Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

Marina Chizhova
24.10.2016

Theophilus of Kiev - the prototype of the elder from the movie "The Island"?

Many probably remember how in 2006 the film directed by Pavel Lungin entitled “The Island” appeared on a wide screen. The film was an unexpected success, received many prestigious awards and awards. It became especially popular thanks to the image of the main character, successfully played by Pyotr Mamonov, the father of Anatoly. However, few people know that many of the features of this character were borrowed by the author from the life of a real holy elder, who relatively recently lived in Kiev, for the sake of the holy fool Theophilus, now glorified as a reverend. We decided to devote our article to him.

Cancer with the relics of Theophilus

Long-suffering childhood

From early childhood, the blessed experienced the bitter fate of the eternal wanderer on earth. His hometown was Makhnov in the Kiev province. Here in October 1788, the family of priest Andrei Gorenkovsky was replenished with two twins - Kalinik and Thomas.The second will become the glorified saint elder.

This child was unusual from birth. He did not want to breastfeed his mother. To save him, I had to give the kid a soft potato gruel and boiled turnips with carrots, which he eaten willingly. Therefore, the mother has disliked Thomas since birth. She herself called her child a “punch”, “ghoul”, considering that at birth he was replaced by witches. The neighbors, who were constantly whispering about him behind his back, added fuel to the fire.

However, the matter was not limited to conversations. Mother decided to drown her child, the future of St. Theophilus of Kiev. To do this, she ordered her maid first. But she, twice witnessing how the river itself carried the baby to the other side, repenting, brought it back to the ill-fated parent. Then the mother herself went to the river where the water mill was located, and threw her child under the millstones, after which she immediately ran away. And a miracle happened again.

Millstone stopped over the baby, blissful Theophilus, without causing him harm. The mill began to creak under the pressure of water. The miller came running at this sound and, seeing a crying child, took it out from under the millstones. Immediately after this, the mill started working again.

Seeing the dislike of the mother for his child, the future holy elder, the father decided to remove the child from her. He found a fodder for Thomas in a remote village who fed him with soft bread soaked in sweet water and honey. However, the father of God's chosen baby soon died. Then Thomas gladly took up the same miller who witnessed a miracle.

A childless rich man from a neighboring village somehow found out about an unusual child. He asked the miller to give him Thomas for upbringing, since he does not have his children. Considering that the child would be better there, the miller did just that. But soon the rich man also died, and his widow, wishing to get married a second time, gave the boy to the care of the priest from their village. So Theophilus of Kiev from an early age went to the feet of the Savior, whohad no where to lay the head.

Fragment of the icon with the elder

Eternal wanderer

But on this the wanderings of the blessed youth did not end. The future Kiev saint lived well in the house of a priest, but over time he dies. The attempt to take the boy home to his mother ended tragically - she still harbored him. When Thomas was brought home, his mother was just chopping wood.As soon as she saw the boy, she threw an ax at him, which cut her shoulder, which then healed for a long time.

It soon became clear that the boy’s uncle, a widowed priest, lived in the Kiev-Bratsk monastery. To him, the future holy old man, and now a simple, unwanted young man, has moved to live. Some time later, Thomas's mother fell ill with an incurable disease, and finally repenting, asking for forgiveness from her son already on her deathbed, she died.

A young wanderer by this time had long ago decided to devote himself entirely to serving God. After the death of his uncle, he himself began to earn his own bread, first served as a sexton in Chigirin, then as a ponomare in Obukhov. In 1812 he was enrolled as a novice in the Fraternal Monastery and nine years later he was tonsured a monk with the name Theodoret. In 1822 he was ordained a hierodeacon, and after another 5 years he was hieromonk. In 1834, he adopted a schema with the name of Theophilus and became an Ieroshimonah.

Searching for a more secluded place for their exploits, pursued by a large crowd of admirers, and often with intrigues of envious, the holy elder will change the walls of different monasteries. Among them were the Brotherhood Monastery, and the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, and Holosiivska desert.However, the blissful chose the Kitaevskii desert, surrounded on all sides by forest, as a favorite place for his exploits and prayers.

Fragments of painting with Theophilus

Eccentricities of the saint

In time, Theophilus chose the most difficult and narrowest spiritual path for himself - he became a holy fool for Christ. His life, behavior, as always happens in such cases, was distinguished by many, as we would call them today, strangeness or eccentricity. Some of these features were borrowed by the creators of the film “The Island” for the image of their hero. For example, often, wanting to avoid annoying visitors, Theophilus of Kiev smeared the threshold of his house with tar or tar. In the cell, the reverend always had a mess that was supposed to remind of an inner, mental disorder. On the floor was ... a coffin in which pots were stored with provisions for guests.

Hiding from curious eyes, he spent long hours of prayer in the forest, on a stump or in another favorite place - the hollow of an oak, where he hung a crucifix and a lamp. The saint ate very poorly, while mixing everything in the bowl in a row. In the service, he stood with his back to the people, facing the wall, always with lowered eyes. Service also performed in a peculiar way, “not according to the charter”.

Another “business card” of the holy elder was the bull of black color, which always drove him around the city. And it is interesting that the reins were not needed. The Kiev saint sat down on an animal's back, put a lectern in a cart and, on his knees, read the Psalter, and in the meantime the bull-caller guessed the road where to go, and always without fail. They also said that he, like his master, had an extraordinary sense of people: he did not touch the good ones, he always let the elder into the courtyard, and the evil butts.

Image in Pokrovsky Monastery

The gift of vision and wonders

All important matters, be it a wedding, other enterprises, on which fate depended, were decided only with the blessing of blessed Theophilus. If they did not act according to his words, then they were always unhappy. One pious family came to the holy elder, asking them to bless their daughter on the monastic tonsure. He silently handed down and gave them a stearic candle without a wick. A few months later, this daughter gave birth to a child, then the parents understood everything.

Feofil of Kiev was famous for his rare gift of insight. He confessed people like this: putting his hand on his head, he listed all his sins. He always clothed his prophecies in a bizarre, allegorical form.Often it was possible to understand his riddles only when the predicted had already come true. Fame of him spread throughout the county.

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People from various spiritual states and positions in society came to the monk. One of such rich ladies, who considered herself a big benefactor, blessedly gave him to wipe his hands with a dirty, specially soiled towel. He replied to her questioning glance that her virtues before God also smelt badly, stink.

It is known that even the emperor Nikolai Pavlovich the holy elder predicted death when he came to the ascetic for advice and blessing. It happened allegorically too. Scratching his face with prickles, the monk lay down on an anthill, and so lay motionless, as if dead. So he appeared before the emperor. Everyone understood that this portends something unkind. Soon Nikolai Pavlovich, exhausted by the war with the Turks in the Crimea, died suddenly.

In addition, the Monk Theophilus of Kiev accurately predicted the establishment of three cloisters in Kiev. They exist today. This Pokrovsky convent, founded by the princessAlexandra Romanova (Rev. Anastasia of Kiev); Transfiguration of the desert on the site of the former dense impenetrable forest; St.John's man’s monastery on the Menagerie, where today is also a botanical garden.

Tombstone with inscription

Death of the reverend

Blessed Theophilus predicted that he would die in his beloved Kitaev monastery. And so it happened: three months before his death, he returned there from Goloseevo. He was then 65 years old. Despite his old age and illness, the holy elder did not reduce his prayer labors and feats. Most of the time he spent in the forest, in his favorite hollow. Sometimes the saint walked through the forest naked, like Adam, substituting his body for the bites of mosquitoes and other insects.

He did not leave the blessed and the church service, daily communion. Increasingly, in conversations, he mentioned Praskovia (St. Paraskeva Friday), thus predicting the day of his death. He also chose the coffin of himself beforehand, pointing to the box in which the candles were previously kept. Be sure to bury him - such was the “testament” of Theophilus of Kiev.

On the very day of death, November 10, in a new style, after joining the Holy Mysteries, Christ, for the sake of the holy fool, came to his cell and prepared everything necessary: ​​he lighted candles and lamps, he lay down on a bench set across the threshold of the cell.After that, he ordered one of his cell-mates to go to the head of the desert and ring the bell. The latter did not understand at first and started ringing, but then asked the cell mate who sent him. Having learned that Theophilus himself, the chief took this for a joke and went to check.

When they entered, the righteous man quietly and peacefully departed to the Lord. His second cell attendant witnessed how the cover rose above him, and the sky seemed to take the holy elder into his arms. The monk's cell filled with an unusual fragrance with his last breath.

Trinity Church in Kitaevo

Where are Theophilus's relics?

Kiev saint was canonized recently, in 1993. His relics were for a long time in the Trinity Cathedral of the Kitayev monastery, and seven years ago they were transferred to the Temple in honor of the Twelve Apostles there. Here they are today. And only in this, in 2016, the name of Rev. Theophil of Kiev was entered into the month of worship for church worship. His memory is celebrated on November 10 and July 27.

A documentary film about the reverend can be seen here:


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  • Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

    Feofil Kievsky - a prototype of the elder from Ostrov movie

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