Venerable Alexander Oshevensky (secular name Alexei) lived in the 15th century. In 1452-1469 he founded a monastery on the river Churyuga near Kargopol. The saint was famous for his righteous life and numerous post-mortem miracles.
The hagiography of the venerable Alexander was compiled based on first-hand accounts in 1567 by Theodosius, an hieromonk of the Alexander Oshevensky Monastery. According to this work, Alexei was born on March 17th (O.S.) 1427 in Vazheozerskaya ves of the Belozersk krai into the family of a wealthy farmer Nikofor Oshevnya and Fotinia. At the age of 19, he went into monastery and six year later took monastic vows under the name of Alexander.
In about the same time his father moved to the river Churyuga “from the violence of earthly authorities” and offered to his son, who came to visit his family, to build a monastery on the other side of the river, promising to provide assistance in building the hermitage. The venerable Alexander went back to the Cyril of Belozersk Monastery to get the blessing from the hegumen, who let him go in company with a “masterful monk”. After coming to Oshevnevo, the venerable Alexander asked his father to oversee the building of the monastery and headed for Novgorod where Archbishop Jonas appointed him hegumen of the monastery. He was also granted a land patent from the landowner, boyarynya Anastasia. Life in the newly established hermitage was very hard. The venerable Alexander introduced an austere community statute for the monks, himself giving an example of ascetic life. Alexander Oshevensky lived in the monastery 27 years and died on April 20th (O.S.) 1479.
Alexander Oshevensky was originally buried to the right of the wooden church of Nicholas the Wonderworker he had built himself. The saint’s hagiography contains numerous accounts of his post-mortem miracles. Between 1576 and 1581, by the order of Metropolitan Anthony of Moscow, his relics were testified by the Bishop Varlaam of Vologda, thereafter the local feast day of the saint was set. The saint’s relics were later removed to the chapel in his memory in the Assumption Cathedral of the monastery where they had remained under a bushel until the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.
The venerable Alexander is usually pictured on the icons wearing monastic vestments. His earliest icon, placed over his reliquary, was painted based on a description given by an old man who had known the saint. One of the earliest icons of Alexander Oshevensky depicts him in prayer, with a scroll in his hand, against the background of the monastery he built. These icons represent the image of the monastery at the time the icon was painted. For example, on a 18th century icon from the collection of the Andrei Rublev Museum, all monastery buildings – the fencing, two steeple churches, a bell-tower and support structures – are wooden, while on the icon dated to the second third of the 19th century from the Hermitage Museum, the monastery fencing and churches are made of stone.
The feast day of venerable Alexander Oshevensky is May 3rd (April 20th O.S.).
Zhanna G. Belik,
Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.
Olga E. Savchenko,
research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.
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