Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867)


Along with St Seraphim of Sarov and Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius Brianchaninov belonged to an exemplary class of 19th century luminaries that led the revival of monasticism in Russia. Of aristocratic lineage, the young Dimitry followed the course set for him by his parents and his society. This included attending the St Petersburg Military School. He excelled in his studies despite suffering from prolonged periods of illness. His academic achievements and distinguished character were noted by the future Tsar Nicholas I.

Yet for all his success, Dimitry only desired to join a monastery. Christ consumed his heart but he found it difficult to escape societal expectations. However, upon graduating from military school, he was taken seriously ill and was granted a discharge from the army. He immediately set out to became a novice monk. In 1831, he was tonsured a monk taking the name Ignatius. However, it soon came to Tsar Nicholas’ attention that the brilliant student he so admired had departed for a monastery. The Tsar ordered Ignatius to return to the capital and had him enthroned abbot of the famous St Sergius Monastery in St Petersburg despite being only aged 26 at the time.

The young superior was charged with the task of reforming the monastery into a hub of true monasticism. He set about writing numerous books on the monastic life and the spiritual life. St Ignatius’ most well-known works include ‘The Arena’ and ‘On the Prayer of Jesus’. He served as abbot for 24 years before becoming bishop of Stavropol and later of the Caucasus. After four years as bishop, he resigned and finally found the seclusion he had always sought at the Nicolo-Babaevsky Monastery. He lived a short life but left an extraordinary contribution, through his writings, to Orthodox Christian mysticism. St Ignatius’ books, especially ‘The Arena’ are recommended to all.

Source: Lychnos April / May 2017