Making Saints: Canonization and Community in Late Imperial Russia

Robert H. Greene


The story of canonization in late imperial Russia has been told, traditionally, as a political and institutional narrative of church-state relations, of strategic decisions made at the highest levels by high-ranking clerics and members of the imperial family. This essay examines the cults of Anna Kashinskaia and Sofronii Irkutskii as case studies of canonization “from below,” demonstrating that in both instances local believers and clerics played prominent roles in initiating and ultimately securing official recognition for their locally-revered miracle-workers as a gesture of thanks for miracles rendered to the community. The efforts of the local faithful on behalf of their saints speaks both to the deep feelings of reciprocal obligation that characterized believers’ relationships with the holy dead, and to the powerful localized dimension of sanctity. The miracle stories attributed by local believers to Saints Anna and Sofronii reveal how the faithful saw and talked about their saints not as distant fi gures in another world but as hometown heroes forever present in the community where they had lived, served, died, and (most importantly) were buried.

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