Saint Basil,

the fool-for-Christ-sake of Moscow

August 15 (August 2 old calendar)

Saint Basil was born in 1464 into a peasant family living in the village of Yelokhovoe near Moscow. When the he grew up, his parents sent him to learn shoemaking and before long his master understood that the apprentice was not an ordinary man. Once a merchant came to the shop to order a pair of high boots made for him so that he would not wear them out in a year. Basil said woefully, "We will make them, and you will not wear them out." Several days later the merchant died.

At the age of 16 Basil left his parents for Moscow, where he assumed the ascetic challenge of a fool-for-Christ-sake. Both in summer heat and winter frost he would walk around uncovered and barefooted. Once he overturned a tray of wheat loafs and spilled a jar of kvass. The vendors beat him, and he accepted the abuse with joy and thanked God for it. Later people learned that the loaves were baked with harmful ingredients in the flour and the drink was bad too. It was becoming clear to many people that the fool-for-Christ-sake was a man of God.

Allegorically and through signs, as well as straightforwardly, he foretold misfortunes as punishment for sins and well being as a reward for virtues. Sometimes he would visit taverns to save people from the doom of drunkenness, other times he would direct people to the way of righteousness, talking to them in the streets and plazas. He gave lessons of piety even to the tsar Ivan the Terrible. Once during the service in church, the tsar was pondering over a better way to ornament his palace on the Vorobiovy Mountains. After the service, Basil reprimanded the tsar for his thoughts wandering from the service to his palace. The tsar confessed the sin and began to respect the fool-for-Christ-sake even more.

Once a merchant started to build a church, but the dome kept collapsing. The fool-for- Christ-sake advised him to go to Kiev saying, "Find the wretched Ioann there. He will give you advice to help you complete the construction." The merchant went to Kiev and found Ioann, who was sitting in a hut and rocking an empty cradle. "Who are you rocking in the cradle?" asked the merchant. "My own mother," said Ioann, "I am trying to repay my eternal debt for her delivering me and bringing me up." The merchant remembered his own mother whom he had driven out of the home and understood why he could not finish building the church.

The fool-for-Christ-sake was happy to help those in need of alms, but he was shy to ask for it. Once he gave away the presents he received from the tsar to a foreign merchant who had been completely broke. He would find a grain of goodness even in the most dejected and sinful people, whom he would help with guidance and comfort. When he was passing by a house where excessive drinking and merry-making was going on, he would embrace the corners of the house and say, "Angels are standing outside this home and grieving over human sins."

People would sometimes deride and beat him up, but he would tolerate everything humbly. Basil spent his nights on a church porch in prayers and meditation. God glorified his righteous servant granting him the gift of discernment and wonderworking. Thus, through Basil's prayers before the Vladimirskaya Icon of Theotokos, Moscow and all of the Russian lands were saved from the invasion of the Crimean khan Makhmet-Guirey in 1521. Having burned the suburbs of Moscow the khan was scared by a vision of a great number of legions and retreated from the territory of the Russian State. In 1547 the fool-for-Christ-sake was crying inconsolably foreseeing the fire of Moscow which destroyed the city almost completely. Some time later at the reception in the palace of the tsar, the fool-for-Christ-sake three times poured some wine out of the window saying that he is putting out a fire in Novgorod. Indeed at that very time there happened a fire in Novgorod, but it did not spread to the entire city because, according to the Novgorod citizens, some unknown person was pouring water over the houses that had caught flames. On arriving to Moscow those Novgorod citizens recognized that person in the fool-for-Christ-sake.

Basil passed away at the age of 88 in 1552. The tsar Ivan the Terrible himself carried the body of the saint into the church to be buried there. Saint Basil was buried in Moscow in the church of the Protection of the Most Holly Theotokos that is usually referred to as the Cathedral of St. Basil, fool-for-Christ-sake. His relics are famous for having worked many wonders. The heavy fetters that he had been wearing over his body were kept at the Moscow Theological Academy.


Troparion, Tone 4

Thou didst live a righteous and chaste life, O Basil. For Christ's sake didst thou vanquish thy flesh by fasting, vigil and darkness and sun heat and slush and rainy clouds, and thy countenance has become as bright as the Sun; and now peoples of Russia approach thee, tsars and princes and soldiers among them, and we sing thy repose in Christ. Pray Christ our God for us to be saved from enslavement by enemy and from all civil strife. Pray God to grant us peace and His great mercy to our souls.


Kontakion, Tone 2

Thou didst receive revelation from heaven/ and go forth from the world's turmoil./ Thou didst live a righteous life as a monk,/ and wast given grace to work miracles/ and to heal diseases,/ O wise, blessed and holy Basil. 


Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church

2049 Argyle Ave. Los Angeles, California 90068


(basil_moscow.doc, 08-15-2000)