Icon of SS Boris and Gleb (14th c.) – S281


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Egg Tempera




14th c. (Mid)


Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia


This 14th century icon is originally from the Chapel of SS Peter & Paul in the Cathedral of the  Assumption, in the Moscow Kremlin.  It depicts the two brothers, SS Boris and Gleb, who were sons of St. Vladimir, the Grand Prince and Enlightener of Russia.  Before St. Vladimir died in a.d. 1015, he divided his kingdom between his sons, but Svyatopolk, his oldest son, was not satisfied with his share.  He ordered his younger brothers SS Boris and Gleb to be killed and their lands confiscated for himself.

St. Boris knew of the murderous intent of his brother, but meekly stood with Christ before His persecutors, and refused to raise his hand against him.  Thus he was killed without protest by soldiers of Svyatopolk.  St. Gleb had a similar fate, and a similar goodness in not resisting evil, so together they are called Passion-bearers, not martyrs.  Svyatopolk sent him a message that his father was ill after St. Vladimir died, asking him to come immediately.  Although warned by his sister Predislava, he went unarmed and so joined his brother St. Boris in Heaven.   Their choice of meek suffering had a profound effect on all later Russian Christianity.