Boris and Gleb

Boris and Gleb (Old East Slavic: Борисъ и Глѣбъ, Borisŭ i Glěbŭ; Russian: Борис и Глеб, Boris i Gleb; Ukrainian: Борис і Гліб, Borys i Hlib), Christian names Roman and David, respectively (Old East Slavic: Романъ, Давꙑдъ, Romanŭ, Davydŭ), were the first saints canonized in Kievan Rus' after the Christianization of the country. Their feast day is observed on July 24 (August 6).

Boris and Gleb
Boris Savvin.jpg
Medieval icon of SS. Boris and Gleb
(13-14th century, Kiev museum of Russian art)
Passion Bearers
Diedc. 1015–1019
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Catholic Church
Old believers
Canonized1071 by Russian Orthodox Church
Major shrineVyshhorod
FeastJuly 24 (Martyrdom)
May 3 (Translation of Relics)
AttributesTwo young princes, holding swords or spears, or the cross of martyrs

Prince of Rostov
PredecessorYaroslav the Wise
Boris Vladimirovich
HouseRiurik Dynasty
FatherVladimir I of Kiev
Prince of Murom
Gleb Vladimirovich
HouseRiurik Dynasty
FatherVladimir I of Kiev


According to the two 11th-century Lives of Boris and Gleb (ascribed to Nestor the Chronicler and Jacob the Monk), they were younger children of Vladimir the Great, who favored them over his other children. The Primary Chronicle claims that their mother was a Bulgarian woman.[1] Most modern scholars, however, argue that Boris and Gleb had different mothers and were of different ages. Boris, the elder, who was already married and ruled the town of Rostov, was probably regarded as heir apparent to the Kievan throne. Gleb, who was still a minor, ruled the easternmost town of Murom.[2]

Both brothers were murdered during the internecine wars of 1015–1019. The Primary Chronicle blames Sviatopolk the Accursed for plotting their assassinations. Boris learns of his father's death upon his return with the Rus' army to Alta. Informed of Sviatopolk's accession to the throne and urged to replace him, Boris replies: "Be it not for me to raise my hand against my elder brother. Now that my father has passed away, let him take the place of my father in my heart."[2] Despite Boris' acquiescence, Sviatopolk sends Putsha and the boyars of Vyshegorod to execute his brother. Boris and his manservant are stabbed to death while asleep in a tent. The prince is discovered still breathing in a bodybag being transported to Kiev, but the Varangians end his life with the thrust of a sword.[2]

Sent for by Sviatopolk, Gleb believes his father is still alive and rushes to his father's deathbed. On the way, their brother Yaroslav learns of Sviatopolk's treachery and urges Gleb not to meet him. In the middle of praying to his deceased brother and God, Gleb is assassinated by his own cook, Torchin, who cuts his throat with a kitchen knife.[3]

The Life contains many picturesque details of Boris and Gleb's last hours, such as their sister's warning about the murderous plans of Sviatopolk. The narrative is a masterpiece of hagiography that weaves together numerous literary traditions. The factual circumstances of Boris and Gleb's lives and deaths cannot, however, be extrapolated from their hagiography. Perhaps the crucial evidence comes from several unbiased foreign sources, which mention that Boris succeeded his father in Kiev and was not lurking in Rostov as the Russian Primary Chronicle seems to imply.[citation needed]

The Norse Eymund's saga relates a tale of the Varangian warriors who were hired by Yaroslav I the Wise to kill his brother Burizleif. Some historians[who?] trust the saga more than sources from Rus', claiming that it was Yaroslav and not Sviatopolk who was interested in removing his political rivals and was guilty of his brothers' murder. Others[who?] consider "Burizleif" a misreading of Bolesław, the Polish ruler allied to Sviatopolk.[citation needed]


Boris and Gleb received the crown of martyrdom in 1015. The brothers became known as "Strastoterptsy" (Passion-Bearers), since they did not resist evil with violence.[4] Boris and Gleb's relics were housed in the Church of St. Basil in Vyshhorod, later destroyed.[5] Boris and Gleb were glorified (canonized) by the Orthodox church in Rus' in 1071. They were interred at the Vyshhorod Cathedral, which was reconsecrated in their name; many other Ukrainian and Russian churches were later named after them.

In 2011 a monument to Boris and Gleb was erected in Vyshhorod, Ukraine. The authors of the monument are Boris Krylov and Oles Sydoruk.



  1. ^ Войтович, Леонтій (1992). Генеалогія династій Рюриковичів і Гедиміновичів. Kyiv: Юніверс-93. p. 24.
  2. ^ a b c ""Princes Boris and Gleb", Orthodox America". Archived from the original on 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2005-01-20.
  3. ^ Hackel, Sergei, "Two Soldiers of Christ: Boris and Gleb", Cathedral Newsletter, Russian Orthodox Cathedral, London, November 1994
  4. ^ "Martyrs and Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb", Orthodox Church in America
  5. ^ The Earliest Mediaeval Churches of Kiev, Samuel H. Cross, H. V. Morgilevski and K. J. Conant, Speculum, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1936), 489.

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