The Clairvoyance of Elder Archimandrite John (Krestiankin), Part 1

A year ago, a collection of testimonies about the miraculous help of Elder Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) was announced. Since then, we’ve received hundreds of stories, many of which are striking in their straightforward truth. Today we’re publishing selected stories about the clairvoyance of Fr. John.

We ask all those who can share important testimonies, documents, and living memories of Fr. John to send them to the Pskov Caves Monastery at or to

Elder John (Krestiankin) Elder John (Krestiankin)     

Galina squared”

Galina, Vladikavkaz-Belgorod:

In the winter of 1985, our road to the Pskov Caves Monastery began with the Vladikavkaz-Moscow train. My mother and I arrived in Pechory early in the morning, when it was still dark. I was fifteen and my mother was forty-five. Approaching the majestic walls of the monastery, we thought we had arrived at a place where everything was holy. We had no idea about the monastic life then. We had to find Mother Margarita (she lived next to the monastery), where we were supposed to stay. They didn’t answer us at the gate, but only shouted at us. We expected there to be saints on the other side of the gates, but this is what we found. It wasn’t any better later on. Some monk, or maybe a novice, snapped at us and sent us to church. They were serving the early Liturgy in the Dormition Church. Completely lost, we barely made it through the service, wondering why we’d traveled more than 600 miles just to run into the same thing we could find in the world.

The service ended and we left to head for the train station. But suddenly an old man came out of the church, surrounded by a whole swarm of people. My mother and I just stood against the wall, silently watching… He seemed to be floating rather than walking. And everyone was blocking his way, it seemed to us. Suddenly, he parted the crowd and started heading directly for us. We stood there, not knowing what to do. We didn’t even know how to get a blessing. He approached us, put his hand on first my mother’s head, then mine, and said affectionately: “Well, Galina squared, everything will be fine!” (My mother and I were both named Galina!). And he left… That resolved everything. We went off to Mother Margarita’s happy and joyful. We found out from her who this old man was—dear Fr. John.

Then every year we would go to the monastery, and we received letters and instructions from him. Even after departing to the other world, he hasn’t ceased helping us.

A tasty egg?

Rimma Vladimirovna Lavitskaya:

My mother met Batiushka when I was six (this was forty-three years ago), and our spiritual connection with him remained to the end of his life. I was living in St. Petersburg then, and my mother and I were going to the “Pascha and Kulich” Church of the Holy Trinity.1 We would stay after the services to clean, and I, a seven-year-old child, liked to clean the candle stands. At Pascha, one of the babushkas working at the candle stand gave me a very beautiful egg, which I wanted to eat immediately. I thought since it’s so beautiful, it must be more delicious than regular eggs. But my mother said: “Since it’s such a beautiful egg, let’s put it with our icons at home.” I agreed, but I still couldn’t wait to eat it, and I did so when my mother went to work, so she wouldn’t see. So mama didn’t notice my secret. A few days later we were going to Pechory…

After the service we saw Batiushka surrounded by a crowd of people. When we managed to make our way to him, Batiushka blessed me, put his arm around my shoulder, and gently whispered into my ear: “And was the egg delicious?” I don’t remember how I answered, but being a child, I thought: “Why’d mama tell Batiushka about it?” I asked her about it later, but she was surprised I was asking this—she hadn’t noticed that the egg had disappeared. As a child, I couldn’t understand what was going on. Only later did I realize that this holy man saw everything through the Holy Spirit and was endowed by God with the gift of clairvoyance. And my path to him remained clear until the end of his days. I later repented of this sin, that I’d taken the egg without asking. Now I’m forty-nine, and I can still hear his whisper ringing in my ears.

The beast

Tatiana Sergeevna Smirnova, Fr. John’s long-term secretary:

Early in the morning on May 6 (it was Bright Tuesday and the feast of the Great Martyr George), when they were taking the cows out to pasture for the first time after the winter, I went to see Fr. John. He answered my joyful Paschal greetings with a bit of a sputter, anxiously asking: “What happened in the monastery? How’s the abbot?” Making my way to his cell, I didn’t notice any excitement and least of all did I want to run into the abbot, so I answered good-naturedly that the sun rejoices at Pascha, and so do all of us. When I repeated, “Christ is Risen!” Fr. John answered more cheerfully. But instead of talking business, he sat down on the couch and started talking about a vision that had come to him a few minutes before I’d arrived.

The whole monastery appeared to him at once in a Heavenly radiance and joy, and the Dormition Cathedral was burning with gold. Against this solemn background, the abbot Archimandrite Gabriel was marching ceremoniously, in full dress, towards the gates to the farm. A moment later, a black ball appeared behind his back, taking the shape of some terrible unknown beast, quickly flying after him. A few more leaps, and the beast would crush the abbot. Fr. John rushed to his icons, and at that moment a knock at the door interrupted the vision. To make sure nothing terrible had happened in the monastery, Fr. John went himself to find out if everything was in order. He returned quickly, but the anxiety didn’t leave him. He crossed himself several times and hurriedly escorted me out.

When I brought him a letter that evening, Batiushka again recalled the lost vision with gratitude to God that it was just a demonic fear, and that Bright Week wasn’t being clouded over by anything. He never mentioned it or talked about it again.

Archimandrite Gabriel (Steblyuchenko), Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) on the feast of the Dormition at the Pskov Caves Monastery Archimandrite Gabriel (Steblyuchenko), Archimandrite John (Krestiankin) on the feast of the Dormition at the Pskov Caves Monastery     

Several years passed, and one day I unexpectedly heard this story from Hieromonk Joasaph (Shvetsov). I don’t remember why we started talking about the old abbot, who had already been gone from the monastery for a long time. He became a bishop in 1988 and was serving in the Far East, but we remembered him well and quite often, because we went through some serious schooling under his leadership. For some reason, Fr. Joasaph started telling a story of days gone by connected with the abbot, saying the same things I had heard… from Fr. John. I jumped in: “And how do you know about this vision Batiushka had?” “What vision? I saw it all with my own eyes,” he said.

I’ll tell you his story. The hieromonk was still Novice Alexander then, and was on duty at the booth at the farm gates from early morning. It was a festive day, and they were taking the cows out to pasture. They served a moleben. The cows solemnly followed the stable hand, but there was some delay with the bull. They were fumbling around for a long time, trying to untether him, and he wasn’t just upset, but enraged. When he was finally free, he shot out of the cowshed like a whirlwind, running so fast that he skidded around the corner. Everyone there instantly dispersed, getting out of harm’s way, and only the abbot, suspecting nothing, euphorically headed for the gates. Alexander covered his face with his hands in horror, expecting he would inevitably be splattered with blood. He heard the trampling of an animal rushing past and uncovered his face. The abbot, leaning against the wall, stared in bewilderment at the bull rushing by. Some power literally threw him against the wall like a piece of fluff at the last moment, and he stayed safe. Did he ever find out who was responsible for saving him?

Candidate for the priesthood

The author wishes to remain anonymous:

Archimandrite Paisy (Semenov) was serving in our village church, a prayer-filled and profitable place for the salvation of the soul. He was already elderly, disabled from the war. He started feeling unwell, often tormented by injuries from the front, and it was hard for him to serve the Liturgy. Then the parishioners—and there were still many in the village then—starting looking for a priest for their parish. That’s the way it’s worked since the old days.

And so, with the blessing of the then-Metropolitan Vladimir of Pskov and Velikie Luki, it was decided to try me out there. The Metropolitan sent me to talk with Elder John at the Pskov Caves Monastery. Batiushka was sick and not receiving visitors. Having confessed to Fr. Leonid (Sekretarev), and having written a letter to Fr. John, we still decided to go see him. We passed our letter through his cell attendant Tatiana Sergeevna, and waited in the hallway for an answer.

And then a miracle: Matushka Tatiana brought the answer “in words” after a while. Batiushka, who had never seen me, summarized my entire life with all the details and vicissitudes: how I lived, what mistakes I had made, where I had gone wrong in my personal life. And, of course, he didn’t give his blessing for me to prepare for the priesthood, because I had an impediment to it. How could he know all this? What gift of clairvoyance must he have possessed to describe a man’s life and actions, having never even seen him?

Now I understand that only a holy man could have done it. And Batiushka gave me advice on how to proceed in life—in relation to the Church, in particular, to our church. And time has shown that his advice turned out to be correct. It was amazing that these pieces of advice were simply written on a white piece of paper: Read and do. It’s incomprehensible to my mind that everything that Batiushka told me in advance has come true. I think only a man of radiant thoughts, the gift of holiness and clairvoyance could see and tell me all this.

Part 2

Prepared by Anton Pospelov
Translation by Jesse Dominick


1 The architecture of this church resembles a fancily decorated set of sweet Russian Paschal cheese and bread.—OC.

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