THURSDAY, JULY 15: If ever there was a story of a prodigal grandson, St. Vladimir would be its star. Today, Russian Catholics and Orthodox Christians honor the man whose life transformed from one of murder and greed to one of generosity, all in the name of Christianity. Although he was born the grandson of St. Olga, Vladimir was also born an illegitimate son to the grand duke of Kiev in Russia, in 958 CE, and was raised a pagan. As a young man, Vladimir murdered his own half-brother to gain control of Russia, and during his rule, Vladimir was associated with immorality and barbarian ways. (Catholic.org has more.) It wasn’t until he heard about the progress of Christianity in other lands that he became interested in the religion, and after being baptized in the Orthodox Christian faith, he built schools and churches across the country, lived generously, took one wife instead of multiple, and invited missionaries to lead his people to Christianity. (Get the Orthodox perspective at Orthodox Wiki.)
The Chersonesus Orthodox Cathedral dedicated to St. Vladimir (shown above today) marks the place where traditional accounts says he was baptized more than 1,000 years ago.
Vladimir I was the first Russian ruler to embrace Christianity, and today, he is the patron of millions of Russian Christians. It’s believed that, in efforts to find the “true religion,” Vladimir sent envoys to meet with leaders of various faiths, and when the envoys attended a Divine Liturgy in Constantinople, they reported that they “no longer knew whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Vladimir died while facing a rebellion of one of the sons of his first wives, but the two sons of his later, sole wife became martyrs and the first saints of the Russian lands. Today, some Russian artists and historians are pushing to create a monument of St. Vladimir that would be set up in Lubyanka Square in Moscow. (Learn more at this Russian site.) According to one historian, the things St. Vladimir did “still direct many vectors of our country’s development.”
Chilling fact: At the end of last month, Preger Entertainment acquired the motion picture rights for yet another vampire series: the New York Times bestselling series, “Vampire Academy.” (PR Newswire has a press release.) In this No.1-ranking series, the protagonists attend an academy by the name of St. Vladimir. The final book in the series is schedule for release in December 2010.
But, St. Vladimir also is a movie hero: In recent years, the Russian church co-sponsored a feature-length animated film about St. Vladimir’s life, depicting him as a larger-than-life hero. The film toured widely in the former Soviet Union as an inspirational and educational effort by the church. However, there are no reports at this point of a Western release of that movie.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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