St. Alexander Nevsky, the Martyr and Grand Prince of Vladimir and Novgorod (+November 14, 1263)
Commemorated November 23
During the thirteenth century when the Russian lands were under assault from both the East and West, St. Alexander’s military victories and diplomacy kept northern Russia free of foreign domination.
St. Alexander, the fourth son of Grand Prince Yaroslav II Vsevolodovich of Vladimir, was born in Pereslavl-Zalessky on May 30, 1219. His mother was Theodosia Igorevna, a Ryazan princess.
His childhood was spent at Pereslavl-Zalessk, where his father was prince. The princely tonsure of the St. Alexander (a ceremony of initiation to be soldier) was done in the Savior Transfiguration Cathedral of Pereslavl. St. Alexander received his first blessing for military service in the name of God, to defend the Russian Church and the Russian Land. From his early years St. Alexander went along on his father’s campaigns.
A very troublesome time had begun in Russian history; however, the Providence of God raised up for the salvation of Russia, St. Alexander a great warrior, man of prayer, ascetic and upholder of the Land of Russia. It is said that, “Without the command of God there would not have been his prince.”
After his father was poisoned, St. Alexander became the ruling Great Prince of All Rus: Vladimir, Kiev and Novgorod. He repelled powerful Western and Eastern forces and made treaties. In the darkness of paganism, St. Alexander brought the light of Gospel preaching and Orthodox culture. St. Alexander’s life was put to the service of the Russian Church.
On the return journey from a campaign, St. Alexander fell deathly ill and reposed in a monastery at Gorodets on November 14, 1263.