ST. ANNA OF KASHIN, model of Christian love.
This is an antique icon of St. Anna of Kashin (1280 - 1368) whose life overlapped with St. Sergius of Radonezh (1314 - 1389), another 14th century saint we venerate in our parish. This icon was purchased by my husband, Vladimir Borowski, on eBay ca 2000 in damaged condition. [To view how the icon looked before restoration, please see end of this article]. I recently gave the icon to Matushka Anna Kalinin knowing her patron saint is represented here. Matushka restored the icon and has offered it to St. Katherine parish as a gift in memory of her son Ivan (1994 - 2016). Ivan died tragically in Moscow on June 25, 2016 following a pilgrimage he took to Mt. Athos with his father, Fr. Leonid Kalinin, Fr. Andrew Cuneo and others.
Anna Kalinin believes June 25 is a significant date. Ivan died on her saint’s feast day. She realized this fact only several months after the tragic event. Then she started thinking there is something she must do to recognize St. Anna of Kashin in our parish. So in the spring of 2018 she began restoring the icon. Now that the icon is restored it is offered to St. Katherine parish to commemorate St. Anna of Kashin on June 25 as well as to commemorate young Ivan Kalinin.
During her lifetime, St. Anna of Kashin bravely endured unimaginable loss: she lost her beloved husband, two sons and a grandson, all of whom were killed by the Mongol Horde. St. Anna is a model of Christian love: love between husband and wife, love between parents and children; love for fellow human beings. She was a witness to unspeakable destruction, loss of life, hunger, poverty and homelessness. She organized food kitchens, restoration of housing and programs to support her people devastated by Tatar raids. All the while she never lost her faith. People who lose loved ones frequently appeal to St. Anna for her prayers. This seems appropriate for Matushka Anna, who lost her beloved son at 20 years of age on June 25, one of the feast days for her patron saint.
BRIEF BACKSTORY: Almost 300 years after her repose, Anna of Kashin’s relics were discovered incorrupt in 1649, the same year she was canonized. June 25 was the day in 1650 when her relics were moved to the cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection in Kashin; a feast day was established for that day. Twenty-plus years later, a dispute erupted in the church and St. Anna’s canonization was reversed! Over two centuries later, on June 25, 1908 St. Anna was the first saint in the Russian Orthodox church to be re-canonized, that is canonized twice! In the 1930s her relics (like many other saints’) were desecrated, moved several times and forgotten during the soviet era. Finally on June 25, 1993, her relics were laid to rest once more in the cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection in the town of Kashin.
Memory eternal to young Ivan Kalinin (18 Oct. 1994 - 25 June 2016)
Chronology of the LIFE OF ST. ANNA OF KASHIN....
- 1240: The territory formerly known as old Rus was overrun by the Mongol Horde, to whom all feudal lords had to pay tribute. From the time of this Tatar/Mongol invasion through the 14th and 15th centuries there were three major forces vying for hegemony in this part of the world: the Byzantine orthodox community centered in Constantinople, Latin Christianity centered in Rome, and Germanic tribes seeking to expand through present day Europe. Meanwhile the Tatar Horde watched jealously over the economic and political actions of princes on the territory we now know as Russia and Eastern Europe.
- 1280: The saint was born, a daughter of Prince Dimitry of Tver, and named Anna for the mother of the Theotokos. These were feudal times with individual city states or principalities vying for power. Her father was lord and prince of the city state called Tver. Anna was Princess of Tver.
- 1294: At the age of 14, Anna is married to Prince Michael Ist Yaroslavovich of Tver (1271 - 1318). Michael I was the only prince from Tver to be canonized.
- 1318: Her husband, Prince Michael I Yaroslavovich traveled to the Horde as required under Mongol rule. Khan Uzbek accused him of "planning to escape to the Germans with his treasure, and had sent money to the pope in Rome". The Khan was jealously preventing his Russian subjects from friendly contacts with the west, writes John Meyendorff in “Byzantium and the Rise of Russia” . The Nikon Chronicles speak of him as “Great in body and strong, courageous and fierce of mien”. He knew he was going to his death on this trip to the Horde. Michael was officially tried and beheaded. It is likely the charges were false says Meyendorff.
- 1320: Michael I ’s successor and son, Dimitry Mikhailovich, married Maria, daughter of Gedymin, prince of Lithuania.
- 1321: The same son Dimitry Mikhailovich was appointed Grand-prince of Vladimir by Khan Uzbek superseding his Moscow competitor.
- 1326: Anna’s son Dimitry Mikhailovich now known as Dread Eyes (Грозные Очи), was executed in the Golden Horde.
- 1339: Anna’s son Alexander Mikhailovich and grandson Theodor Alexandrovich were executed by the Horde.
- Date unknown: Anna takes the monastic vail.
- 1358: She is tonsured with name of Euphrosyne; became abbess of the Tver women’s monastery dedicated to St. Athanasius.
- 1367: She donates several villages to the monastery, and follows her younger son, Prince Vasiliy Mikhailovich to Kashin, and there she reposed. Tradition has linked her name with the town of Kashin where her remains were laid to rest. Legend has it that she gave the oath of a schema nun before she died taking the name of Anna (once again). That is why she is represented in her icons wearing the garments of a schema nun.
............Anna of Kashin is forgotten for over two and a half centuries.
- 1611: Her remains are found in the Kashin Dormition church of the HolyTheotokos. According to legend she appeared to Sexton Gerasim asking him why her relics were neglected? She healed his illness; then other miraculous healings begin. Since that period her relics were venerated.
- 1649: Her relics are confirmed by church representatives. In the presence of Czar Alexei Mikhailovich and a large gathering of people, her relics are opened, found incorrupt except a few spots on her face and the soles of her feet. More miracles are witnessed. This same year she is canonized by the church council of Patriarch Nikon.
It was noted that the fingers of her right hand were folded on her chest as if giving a blessing, in the ancient orthodox fashion using the index and middle fingers (see shroud, which mimics the fingers of her relics).
- 1650, June 25: her relics are moved from the old Dormition church to the Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection.
The Czar ordered a new church be built in her honor. The Czarina and her daughters embroidered a rich shroud to cover the relics of Princess Anna of Kashin.
- Mid-1650s: a church dispute erupts over the correct way to form the hand for a blessing. St. Anna’s relics are enmeshed into the dispute because of the way the right hand is held in blessing with two fingers.
- 1656: The Moscow Church Council anathematized all those who formed a blessing with two fingers, including the relic of St. Anna of Kashin.
- 1677: A commission is formed to investigate St. Anna of Kashin. St. Anna is de-canonized [the only such event in church history I believe, EB]. The church built in her honor is closed, her relics removed from view and covered with cement and her name removed from those commemorated as saints.
- 1678: A church council anathematized [basically cursed] the life of St. Anna.
- 1899-1907: .....More than 220 years passed before the process to restore St. Anna of Kashin to her rightful place among the saints began.
- 1908: Czar Nicholas II agrees to the second canonization on 12 June/25 June, the same date her relics were moved in 1650.
Princess (later Saint) Elizaveta Fedorovna was present in Kashin for this event. In this year also, a church was built in St. Petersburg in honor of St. Anna of Kashin.
- 1914: A church is built in Moscow dedicated to St. Serafim of Sarov and Anna of Kashin in the Donskoy Monastery.
- 1929: The Moscow church of St. Seraphim of Sarov and Anna of Kashin in the Donskoy Monastery is converted to a showplace crematorium. It functions until the 1990s when it is closed; the building is returned to the Orthodox Church; services are resumed in 1998.
- 1930: Her relics are opened and subjected to sacrilegious handling.
- 1948: After years of being moved several times, St. Anna’s relics are returned to Dormition cathedral in Kashin. In 1960 that church is closed during the Khrushchev administration.
- 2009: That year saw the publication of “Life of St. Anna of Kashin” by T.I.Maniukhina (In Russian). A memorial to the saint is dedicated in front of the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ(see below).
The story of St. Anna of Kashin is a story of heart-wrenching personal loss, struggle and pain during her lifetime. She endured it all with patience, humility and abiding faith. But the suffering of this saint did not stop with her repose. Her memory was persecuted by the church which originally canonized her, then anathematized (cursed) her. Her relics were desecrated, moved again and again. Finally on June 25, 1993 her relics were laid to rest in the cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection in the town of Kashin, Russia where they are found today. In spite of the de-canonization, St. Anna continued to be venerated by people of faith in Russia, as miracles around her relics continued.
RESTORATION OF THE ICON OF ST. ANNA OF KASHIN
The style and decorations suggest the icon dates from the mid to late 19th century. As we said, the icon was purchased on eBay around 2000. It came from one of the former Soviet Republics, Lithuania. The board was strong and heavy, but the painted surface was severely damaged. In fact the icon was painted on a gilded gesso surface which made it easy for the paint to pop off as it dried. Most of the gold background was rubbed off. The facial features of the saint and Christ (upper left corner) were almost gone. The church on the banks of a river was of special interest because it appeared to be a real building, whose features were mostly intact.
Process of restoration: The gesso background and border areas were originally carved with a fine tool pattern; the surface on our icon was damaged and missing in places. The gesso surface had to be refilled and retooled. Then new gold leaf was applied. What little remained of the facial details was used to in-paint new faces. Garment details and parts of background detail were also in-painted. See before and after. As we already know from the garment on the shroud of St. Sergius of Radonezh in our parish, the so-called analav of the schema monastic (a head covering which continues as one piece down the front), has the Cross of Golgotha, embroidered on it three times: once on the head and twice below down the front. In this case the analav also shows the skull of Adam with crossbones repeated twice down the front. She is holding a prayer rope.
Comparing images of churches associated with St. Anna, we can say with reasonable confidence that the building painted on the icon sitting on the banks of a river is probably the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in the town of Kashin, with slight alterations over time. A recent photo of the same view is identified as the same church. This is where her relics are laid to rest today. Therefore the river must be Kashinka, which we know runs by the cathedral.
Thank you, Matushka Anna, for your generous gift: restoring the icon and gifting it to our parish. Memory eternal to your son, Ivan! Holy Princess, Right-believing Venerable St. Anna of Kashin pray for us.
Thank you, Chuck Scott, for reading and commenting on the copy for this article. Any errors found in this narrative are entirely my responsibility. In Christ, Elena Borowski.
Source Materials for this article:
- Anna Kalinin, personal communication.
- Book: Byzantium and the Rise of Russia, John Meyendorff. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989.
- Russian Website specializing in church patriarchal and social reportage: pravmir.ru.
- Official website of Orthodox Church views from Russia: orthochristian.com.
- Blog of M.G. Pankratov with additions of Fr. Alexander Pankratov: STAROVE.RU.
- “Holy Anna of Kashin” by Denis Kamenshchikov. (in Russian). Newspaper «Православная вера» No 12 (416) 2010.
- “Святая благоверная княгиня Анна Кашинская/St. right-believing princess Anna of Kashin” (in Russian) by T.I. Manukhina, 2009, Tver. Available to read online on Google: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7Bq-IR4y_n3M0dBSm51ckRRc1k/view. 355 pages. Originally published by YMCA Press in Paris, 1954.