FRIDAY, JULY 15: Unlike most figures in religious history who give up wealth and nobility in favor of faith, today’s saint—Vladimir—did just the opposite when he kept his nobility and used power to convert entire kingdoms to Christianity.
St. Vladimir was born in 956 in Kiev, into a power-hungry family: Following his father’s death, Vladimir was forced to flee because his brother Yaropok murdered his other brother, Oleg, to conquer Rus. Vladimir came back with force and an army, though, and reconquered land from Yaropolk. Vladimir was known as a barbarian, a taker of hundreds of concubines and several wives, a pagan who took part in human sacrificing and a proponent of the erection of pagan statues throughout the land. (Wikipedia has details.) It wasn’t until his military began to fail that he met a young man who was spared sacrifice by his father; the father argued his case for Christianity, and the words stuck with Vladimir. After sending envoys to explore the religions of surrounding kingdoms, Vladimir’s men were impressed with the rich, decorative look of Constantinople. Further, Vladimir found political favor in gaining alliance with the Byzantine Empire, and he quickly converted to Christianity. For the remainder of his reign, Vladimir built Christian schools, churches and libraries.
Several folk songs, poems and legends speak of Vladimir’s Christian influence, as this became known as the time when Eastern Slavic history gave way to the Christian period. (Find out how modern Slavs regard St. Vladimir in this article from The Voice of Russia.) Cathedrals worldwide are now dedicated to St. Vladimir, and his feast day falls each July 15. The University of Kiev and the Russian Order of St. Vladimir pay homage to this converted saint.