Barlaam of Khutyn, Hermit
November 6 is the Commemoration of Barlaam of Khutyn, Hermit.
“Barlaam of Khutyn (Russian: Варлаам Хутынский), also known as Varlaam, was a hermit. Born Alexis Milchalevich to a wealthy family from Novgorod. After the death of his parents, he became a hermit on the Volga and handed all of his inheritance to the poor. At this time he had gained many followers. So great were their numbers that he founded a monastery, the Khutyn Monastery of Saviour’s Transfiguration, and took the name of Barlaam (Varlaam). He died on 6 November 1192, his grave has become a site for pilgrimage.
Varlaam is famous for healing the Grand Prince Vasily (from a family of Riazan boyars) when the last was visiting Novgorod. Later he became a patron of the Vologda city. He was also an accomplished painter, and painted several murals in the Gothic style in Novgorod, none of which survived destruction during the Second World War.”
“Saint Barlaam, Abbot of Khutyn lived in the twelfth century, the son of an illustrious citizen of Novgorod, where he spent his childhood years. Withdrawing at an early age to the Lisich monastery near the city, St Barlaam was tonsured there. Later he settled on a solitary hill below Volkhov, in a place called Khutyn, ten versts from Novgorod.
St Barlaam led a strict solitary life, occupying himself with unceasing prayer and keeping a very strict fast. He was a zealous ascetic in his labors: he cut timber in the forest, chopped firewood and tilled the soil, fulfilling the words of Holy Scripture, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10).
Certain inhabitants of Novgorod gathered around him, wanting to share in monastic works and deeds. Instructing those who came, St Barlaam said, “My children, beware of all unrighteousness, and do not give in to envy or slander. Refrain from anger, and do not practice usury. Beware of unjust judgment. Do not swear an oath falsely, but rather fulfill it. Do not indulge the bodily appetites. Always be meek and bear all things with love. This virtue is the beginning and root of all good.”
Soon a church was built in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a monastery founded. Because of his service to others, the Lord granted St Barlaam the gifts of wonderworking and discernment.
When St Barlaam’s life was drawing to a close, the hieromonk Anthony came from Constantinople by divine Providence. He was of the same age and a friend of St Barlaam. The saint turned to him and said, “My beloved brother! God’s blessings rest upon this monastery. Now I leave this monastery in your hands. Watch over it and care for it. Although in the flesh I am leaving you, I shall always be with you in spirit.” After instructing the brethren, commanding them to preserve the Orthodox Faith and to dwell constantly in humility, St Barlaam fell asleep in the Lord on November 6, 1192.”
“The Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn (secular name Aleksa Mikhalevich, died in 1193?) is a 12th century saint, founder of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Monastery located on the right bank of the Volkhov river at the inflow of the river Maly Volkhovets to the north of Novgorod, in the outskirts of the village of Khutyn.
Little is known about Barlaam of Khutyn. A Synodal copy of the 1192 Novgorod first chronicle tells that «Въ то же лето постави цьрковь вънизу на Хутине Варлам цьрнецъ, а мирьскымь именьмь Алекса Михалевиць, въ имя святого Спаса Преображения; и святи ю владыка архиепископъ Гаврила на праздьникъ, и нарече манастырь». (“That summer Barlaam the monk, secular name Aleksa Mikhalevich built the Transfiguration of Our Lord Church down at Khutyn, Archbishop Gabriel sanctified it on a holiday and called it a monastery.”) The venerable Barlaam donated to the monastery his “land and garden, hunting lands, the land of Khutyn… with servants and cattle, and one more village of Sluditsy.” The Novgorod Museum holds a papyrine charter by Barlaam of Khutyn, the earliest document of this kind.
Barlaam of Khutyn is believed to have died between the years of 1193 and 1209 and was buried in the monastery he had built himself. He was venerated as a saint presumably shortly after his death. The first redaction of his hagiography was written in the 13th century.
In Moscow Barlaam of Khutyn has been venerated as a saint since 1461 – the year of the miraculous resurrection of the venerable youth Gregory Tumgen, Gentleman of the Bedchamber of Prince Vasily II Vasilyevich Tyomniy (Blind) during his visit to Novgorod with his sons Yury and Andrei in 1460. In the same year the Chapel of Barlaam of Khutyn was constructed in the stone Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist that had been built to replace a formerly wooden church.
Barlaam of Khutyn was highly venerated by the Grand Prince Vasily III who had been appointed by his father to rule Veliky Novgorod and Pskov. After becoming a sole ruler (he had been a co-ruler of Ivan III since 1502), he ordered the construction of the new Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in the Khutyn Monastery to replace the dilapidated 12th century church that was completed in 1515.
The Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn is known for a miracle that happened in Moscow in 1521 during the unexpected conquer of the city by the Crimean and Kazan Tartars. According to chronicles, when the Tartar army crossed Oka and began to loot Moscow villages and monasteries, Vasily III headed for Volokolamsk expecting military assistance from Veliky Novgorod. Simultaneously, a blind female monk in the Ascension Monastery in Moscow’s Kremlin had a vision that the Synaxis of Muscovite saints and wonderworkers, under command of the Lord Almighty and the Most Pure Theotokos, as a visitation of God for Muscovites’ sins, left the city through the Frolovsky Gate with an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. It was only after the intercession from the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh and Barlaam of Khutyn and a collective prayer to the icon of the Theotokos that the saints and wonderworkers went back to the city.
The relics of the Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn are kept in the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord of the Khutyn Monastery.
The Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn is traditionally depicted on icons as a middle-aged black-haired man with a beard dressed in clerical clothes, holding a scroll. One such example is a tablet icon from the St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod – The Venerable Sergius of Radonezh and Barlaam of Khutyn, St. Khariton the Confessor of the late 15th – early 16th centuries (the Novgorod Museum).”