On February 20/March 5, the Church commemorates the great abbot and builder of the Pskov Caves Monastery, St. Cornelius (1501 – 1570). This date most often falls during Great Lent, and its celebration in his monastery is therefore generally subdued. But this year St. Cornelius’s feast day came on Tuesday of Cheesefare week, and the monastery’s abbot, Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov, solemnly presided at the All Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in the monastery’s Dormition Church, in honor of this great saint of the Pskov lands.
The noble St. Cornelius loved the monastic life from an early age, and when he visited the what was then a small monastic community dwelling in the caves some distance from famous Pskov, he desired to remain there for the rest of his life. After laboring at various obediences he was eventually made the monastery’s abbot. Under St. Cornelius the Pskov Caves monastery was built and flourished, its brotherhood expanding from less than twenty to two hundred.
Slandered by the envious, St. Cornelius was beheaded by Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who later repented of this deed. But St. Cornelius’s prayers have continued to protect and bless this beautiful monastery to this day; indeed, monastic prayer has never ceased in it from the time of its founding over 600 years ago—although this outpost of Russian monasticism was in great danger of destruction many times.
The following is a photo report of the feast day of St. Cornelius, 2019, at the Pskov Caves Monastery.