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Peter Mogila

Peter Mogila

The Russian Orthodox churchman and theologian Peter Mogila (1596-1646) is known for his restoration of Orthodox institutions.

Peter Mogila was born in Moldavia, now part of Romania, the son of Symeon, head of an aristocratic family. Political turmoil forced Symeon to flee to Poland, where his family had numerous and influential ties with the nobility. Peter studied there and then in Holland and in Paris. He served as an officer in the Polish army but at the age of 30 decided to become a monk at the famous Pechersky Lavra Monastery. He received minor orders and made his vows in 1627. Ordained a priest sometime later, he became archimandrite and in 1632 metropolitan of Kiev.

Peter's first interests lay with the fortunes of the Orthodox Church, then under strong social and economic pressure from Catholic nobility and clergy. Political and social pressures were violent. His first achievement was to take possession of Kiev's St. Sophia Cathedral and thus oust the Catholics. He restored it and the Pechersky Lavra, the monastery of Vydubetsky, and numerous other monasteries and churches, including the famous "Tenpart Church," which contained the tomb of St. Vladimir. Peter's main distinction, and the source of his difficulties, was his knowledge and appreciation of the West and of the Latin Church. He had a deep knowledge of Latin and of the Western system of seminary and university education. As an archimandrite at Pechersky Lavra, he had founded a school where Slavic and Greek studies were poorly represented. The school's academic program was fashioned on Western models, Latin being the predominant language taught there. This mixture of Western elements did not sit well with his coreligionists. He himself had been schooled in his early years at Lvov Brotherhoods School. As archimandrite, he had united the Brotherhoods School with his own at Pechersky Lavra. When he became metropolitan, he renamed this school the Collegium. Some 15 years later the Collegium became an educational and intellectual center for the Ukraine and Poland.

The writings of Peter were very important. In 1637 he published an exegetical edition of the Four Gospels. In 1646 he revised and published Orthodox Church ritual in his Evlogion, known also as the Great Trebnik. He authored, about the same time, Short Scientific Essays about Points of the Faith. He planned an edition of the Bible and a Lives of the Saints, but he died on Dec. 31, 1646, at Kiev.

Peter's greatest work was the Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church. He wrote it to counteract the work of the Jesuits and the Reformers, both of whom were struggling for victory in Poland. It had great success, being approved by the provincial Synod of Kiev in 1640. In 1672, after his death, it was adopted as the Orthodox Standard Catechism by the Synod of Jerusalem. It was not merely a manual of instruction; it was much more a vindication of Orthodox primacy in doctrine and Church jurisdiction, in opposition to the claims of both Reformers and Counter Reformers. Because of its handy form and clarity, the Confession was never superseded.

Further Reading

There is scant material on Mogila in English. A good biographical sketch is in George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, vol. 5 (1969). For general historical background see the classic study by V. O. Kliuchevsky, A Course in Russian History: The Seventeenth Century (trans. 1968). □

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