(d.1611)15 and Jerome Horsey (d.1626)16 (for example) recorded details of sixteenth-century Russian piety, some more reliably than others.17 Foreign observers often contrasted the fervent devotion they witnessed (strict fasting four times a year, interminably long liturgies, the prolific use oficons and candles) with the incongruous tendencies of drunkenness and brutish behaviour, contributing to the creation of national stereotypes still current today.
One facet of what is generally called 'popular' piety is the prevalence of holy fools during this period. The most famous, St Basil the Blessed (d.1552), was canonised in 1588 and was so widely revered that he was buried alongside the Pokrov (or Protecting Veil of the Mother of God) Cathedral in Red Square, which eventually acquired the name St Basil's in his honour. Iurodivye Khrista radi, 'fools for Christ's sake' (from i Corinthians 4:10), are not solely a Russian phenomenon, but between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries Russian society nurtured 'fools for Christ's sake' to a unique degree.18 Feigning madness, holy fools wandered naked in the snow, inviting mockery and abuse by unconventional appearance and behaviour. Some spouted apparent nonsense, which subsequent events revealed as prophecy, and they are credited with having special verbal licence in a violent and increasingly autocratic society, as the legends surrounding St Basil and the Pskovian fool St Nikolai reveal.19 Anachronistically, Basil is recorded as symbolically reproaching Ivan IV for the 1570 sack of Novgorod by offering him fresh meat. St Nikolai did the same when Ivan threatened Pskov, answering Ivan's declaration of Lenten abstinence with the rebuke that he drinks Christian blood without scruples. 20
15 Giles Fletcher, Of the Russe Common Wealth (London: Thomas Charde, 1591) [reprinted in Early exploration, ed. Poe, i].
16 'A Relacion or memoriall abstracted owt of Sir Jerome Horsey his travells, imploiments, services and negociacions, observed and written with his owne hand; wherein he spent the most part of eighteen years tyme', in Russia at the close of the sixteenth century, ed. E. A. Bond (London: Hakluyt Society, 1856; reprinted New York: Burt Franklin, 1963).
17 See Marshall Poe, A people born to slavery: Russia in early modern European ethnography, 1476-1748 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000); L. E. Berry and R. O. Crummey (eds.), Rude andbarbarouskingdom:Russiain the accounts ofsixteenth-century English voyagers (Madison: University ofWisconsin Press, 1968).
18 See G. P. Fedotov, The Russian religious mind, ii, The Middle Ages; the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 316-43 for a good summary of Russian foolishness. See also S. Ivanov, Holy Fools (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
19 See for example Jerome Horsey on St Nikolai, in Russia at the close of the sixteenth century, 161.
20 Michael Petrovich, 'The social and political role ofthe Muscovite Fools-in-Christ: reality and image', Forschungen zur Osteuropaischen Geschichte 25 (1978), 283-96.
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