Orthodox Church in Russia with regard to the Ekaterinburg remains. The author’s research for this book is based exclusively on documents from Russian media and archival sources.

This unique title features an expanded introduction by the author, and eight chapters, on such topics as the grounds for the canonization of Nicholas II and his family by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000; comparative details of the Sokolov investigation in 1919, and the investigations carried out in the 1990s to the present; reluctance of the Moscow Patriarchate to officially recognize the remains as authentic; interesting findings of Russian journalist, producer and screenwriter Elena Chavchavadze in her documentary Regicide. A Century of Investigation; and the author’s own attempt to provide some answers to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation for example: “Will Alexei and Maria be buried with the rest of their family?” and “Will the Imperial Family remains be reinterred in a new cathedral in Ekaterinburg?”.

This new revised and expanded edition also includes two NEW chapters!

Interviews with Vladimir Soloviev, Chief Major Crimes Investigator for the Central Investigate Department of the Public Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation and Archpriest Oleg Mitrov, a member of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints – BOTH key players in the Ekaterinburg remains case, reveal the political undertones of this to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation.


Independent researcher Paul Gilbert has spent more than 25+ years researching and writing about the Russian Imperial Family. His primary research is focused on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II. On 17th July 1998, he attended the tsar’s interment ceremony at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Twenty years later, he attended the Patriarchal Liturgy on the night of 16/17 July 2018, held at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. Since his first visit to the Urals in 2012, he has brought prayers and flowers to both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on numerous occasions.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 October 2022

22nd anniversary of the Canonization of Nicholas II and his family


Bas-relief on the wall of the Chapel of the Royal Passion-Bearers in Kostroma

On this day – 20th August 2000 – after much debate, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were canonized as passion bearers by the Moscow Patriarchate

The Moscow Patriarchate canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter historically killed for their faith. Proponents cited the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died.

The term “passion-bearer” is used in relation to those Russian saints who, “imitating Christ, endured with patience physical, moral suffering and death at the hands of political opponents. In the history of the Russian Church, such passion-bearers were the holy noble princes Boris and Gleb (1015), Igor of Chernigov (+ 1147), Andrei Bogolyubsky (+ 1174), Mikhail of Tverskoy (+ 1318), Tsarevich Dimitri (+ 1591). All of them, by their feat of passion-bearers, showed a high example of Christian morality and patience.

Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” by the August 2000 Council, Nicholas II and his family are referred to as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

NOTE: The family was canonized on 1st November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

This bas-relief (above) also depicts their servants, who had been killed along with the Imperial family. They were also canonized as new martyrs by the ROCOR in 1981 The canonized servants were Yevgeny Botkin, court physician; Alexei Trupp, footman; Ivan Kharitonov, cook; and Anna Demidova, Alexandra’s maid. Also canonized were two servants killed in September 1918, lady in waiting Anastasia Hendrikova and tutor Catherine Adolphovna Schneider. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Bolsheviks.

On 3 February 2016, the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) canonized Dr. Botkin as a righteous passion bearer. They did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Trupp was Roman Catholic, and Schneider was Lutheran.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 August 2022

The abbess who came to the aid of the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House

On this day – 29th July 1934 – Schema Magdalena (Dosmanova), the last abbess of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent[1] in Ekaterinburg before the 1917 Revolution, reposed to the Lord.

An early calling

Pelagia Stefanovna Dosmanova (future mother Magdalena) was born in 1847 into a merchant family in the city of Irbit, Perm province. In 1859, her pious parents brought their twelve-year-old daughter to the Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery[2] in Ekaterinburg.

For her first obedience, the young novice helped in the convent candle factory, then in the rector’s cells. Over the years, she was entrusted with more and more complex and responsible obediences, and Sister Pelagia performed every task with zeal. All the sisters loved her, sensing in her a special spiritual strength, which was combined with a soft, loving attitude towards every person.

In 1893, Pelagia Dosmanova was tonsured and became the nun Magdalena, and just two years later the sisters unanimously elected her abbess “in the conviction that she was of a pious life, of a meek disposition,” as they wrote in the act of election.

PHOTO: the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent [Monastery] [2] in Ekaterinburg

Mother Magdalena

Having become abbess, Mother Magdalena worked tirelessly: she decorated the churches, equipped the cells of the sisters, ensuring that the monastery was in perfect order – she wanted the monastery to look like paradise.

Matushka taught the sisters to pray, and introduced them to reading books on which many generations of monastics were brought up from ancient times. She also took care of the spiritual needs of the faithful who lived near the monastery. Parents often came to visit the monastery, on one occasion a novice took them to the icon-painting workshop, Suddenly, unexpectedly for the parents, all the sisters who were there, as one, stood up and bowed low, with deep reverence. The parents were moved to tears.

Many girls came to the monastery to lead a monastic life under the wise guidance of Mother Magdalena. By 1917, the number of sisters had increased to almost a thousand.

During the First World War, Mother Magdalena, according to the commandment of the Lord, tried to ease the sorrows of her countrymen, the monastery donated money and valuables for the needs of Russia’s soldiers at the front; while an infirmary for wounded soldiers was arranged at the monastery.

Comes to the aid of the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House

In 1918, Ekaterinburg became a place of exile for many people who were deemed objectionable to the new Bolshevik order, which included bishops, priests and members of the Imperial Family. Mother Magdalena’s heart ached for every innocent prisoner.

From April to July, when Nicholas II and his family were kept under arrest in the Ipatiev House, the nuns of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent were praying for them, asking God to relieve their sufferings, and to give them the strength to bear everything with Christian humility.

The sisters’ help came not only through prayer but also through deeds. Often disregarding their own safety, they supported the Tsar and his family, by bringing various foods to them through the guards.

Matushka gave her blessing to the sisters to carry food to the Ipatiev House for the imprisoned Emperor and his family: milk for Tsesarevich Alexei, cream, eggs, butter, bread, pastries, vegetables, and meat.

On 18th June 1918, a month before their murder, Empress Alexandra Feodorvna acknowledged the kindness shown them by the nuns, and made the following entry in her diary: “The kind nuns are now sending milk and eggs for Alexei and for us, as well as cream.”

The sisters carried food every day until the last day – 16th July – the eve of which the Imperial Family and their four faithful retainers were all shot to death in the basement of the Ipatiev House.

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna

In May 1918, when the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna arrived in Ekaterinburg, she was placed under house arrest [along with other members of the Romanov family], and placed in the Atamanovskie Rooms Hotel.

The sisters petitioned the Bolsheviks for the Grand Duchess to be allowed to live in the monastery. However, their request was rejected. Two months later, they were sent to the city of Alapaevsk, where they too were murdered.

The sisters also came to the aid of Bishop Germogen (Dolganev) of Tobolsk, also imprisoned in a local jail. The nuns delivered dinner to Vladyka from the monastery, Mother Magdalena visited him, and one day, at her request, Vladyka was allowed to serve a mass in prison, at which many prisoners took communion.

Matushka and the sisters of the the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent performed a confessional feat, by openly helping the Imperial Family and other prisoners. Indeed, at that time people were afraid not only to help political prisoners, but even simply to express sympathy for them, knowing that their punishment could lead to imprisonment or execution.

PHOTO: Bolsheviks seize and confiscate valuables from the Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery, 1920s

“Monastery” on the Third Zagorodnaya

Sadly, the Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery did not escape the fate suffered by most Orthodox churches and monasteries. In 1920, the monastery was closed, all the sisters were evicted. Over the gates of the monastery, the Bolsheviks hung a large banner: “Long live the World Communist Revolution!“. Mother Magdalene and the sisters looked at this slogan with heartache, often coming to pray at the walls of their native monastery. The monastery, which they had been landscaping for years, was now a pitiful sight, ravaged and defaced with communist inscriptions.

Mother Magdalena settled not far from the monastery, in a private house on Tretya Zagorodnaya Street (now Schmidt Street). Eighteen sisters came to live with her, while the others often came to her for prayer, advice and spiritual edification. During this mournful period, the virtues of Mother Magdalena and her spiritual experience acquired over many years were fully manifested. Having lost her pastoral position and her native monastery, she did not lose heart nor faith. Despite the hardships and persecutions under the Soviet regime, Matushka remained true to her Orthodox faith.

In the house on Tretya Zagorodnaya, the sisters lived as they did in the monastery – every night they read the akathist in front of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God; during the day they worked, read the scriptures, and went church together. Mother Magdalena combined prudent indulgence with moderate severity. She instructed the sisters to begin and end each day with the Jesus Prayer.

PORTRAIT: portrait of Schema Magdalena (Dosmanova). Artist unknown

Blessed Old Woman

The monastery had been closed for many years, yet despite this, new sisters still came to Mother Magdalena, who wanted to devote themselves to God.

In the 1920s, the Bolsheviks ordered the closure of churches and monasteries, and the arrest of priests, clergy, nuns and monks. The arrests carried out by the atheistic authorities did not bypass Mother Magdalena, but during interrogations she acted as a fool, which led the Chekists astray. She was arrested 8 times, and imprisoned for three months.

Three days before her death, predicted that she would die in three days. During the remaining three days of her life, she received daily communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. As Matushka lay on her deathbed, many believers came to say goodbye to her. She blessed each of them with the icon of Christ the Redeemer, and the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.

On 29th (O.S. 16th) July 1934, surrounded by her children, Mother Magdalena calmly surrendered her spirit to the Lord. Just before her death, she overshadowed everyone with the Tikhvin Icon and said: “I hand you over to the Mother of God …”.

PHOTO: Mother Magdalena’s final resting place, on the grounds of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg

Mother Magdalena was buried at the Ivanovo Cemetery in Ekaterinburg. A wooden cross was placed on the grave, and on the tablet the spiritual daughters wrote with reverence and love: “Pray to God for us, dear matushka!”.

On 5th February 2021, Mother Magdalena’s earthly remains were exhumed from her grave in the Ivanovo Cemetery, and reburied in a new resting place at the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 29 July 2022


[1] The Novo-Tikhvinsy Convent is a community of female monastics. It was founded in the late 18th century, growing out of an alms-house at the cemetery church in Ekaterinburg. It is the home of the icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God. During the Tsarist period, the convent grew to consist of six churches, numerous cells, a hospital, and an almshouse. The dominant building on the monastery grounds is the cathedral dedicated to St. Alexander Nevsky.

[2] In English usage since about the 19th century the term “convent” almost invariably refers to a community of women, while “monastery” refers to a community of men. In historical usage they are often interchangeable.

Myrrh-streaming icon of Tsar Nicholas II brought to Ekaterinburg for Tsar’s Days

PHOTO: Alexander Chernavsky carries the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, during the 21-km Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

The annual Cross Procession held during Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg on 17th July is known for many miraculous events. It was during this year’s procession, that the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, once again began to stream myrrh. The icon was brought from Moscow, by the head of the Military Orthodox Mission, Alexander Chernavsky, and this miracle was witnessed by the film crew of the Orthodox Soyuz TV channel, headed by correspondent Svetlana Ladina.

“This is the 30th annual Cross Procession in which we are taking part. The icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II has been streaming myrrh since 1998, and today, look, droplets of myrrh on the icon itself and along the frame have appeared like “diamonds”. I think the Sovereign is happy that we are here, and these “diamonds” bless all the participants in the procession. Kiss and pray for the sovereign to open our eyes and heart,” – said Alexander Chernavsky.

The icon of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II was painted in the United States of America even before the sovereign was glorified in Russia by the Moscow Patriarchate. And this event has an amazing story . . .

VIDEO: interview with Alexander Chernavsky, and coverage of the Cross Procession from the Church on the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

The miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

The Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas was commissioned by Ija Schmit (1936-2018), a Russian émigré in the United States, who used money inherited from her mother to have the icon painted in 1996.

Paul Gilbert first met Ija in 1998, when she joined his annual Romanov Tour to Russia, which that year included Moscow and Crimea. Ija was accompanied by her husband Harvey and their daughter Nina. It was during this visit that she told me about this icon, a copy of which she later gifted me.

The icon would be dedicated to the future canonization of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas in Russia[1], and in memory of her mother. After Ija’s initial inspiration to have the icon painted, she contacted iconographer Paul Tikhomirov, himself a Russian immigrant, to see if he was interested in her project. Tikhomirov’s response was, “I will make the icon shine!” They decided to depict Nicholas II in coronation robes [1996 was the 100th anniversary of his coronation in Moscow], with St. Nicholas, his patron saint, and St. Job, on whose feast day Nicholas was born, in the upper right and left hand corners. Below the figures would be printed in Russian, “This Holy Icon is for the Canonization of the Tsar-Martyr in Russia.”

Ija received the finished icon on 12th May 1996 and then traveled to Texas, where it was blessed by Bishop Constantine (Yesensky), an old family friend, who had served as Bishop of Great Britain. The icon, however, was not intended solely for family veneration. Ija and her husband, Harvey Schmit, had already arranged to have paper copies of the icon printed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II on 27th May (O.S. 14th) 1996.

Forty-four thousand copies of the icon were printed. The distribution of the icons [printed in three sizes], was handled by Ija’s own non-profit organization, the Society Honoring Russian Nobility, and income from the icons sold in the West purchased food and medicine for needy pensioners and orphans in Russia. A fourth, smaller version of the icon was printed by the thousands and given away in Russia without charge.

As word of the icon spread, Christians from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and even Serbia, began writing and requesting copies. The Society has met all these requests and distributed more than twenty thousand icons in Russia alone.

PHOTO: Alexander Chernavsky holding the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

On a visit to Russia in late 1996, Father Herman [Ija Schmit’s brother] presented a number of prints to Fr. Juvenaly, the priest at the St. Nicholas Almshouse in Ryazan. On 16th (O.S. 2nd) March 1998 (the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II’ abdication and the miraculous appearance of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Fr. Juvenaly blessed Dr. Oleg Belchenko with one of the prints, which the doctor took with him back to Moscow. The paper icon had been given to him in a glassfronted, three-dimensional wooden icon-case (a kiot) and Dr. Belchenko set it in a prominent place in his Moscow apartment. On 5th September, Dr. Belchenko noticed that a red spot had appeared over the right eyelid of the Tsar. The following day a second red spot appeared over the left eye. Dr. Belchenko first compared the icon with a smaller print to be sure that he had simply overlooked the distinctive marks. The smaller icon did not match. Dr. Belchenko then called Sretensky Monastery of the Meeting of the Lord to ask what he should do. The monks asked him to bring the icon of Tsar Nicholas to the monastery the following morning. Dr.Belchenko arrived early and stood through the liturgy holding the icon in a plastic bag at his side. At the end of the liturgy a moleben and blessing of the waters was held. The officiating priest recognized Dr. Belchenko, and knowing that he had come with the icon, had the choir sing a troparion for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. Following the troparion, Dr. Belchenko noticed one of the parishioners staring at him. Finally, the man approached and asked, “What is that fragrance?” Dr. Belchenko replied: “You are probably smelling incense – I am sorry, I can’t smell anything myself because I have a cold.” The man persisted: “No. I tell you, the fragrance is coming from somewhere around you… the smell is much more refined than incense.” Dr. Belchenko replied impatiently, “You should be ashamed of talking such nonsense while the service is going on!” The man moved away embarrassed, but within a few moments other worshippers filtered over, curious about the fragrance and asking what was in the package. “Nothing, only an icon,” he replied. “Show it to us.” As Dr. Belchenko opened the package and took out the icon, the remarkable scent filled the church.

The icon of Tsar Nicholas II was displayed for veneration in the monastery church for three weeks. After Dr. Belchenko took it home, the fragrance continued to a lesser degree, and as word began to spread, Muscovites increasingly asked to come to his apartment to venerate the icon. Dr. Belchenko felt that his home was too small to accommodate many visitors, so he asked an Orthodox friend, Alla Dyakova, to keep the icon in her flat, where those who wished could venerate it. When asked how he was able relinquish such a treasure, Dr. Belchenko answered, “The icon is not mine. It belongs to all Russians.”

On 19th October, Alla Dyakova and Fr. Peter Vlashchenko, a married priest from the Ivanovo region, took the icon to Elder Kyril of St. Sergius Lavra, who was in Peredelkino, outside Moscow. Elder Kyril venerated the icon and blessed Fr. Peter and Alla with the words, “Go. Take the icon to whomever asks for it.”

On 1st November, the icon was brought to the Martha-Mary Convent in Moscow, founded by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the sister- in-law of Tsar Nicholas II and herself a new-martyr. The day not only marked the birthday of Elizabeth, but the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas’ assuming the throne at his father’s death in 1894. The icon of Tsar Nicholas was placed on the analogion next to an icon of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Throughout the Divine Liturgy the icon of the Tsar poured forth waves of fragrance, filling the chapel.

It is worth mentioning that the popular veneration of the Tsar-Martyr played an important role in the canonization of the Imperial Family at the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000 among the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

In August 2000, the Russian Church met at a synod in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow. Amongst the things discussed was the issue of canonization. The eagerly-awaited news finally escaped the cathedral’s walls to the faithful gathered outside: Tsar Nicholas II and his family were now recognized as Saints! The date of their martyrdom was now recorded in Orthodox calendars around the world as their feast day. It is certain that influential in this decision were two paper icons of the martyrs, both of which exuded sweet-smelling myrrh and so revealed those Saints to be themselves “a sweet aroma of Christ unto God” (2 Cor 2:15).

The keeper of the miraculous image, the Moscow surgeon Oleg Ivanovich Belchenko, has travelled around Russia for many years, bringing the icon to to churches and monasteries arousing veneration of the Holy Royal Martyrs wherever it went through its aromatic myrrh. Many Orthodox Christians believe that their prayers have been answered by God through the intercession of the Tsar and his family.

Lately, due to his age, Oleg has handed over this honourary mission to Alexander Fedorovich Chernavsky, a publicist, head of the Orthodox Mission for the Revival of the Spiritual Values of the Russian People. The Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar Nicholas II, appears with the same unpretentious simplicity with which the late Tsar laid down his throne and bore his final months of house arrest before his death and martyrdom.

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, Pray to God for Us! 


[1] The desire of many Russian Orthodox Christians for the canonization of Tsar Nicholas and his family does not stem from a belief that their personal lives were blameless, although from historical accounts and the family’s own letters it is obvious that they were Christians of great integrity. The widespread desire for the family’s canonization is based on the fact that Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered as a result of his position as the sacramentally anointed Orthodox monarch of Russia.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 July 2022

Night Liturgy at Tsarskoye Selo, 16/17 July 2022

PHOTO: the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo

On the night of 16/17 July, a solemn Divine Liturgy was held in the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo, in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs who were murdered that same date in 1918, in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg.

A large number of worshipers gathered for the Divine Litury, led by the rector of the cathedral, Father Herman Ranne, co-served by the clergy of the cathedral.

Every year on this day, people from Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo], St. Petersburg and other towns, come to the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral to prayerfully honour the memory of the last Russian emperor and his family.

Following the Divine Liturgy, a Cross Procession was held around the cathedral.

A brief history of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

On 2nd September (O.S. 20th August) 1909, Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II laid the first foundation stone for the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo, which became the house church of the Imperial Family, while they were in residence in the nearby Alexander Palace.

A solemn Divine Liturgy was performed by His Grace Theophan, Bishop of Yamburg (1872-1940), attended by the Emperor and members of his family. The cathedral was built in the old Russian style. Three years later, on the same day in 1912, the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was consecrated.

The Cave Church, situated in the Lower Church, where the Imperial Family came to pray, was consecrated in memory of St. Seraphim of Sarov (there was a special “royal room” in the church), and the upper church was consecrated in memory of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, the patron icon of the Romanov family. During the days of Great Lent, the Emperor remained to pray in the church until late at night.

After the revolution, the cathedral was closed, it was badly damaged during the Great Patriotic War. In 1991 the cathedral was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, restoration of the Cathedral lasted nearly 20 years.. Russia’s first monument to Nicholas II was established on the grounds of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in 1993.

Click HERE to view more colour photos of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, during a visit by a modern-day group of Cossacks in January 2020

PHOTO: worshipers gather at the monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, located in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

First monument to Nicholas II in Post-Soviet Russia

Situated in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo, is the monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, created by the St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).

Erected and consecrated on 17th July 1993, it was the first monument to Nicholas II to be erected in Post-Soviet Russia.

The monument stands in front of a small group of oak trees, seen in the background, which were planted by Nicholas II and his family on 4 May (O.S. 21 April) 1913. Of the seven trees planted, only four have survived to the present day.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 July 2022

American Tsarism – A Sermon for the Feast of the Royal Martyrs of Russia

This article was originally published on 17th July 2021, on the web site of the Holy Cross Monastery, a monastic community of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), situated in Wayne, West Virginia, USA. Click HERE to make a donation to the Holy Cross Monastery.

I remember the first time I saw a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II in a church. As a recent American convert to Orthodoxy, it seemed strange to me, and something within me bristled. Not surprisingly, most Americans are uneasy with the concept of monarchy. Our nation was born in casting off the rule of a monarch and the founding a democratic republic. We have always defined ourselves in opposition to the antiquated ways and entrenched hierarchies of the Old World. And now, the Church sets before us the last living representatives of that order for our pious admiration and veneration.

What are we to make of this as Americans? For us, the words “czar” and “autocrat” have the negative connotations of someone who wields power in an arbitrary or oppressive manner. They are practically synonymous with “tyrant” and “despot”. The voice of the inner cynic suggests that the canonization of the last Tsar and his family is just an expression of Russian chauvinism and reactionary nostalgia for a time when the Orthodox Church enjoyed the patronage of the State. Why should a repressive Russian tyrant command the affection and devotion of an American heart reared on the ideals of liberty and democracy? Perhaps your inner cynic has never had such thoughts, but mine has, and others like them—Were the Royal Martyrs really deserving of sainthood? They did not perform any miracles in their lifetime. Were they even truly martyrs? For unlike the martyrs of the early Church, they were not killed by state-sanctioned persecutors simply for confessing Christ; rather, they were killed precisely because they represented and embodied the very conjunction of State power and the Christian faith.

The presence of their relics here in our little chapel tells us that the last Royal Family of Russia is not meant for Russia alone, but for Christians of all peoples and nations. First, though, we may have to set aside the objections of the cynic, the distortions of history, and our American political prejudices, and simply encounter this holy family as fellow human beings and fellow Christians. If we are willing to do so, then no sensitive heart can fail to be moved by their lives, to be drawn by the beauty of their virtues, to be struck by the horror of their slaughter, and to be in awe of their ultimate sacrifice.

On this human level, there is indeed much to admire about Tsar Nicholas II. He was a deeply and sincerely pious man, a patriot in the truest sense of the word, a devoted husband, and a loving father. Born on the feast-day of Righteous Job the much-suffering, he had a clear sense of the historic tragedy that was his providential lot to live through. He understood his role as Tsar to be a charge from God, and he accepted it self-sacrificially, ready to bear any suffering in order to fulfill his sacred calling.

Secular historians often judge him to be a weak and ineffective ruler. Instead, it is the modernizing and Westernizing rulers Peter I and Catherine II whom they remember as “the Great”. And from the point of view of their earthly accomplishments, they were indeed great. But things appear differently from the Church’s point of view. During the reign of “the Greats” the Moscow Patriarchate was abolished, and the Russian Church was reorganized as a department of state, on the model of certain Protestant Churches in Western Europe; monasteries were closed, their lands taken; obstacles were created to prevent young men and women from entering monastic life; the eremitical life was outlawed.

The pious Tsar Nicholas had a much different attitude to the Church. During his reign the first steps were taken to restore the Patriarchate, culminating in the All-Russian Council of 1917-18. The Tsar also had a great devotion to the saints. It was thanks to his encouragement and insistence that St. Seraphim of Sarov was officially canonized, and he took part personally in the solemnities of his glorification. He was a great patron of church building, and had an exquisite taste for traditional Russian church art and architecture. Even today, you can go to Russia and see with your own eyes the concrete legacy of the Tsar in all of the magnificent churches he commissioned and funded. In these places of sacred beauty—monuments of craftsmanship, artistry, and imagination that surpass anything to be found in the New World—it becomes tangibly clear just what it meant for there to be an Orthodox Tsar in Russia, to protect, defend, nurture and support the life of the Church. The imposing majesty and celestial beauty of these temples needs no explanation or apology; it is its own justification for an Orthodox regime and a Christian civilization.

PHOTO: Shrine and reliquary for the Holy Royal Martyrs, in the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, a Russian Orthodox monastery in Wayne, West Virginia, USA. It was installed on July 17th, 2018, to mark the centenary of the tragic murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

On my pilgrimage to Russia with Fr. David and Nicholas two years ago, we visited a number of these churches associated with Tsar Nicholas II. The one that had the deepest stamp of his personality was the Fyodorovskiy Cathedral in Tsarkoe Selo. It was built for the Royal Family to worship together with the soldiers who were garrisoned the town, where the Tsar lived for much of the year. The first floor of the church was covered in darkly stained hardwood, which gave the spacious nave a sense of inviting warmth, a very down-to-earth quality. Standing there during the Divine Liturgy, halfway across the world, I had the uncanny sense of being of right at home—home in my parish where I first saw the Tsar’s portrait and found myself skeptical of the Royal Family’s veneration. Now it felt as though they were welcoming me here, and the grace of their presence was overwhelming. There was no more room for skepticism, only inexplicable tears of recognition and devotion.

After the Liturgy, we were given a tour of the basement church in the cathedral, which was dedicated to St. Seraphim and was the Royal Family’s private chapel, only open to others by their invitation. In that dark and low-ceilinged chapel, the Family worshipped together, knelt together, fasted and prayed together. I saw the plain wooden chair in which the Emperor sat during church; the narrow alcove looking in on the altar for the Empress to observe the services; the side-room built for the Emperor to address urgent state affairs; a pillow embroidered by the Empress’ own hands. Beneath the outward splendor, their life here was so unassuming, so disarmingly homely. It all pointed to something deeper about their character—to a goodness and spiritual nobility that inspired loyalty, fidelity, and love.

By all accounts, this is how they were in life, too. Nicholas and his family, and everything they stood for, were hated and reviled by certain segments of Russian society. The Russian press spread the most vile slanders about the Tsar and his family. They did not shrink from inventing and printing total fabrications in order to stir up public opinion against them, so intense was the animosity directed against them. During the days of their final imprisonment, their guards, having been fed on this propaganda, were often hostile to them at first. But the godly family would win them over eventually with patience, charity, and their noble simplicity. New guards, even more violent, crude, and full of revolutionary fervor, had to be found who would not deal with them so humanely. At last, after months of increasingly restrictive and deprived confinement, they and a handful of loyal servants were hauled into a basement cellar, and shot in cold blood by a band of committed revolutionaries. Their bodies were violated, disfigured and maimed, then disposed of like animals.

Yet after seventy long years, full of suffering for the Russian land, they were recovered; and even more improbably, fragments of them now have a permanent home in our holler. What does this mean for us as 21st century Americans? We don’t have to become avid Russophiles or staunch monarchists to appreciate the fact that their death represents the end of a world—that of Christendom. The era of Christian monarchs that began with Constantine the Great and lasted for 1600 years, came to an end with Tsar Nicholas. Some, of course, greet this as a welcome development, or at least an ambivalent one. After all, the Christian Gospel cannot be exclusively identified with one particular regime, or one particular people. But true as that may be, it is nonetheless possible for a regime or for a people to identify themselves with the Gospel. That is the meaning of Holy Rus’. The Royal Martyrs were the last representatives of this union of Church and State, and were killed because of it. But like their forebears Boris and Gleb, they died ultimately because of their personal fidelity to Christ. They could have fled Russia and lived, but they chose to remain and suffer together with the people whom God had entrusted to them, to undergo their sorrowful fate together with them. They died for the ideal of a Christian Russia, a holy Russia. And they modelled this holiness in their lives, as they walked the path to their own Golgotha with patience, with kindness to their persecutors, with grace and nobility, with total forgiveness for their enemies, and with pure Christian love. Their lives and deaths indeed bear witness to the truth of the Christian Faith. They are justly called saints and martyrs.

As we gaze upon their icon and venerate their relics, we can scarcely begin to fathom all that was lost in the fire and bloodshed of Revolution. Although we may have some inkling of the goodness that was irretrievably spoiled, and of the evil that took its place, we should not feel nostalgic for a lost past. There is no sense in us as Americans pining for the days of Holy Rus’ and the benevolent reign of a pious Tsar. We must live out our Christian struggle in the time and the place to which God has called us. And there is so much about the lives of the Royal Martyrs that can help us find our way through our own time in America, where more and more people are abandoning the Christian faith, where Christian morals are in retreat from the law and the public sphere. Their personal example shows us how to remain steadfast in even the most difficult circumstances. In our time, when most marriages end in divorce, the Royal Martyrs present us with a perfect icon of Christian marriage and family life. Now, when children are exposed to images of sex and violence at younger and younger ages, the Royal Martyrs show us an image of youthful innocence, chastity, and purity. In our time of indifference and cynicism, they show us that it is possible to live self-sacrificially in service to a lofty spiritual ideal. In short, they manifest the fulness of Christian life on the level of the individual and the family, as well as the nation. Whatever our age or whatever our calling, we can draw great strength in our struggle by prayerfully turning to them for support.

No matter how far our own country may turn from Christ, when we look upon the Royal Martyrs, we should be reminded that every triumph of evil in this world is only temporary. Their contemporaries and their historians have all made their judgments, but God’s judgment is the one that prevails in the end. And Christ has glorified them. So let us also glorify them, and turn to them in prayer, asking that we too might remain faithful to Christ amidst the darkness of this world. So may we find a place together with them in Christ’s heavenly kingdom. Amen.

© Holy Cross Monastery. 13 July 2022

Saint John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, 1896-1966

On this day – 2nd July 1966 – St. John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco died in the United States. During his life, he honoured the memory of the Holy Royal-Martyr Nicholas II and his family, believing that “the Russian people were entirely guilty for the death of the tsar.” On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch (his secular name) was born on 17th (O.S. 4th) 1896, in the village of Adamovka of the Izyumsky Uyezd of the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire (in present-day eastern Ukraine).

Maximovitch was a patriot of his fatherland and was profoundly disappointed by what he saw as human weakness and impermanence during the tragic events of the 1917 Revolution. As a result he made the decision to dedicate his life to serving God. His family sought refuge in Yugoslavia and brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Russian Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of St. John after his saintly relative. Later that same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Russian Bishop Gabriel (Chepur) of Chelyabinsk. Once ordained St. John would no longer sleep in a bed. He would nap in a chair or kneeling down in front of the icons, praying fervently and eating only once a day.

St.John earned the respect and devotion at the seminary where he taught. His reputation grew as he started visiting hospitals, caring for patients with prayer and communion. In 1934 he was ordained a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, built in 1935, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Shanghai, China

In Shanghai, Holy Bishop St. John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. Under Holy Bishop St. John, the construction of St. Nicholas Church (1935) was completed, a memorial church dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

He also set about restoring church unity, establishing ties with local Orthodox Serbs, Greeks and Ukrainians. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, even when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church, he was elevated to Archbishop of China by the Holy Synod of ROCOR in 1946.

When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop St. John personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

PHOTO: the Church of St. Job the Long Suffering in Brussels, consecrated in 1950, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Western Europe

In 1951, St. John was assigned to the archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels, which was considered the official residence of Archbishop John of Brussels and Western Europe. The center of the vigorous activity of Archbishop John was the Church of St. Job the Long-suffering in Brussels, constructed between 1936-1950, as a memorial church dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II.

Thanks to his work in collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.

PHOTO: the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco, consecrated in1977

San Francisco, United States

In 1962 St. John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Holy Virgin Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.

The current cathedral was founded by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Groundbreaking took place on 25th June 1961, construction was completed in 1965, a year before the death of The cathedral was consecrated on 31st January 1977.

PHOTO: the sepulchre of St. John in the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco

Death and Veneration

On 2nd July 1966 (O.S. 19th June), St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district.

On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the day marking the 28th anniversary of his death. His unembalmed, incorrupt relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral’s nave.

His feast day is celebrated each year on the Saturday nearest to 2nd July. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Greece (Church of Saint Anna in Katerini), South Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, United States (St. John Maximovitch Church, Eugene, Oregon), Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

On Tsar-Marytr Nicholas II


Sermon given in 1934 by His Eminence John, Bishop of Shanghai,during the memorial service for Tsar Nicholas II and those slain with him

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On July 17 (July 4 Old Style) the Holy Church praises Saint Andrew, the Bishop of Crete, the author of the Great Canon of Repentance, and at the same time we gather here to pray for the souls of the Tsar-Martyr and those assassinated with him. Likewise, people in Russia used to gather in churches on the day of the other Saint Andrew of Crete (Oct.17), not the writer of the Great Canon whose day is celebrated tomorrow, but the Martyr Andrew, martyred for confession of Christ and His Truth. On the day of Martyr Andrew, people in Russia thanked God for the miraculous delivery of Emperor Alexander III from the train wreck at Borki on Octo ber 17, 1888. In the terrible derailment which occurred during his journey, all the carriages of the train were wrecked, except the one carrying the Tsar and his Family.

On the day of the Martyr Andrew of Crete, martyred by enemies of Christ and His Church, the Heir to the throne and subsequent tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich, was saved, and on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete the Canonist, who reposed in peace, the Tsar was assassinated by atheists and traitors. On the day of Martyr Andrew, Russia also celebrated the day of the Prophet Hosea, who foretold Christ’s Resurrection. Churches were built in honor of these saints wherever Russian people thanked God for the delivery of their Sovereign. Thirty years later, on the day of Saint Andrew the Canonist, who taught repentance, the Sovereign was assassinated before the eyes of the whole nation, that did nothing to save him. It is especially dreadful and incomprehensible since the Sovereign, Nicholas Alexandrovich, incarnated the best virtues of those Tsars whom the Russian people knew, loved, and esteemed.

Most of all the Tsar-Martyr resembled Tsar Alexis Michailovich Tishayshiy (the Most Meek, 1645-76) excelling in unshakable meekness. Russia knew Alexander II(1855-81) as Liberator, but Tsar Nicholas II liberated even more nations of the fraternal Slavic tribe. Russia knew Alexander III (1881-94) as Peacemaker but Sovereign Nicholas II did not limit himself to care for peace in his own days but made a significant step towards establishing peace in Europe and in all the world so that all nations should solve their controversies peacefully. To that purpose, by his dispassionate and noble initiative, the Hague Conferences were called. Russia admired Alexander I(1801-25) and called him the Blessed One because he liberated Europe from the alien rule of a tyrant, Napoleon. Sovereign Nicholas II under much more difficult circumstances rose against another ruler’s attempt, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to enslave Slavic nations, and in the defense of that nation showed a determination that was devoid of compromises. Russia knew the Great Reformer Peter I but if we recall all the reforms of Nicholas II, we would be uncertain whom to give preference and the latter’s reforms were conducted more carefully, more thoughtfully, and without abruptness. John Kalita (1328-40) and John III (1449 – 1505), Grand Princes of Moscow, were known for uniting the Russian people, but their cause was finally accomplished only by Sovereign Nicholas when in 1915 he returned to Russia all her sons, though only for a short time. Sovereign of All Russia, Nicholas II was the first Pan-Russian Tsar. His inner, spiritual, moral image was so beautiful that even the Bolsheviks in their desire to blacken him could blame him only for his piety.

It is known for certain that he always began and ended the day with prayer. He always received Communion on the days of the Church’s great holidays and often went to receive the Great Sacrament in a crowd of commoners, as for instance during the opening of the relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. He was an example of marital fidelity and the head of an exemplary Orthodox family, bringing up his children to be ready to serve the Russian people and strictly preparing them for the future labors and feats of that calling. He was deeply considerate towards his subjects’ needs and always wanted to ascertain clearly and acutely their labor and service. Everyone knows that he once marched alone many miles in soldier’s full equipment in order to better understand the conditions of a soldier’s service. He walked alone, which refutes the slanderers who say that he was afraid for his life. Peter I said: “know about Peter, that life is not precious for him, but may Russia live” and Sovereign Nicholas II indeed fulfilled his words. Some people say that he was credulous. But the great father of the Church, Saint Gregory the Great, says that the more pure the heart, the more credulous it is.

What did Russia render to her pure-hearted Sovereign, who loved her more than life? She returned love with slander. He was of great morality, but people began to talk about his viciousness. He loved Russia, but people began to talk about his treason. Even the people close to the Sovereign repeated the slander, passing on to each other rumors and gossip. Because of the ill intention of some and the lack of discipline of others, rumors spread and love for the Tsar began to grow cool. They started to talk of the danger to Russia and discuss means of avoiding that non-existent danger, they started to say that to save Russia it would be necessary to dismiss the Sovereign. Calculated evil did its work: it separated Russia from her Tsar and in the dread moment at Pskov he was alone; no one near to him. Those faithful to him were not admitted to his presence. The dreadful loneliness of the Tsar… But he did not abandon Russia, Russia abandoned him, the one who loved Russia more than life. Thus, in the hope that his self-belittling would still the raging passions of the people, the Sovereign abdicated. But passion never stills. Having achieved what it desires it only inflames more. There was an exultation among those who desired the fall of the Sovereign. The others were silent. They succeeded in arresting the Sovereign; succeeded, and further events were almost inevitable. If someone is left in a beast’s cage he will be torn to pieces sooner or later. The Sovereign was killed, and Russia remained silent. There was no indignation, no protest when that dread, evil deed happened, and this silence is the great sin of the Russian people, and it happened on the day of Saint Andrew, the writer of the Great Canon of Repentance, which is read in churches during Great Lent.

In the vaults of a basement in Ekaterinburg the Ruler of Russia was killed, deprived by the peoples’ insidiousness of the tsar’s crown, but not deprived of God’s Sacred Anointment. Hitherto, all the cases of regicide in the history of Russia were committed by cliques, not by the people. When Paul I was killed, people knew nothing about it and when it became known, for many years they brought to his grave compassion and prayers. The assassination of Alexander II produced in Russia a storm of indignation that healed the people’s morality and assisted the reign of Alexander III. The people remained innocent of the blood of the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. But in the case of Nicholas lI the entire nation is guilty of shedding the blood of its tsar. The assassins did the terrible deed, their masters approved the murder, sharing the same sin, the people did not prevent it. All are guilty and indeed we must say: “His blood is on us and on our children.” The garland with which the Russian people crowned their Tsar was made of treason, treachery, the breaking of the oath of allegiance to Tsar Michael Theodorovich, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty and his heirs, passivity, hardness of heart, and insensitivity.

Today is a day of sorrow and repentance. Why – we could ask – did the Lord save the Tsar [previously] on the day of Martyr Andrew and not save him on the day of the other Saint Andrew, the teacher of repentance? With deep grief we answer: the Lord could have saved him, but the Russian people did not deserve it.

The Sovereign received a martyr’s crown, but this neither justifies us, nor reduces our guilt, as the Resurrection of Christ does not justify, but condemns Judas, Pilate, and Caiphas and those who demanded from Pilate the murder of Christ.

It is a great sin to lift up a hand against the God-Anointed Sovereign. When the news of the murder of Saul was brought to King David, he ordered the execution of the messenger, although he knew that the messenger did not participate in the murder but only hurried to bring that news, and he ascribed the murder to him. Even the slightest participation in such a sin is not without retribution.

In sorrow we say, “his blood is on us and our children.”

Let us remember that this evil deed of the whole nation was committed on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete, who calls us to deep repentance. Let us remember also, that there is no sin which cannot be washed away by repentance. But our repentance has to be full, without self-justification, without reserve, condemning ourselves and the evil deed from the very beginning.

After the deliverance of the Royal Family at Borki the icon depicting the patron saints of the family was painted. Perhaps the day will come when not just the patrons but also the Royal Martyrs themselves will be depicted on icons in remembrance of the event we recollect today. But now let us pray for their souls and ask God for deep humble repentance and forgiveness for us and for all Russian people.

On 27th October 2018, I hosted the 1st International Nicholas II Conference at St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England, with the blessing of the church rector Andrew Phillips, Arch Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR).

© Paul Gilbert. 2 July 2022

‘Nicholas II: The Last Orthodox Tsar of Russia’ with Paul Gilbert achieves 100,000 views!

Duration: 19 min., 40 sec. English with Closed Captioning

On 28th June 2022, the video ‘Nicholas II: The Last Orthodox Tsar of Russia’ surpassed more than 100,000 views on YouTube! The video was produced in July 2020, by the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner of Mesa Potamos in Cyprus.

“This video production is based on the research of project colleague and independent researcher Paul Gilbert, who also presents this video.”

I am truly honoured to be a research colleague of this important publishing project. I am most grateful to Father Prodromos Nikolaou and the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner of Mesa Potamos in Cyprus for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this new video which tells the story about Russia’s last Orthodox Christian monarch.

Emperor Nicholas II reigned for 22 years. With his murder, the last Orthodox Christian monarch, along with the thousand-year history of thrones and crowns in Russia, ended, ushering in an era of lawlessness, apostasy, and confusion, one which would sweep Holy Orthodox Russia into an abyss which would last more than 70 years.

The creators have done a remarkable job of incorporating a wonderful collection of photos – both vintage B&W and colourized by Olga Shirnina (aka KLIMBIM) – vintage newsreel film footage and music.

One viewer noted on my Facebook page: “Only 20 minutes long, this is the BEST portrayal of the last Tsar’s Orthodox faith I have ever seen. Very well-made, historical and moving.”

The crowning moment of the video is near the end, which shows film footage of the actual canonization ceremony performed on 20th August 2000 by Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. You can hear His Holiness calling out each of the names of the Imperial Family. The footage is extremely moving to watch.

This 20-minute video is presented in the framework of the production of the book The Romanov Royal Martyrs: What Silence Could Not Conceal published by Mesa Potamos Publications in 2019.



*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada,
Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Japan



Paperback edition. 134 pages + 23 black & white photos

This book is not only for Orthodox and non-Orthodox persons, but for any one who shares an interest in the life, death, and martyrdom of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

An illustrated Introduction by independent researcher Paul Gilbert explores the piety of Nicholas II, and his devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church, which reached its fullest development and power, during his 22-year reign.

This book further examines the trials and tribulations the Tsar endured, which later led to his canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church.

This unique collection of writings helps dispel many of the negative myths which persist to this very day, a must read for any one who seeks to learn the truth about Nicholas II.

Gilbert has compiled this collection of writings as part of his mission to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar, and my own personal journey to Orthodoxy.

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, Pray to God for Us! 🙏

Святой Царь Мученик Николай, Моли Бога о Нас! 🙏

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2022