Nikon, Patriarch of Moscow

views updated


Patriarchate 16521660; b. Veldemanovo, near Nizhniĭ Novgorod (Gorkiĭ since 1932), Russia, 1605; d. near Yaroslavl, Aug. 17, 1681. Nikon was the name in religion of Nikita Minin (or Minov), who came of peasant stock. After ordination as a Russian Orthodox priest (1625), he served in a rural parish until 1627, when he went to Moscow. After the death of his children he became a hermit on the island of Anser in the White Sea (1635) and then entered the monastery at Kozheozerskiĭ, where he became abbot (1643). In 1646 he was presented to Czar Alexis I (164576), whose influential counselor he became. He was appointed metropolitan of Novgorod (1646) and patriarch of Moscow (1652). Nikon was a zealous pastor, a popular preacher, and a promoter of the evangelization of Siberia. The liturgical reforms he decreed in 1653 brought the Russian liturgy to closer conformity with Greek and Ukrainian customs but suppressed numerous Russian traditional practices. Because of this he incurred the enmity of avvakum and other conservatives who formed the ultranationalistic and antigovernment sect of raskolniks. Nikon's liturgical innovations paved the way for Moscow's political absorption of the Ukraine (165467). Once this was accomplished, Nikon's usefulness to the ambitious czar was ended. Nikon alienated the czar by his attempt to make the Church completely independent of the state. He further challenged the Russian tradition of caesaro-papism by asserting the superiority of the patriarchal dignity over that of the czar. During the czar's frequent absences from Moscow, Nikon acted as regent and did so in an authoritarian manner. The combination of religious and civil opposition led to Nikon's deposition (1660). In 1666 a synod in Moscow, attended by some of the Oriental patriarchs, exiled Nikon to the remote monastery of Belozerskĭ-Ferapontov, but it definitively approved his liturgical reforms. He was granted amnesty by Czar Fëdor III (167680), but he died soon after, while journeying to his favorite monastery of Voskresenskĭ.

Bibliography: w. palmer, The Patriarch and the Tsar, 4 v. (London 187176). j. ledit, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 11.1:646655; 14.1:292304.

[f. l. fadner]