Russia Religion Subjects Orthodox Saint St Boris and St Gleb

St Boris and St Gleb

St Boris and St Gleb were the youngest of the twelve sons of Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev. Boris ruled Rostov and Gleb ruled Murom. After Prince Vladimir’s death in 1015, their elder brother, Svyatopolk of Turov, seized the throne of Kiev for himself and had the brothers murdered. For his act of fratricide, he became known in Russia as Svyatopolk the Accursed.

Boris and Gleb were known for their humility and Christian virtues. For meekly accepting death and refusing to raise their hands against their brother, they were worshipped as passion-bearers. Symbolising Christian meekness in the face of internecine warfare and sibling rivalry, Boris and Gleb were regarded as the first Russian martyrs. Their humble acceptance of death was likened to Christ’s own sacrifice and death on the cross. In 1037, Yaroslav the Wise canonised the two brothers, who became the first Russian saints.

The brothers are traditionally depicted in royal robes, wearing richly ornamented caftans and fur-lined coats and hats. Their invariable attributes are crosses symbolising martyrdom and undrawn swords with the blades pointing downwards in a sign of peace and accord. Revered as the holy patrons of Russia, St Boris and St Gleb were called the "weapon, defence and buttress of the Russian lands; our double-edged swords.” The inseparable images of the two brothers represent stoicism, spiritual courage, humility and fraternal love.

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