The development of this latter monastery on the Solovki islands in the White Sea illustrates this process. The monk Savvatii was tonsured in Kirill-Belozerskii monastery but, seeking a more peaceful place to pray, went first to the monastery of Varlaam and then, in 1429, to the absolute wilderness of the uninhabited Solovki islands, with German, another hermit who eventually left the islands. After Savvatii's death, German returned to Solovki with the monk Zosima in 1436, and together they gradually established a monastery The monastery flourished materially and spiritually under the leadership of St Filipp, future metropolitan of Moscow, whose creative and organisational skills were honed as he oversaw the development of a system of canals, stone buildings including the cathedral, gardens, a bakery, mills, dams and reindeer herding. By the end of the sixteenth century, this island hermitage had become a massive White Sea fortress, emblematic of the changes the Russian Orthodox Church had undergone.58
Some historians have firmly linked the spread of monasteries with colonisation or an increasingly indentured peasantry,59 and while these were certainly not articulated goals of the monks who spread northwards, they were in some areas by-products of monastic success. In the Life of St Stefan composed by Epifanii shortly after Stefan's death in 1396, we meet the unusual case of a monk who dedicated himself to missionary work, but rather than imposing on his neophyte Permians (Finnish tribes, the modern day Komi) the Church Slavonic used in all liturgical and spiritual texts, Stefan created instead an alphabet for them and translated the essential Christian works into their language. The Permian lands, formerly associated with Novgorod, were taken under the 'protection' of the Muscovite Grand Prince Dmitrii. Ironically, one of the objections to Christianity voiced by the Permians in Epifanii's Life is to rule from Moscow, with the burdens and taxes it entails. Epifanii credits St Stefan with interceding for the Permians in both Moscow and Novgorod. His experiment in linguistic accommodation was not to survive, however. In the sixteenth century Church Slavonic replaced the Permian liturgy, and the Permian people became russified, at least on an official level.
Lest the monastic revival appear entirely male, it should be recalled that not only wandering monks founded cloisters. Princess Evfrosiniia Staritskaia, for example, founded the convent of the Resurrection in Goritsy in 1544, but noble women seem to have been as much prisoners of convents as founders during
58 See R. R. Robson, Solovki: the story of Russia told through its remarkable islands (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004) for the long view of Solovki's development.
59 I. U. Budovnits, Monastyri na Rusi i bor'ba s nimi krest'ian v 14-16 vekakh (po 'zhitiiam sviatykh') (Moscow: Nauka, 1966), 357-8.
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