The Life Story of Saint Dimitry of Rostov

St. Dimitriy Tuptalo, Metropolitan of Rostov, was a Russian hierarch of the 17th century, a remarkable preacher, and religious writer, professor of theology and ascetic, but also miracle worker. Heis venerated today in the Russian Church but also in the entire Orthodox space.


St. Dimitriy was born in 1651 in Makarovo, 40 km from Kiev, being baptized as Daniel. His father, Sava Grigorjevich Tuptalo (†January 5, 1703) was a soldier and often he was missing from home for a long time. Child's education was the particularly concern of the mother, Maria Michajlovna (†March 29, 1689), who gave him a Christian education. Soon the family moved to Kiev (1661), at that time located in Poland, and at the age of 11 years, Daniel entered the Orthodox Academy of Kiev (established by metropolitan Peter Movilă (Mogyla) some decades before), whose leader was at that time Innokenty Gizela (c. 1600-1683), a brilliant preacher and defender of Orthodoxy. Thanks to him, Daniel could develop during the study (1665-1665) a great charisma to explain the Scriptures and became sensitive to catechizing the faithful Church.


A few years later (July 9, 1668, being 17) Daniel entered the Monastery of St. Cyril and received the monastic tonsure, named Dimitriy, after St Demetrius of Thessalonica. In addition to the usual ministries in monastery, which he performed with obedience, the young monk managed to complete the studies and to begin his missionary literary work.

He was ordained a priest on May 23, 1675 at Holy Trinity Monastery in Gustyn, Prykuly district, and immediately was appointed by the Archbishop Lazar Baranov of Chernigov as preacher. Further, during this period went on pilgrimage to see different holy places in Belarus and Ukraine, at that time partly, in possession of the Greek Catholics. He was appointed in the next years as minister in several cities, as Chernigov (1675) and Slutsk (1677).

In 1678, after a trip to Vilnius, he established in Baturyn, at the court of Hetman Ivan Samoylovych. His sermons were typical for the Baroque period, consisting namely in metaphors, allegories, rhetorical figures, questions and answers, especially on moral topics.

Starting in 1680 the hieromonk Dimitriy lived mostly at Pecerska Lavra in Kiev, where he wrote many sermons, especially against the local mores, especially alcoholism and easier life. Soon it was given to him the leadership of several monasteries, always against his will, because his only desire was to live in asceticism and quietly. In this way he was abbot of Transfiguration Monastery of Maksakov, Borsna district (1681), and the following year to the monastery of St. Nicholas in Baturyn. Every time he tried to resign, but without succeed. His friends - including St. Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov (celebrated on 5 February) - managed to persuade him to remain abbot.

Writing the Lives of the Saints and other works

This period of his life was devoted to theological writings, being concentrated upon the ambitious project of integrating all the lives of Russian saints into a single work, which he published as The lives of the saints between 1684-1705. His resources were the Greek Menologion of Saint Symeon Metaphrastes, the Menologies of Metropolitan Makarij (1482-1563), the Collections of Vitae of the Bollandists, the Annals of cardinal Baronius, and the Lives of the Saints of Piotr Skarga, which means both orthodox and catholic sources. His compositions, which he never pretended to be original, are until today very popular in the Slavic space. 

Together with his popular writing about the saints, he wrote also a Research on the fake faith of the schismatic (Rotsysk one cuz brynskoi raskolnitsei), a polemic work against the Raskolniks (Old Believers), the Russians who didn’t accept the liturgical reform of Patriarch Nikon form 1666. Dimitriy sees the error in the popular inculture and not directly in their faith.  He also wrote a Catechetic Compendium.

Also he found time to study the ecclesiastical history of the Russian Orthodox Church, so he wrote a Chronicle of the Lavra Pecerska, a Chronicle of the Russian tsars and patriarchs,  a Catalogue of the Russian metropolitans, and  also other works, especially homilies.

For 25 years, Saint Dimitriy devoted all the powers of such works, but besides the time spent to these, he was praying in church or alone. He was living in the company of the saints not only in writing but also in prayer, living their lives, suffering their torments with them and studying the smallest details in all the documents relating to them.

In return for his love for the saints, God gave him often visions. On August 10, 1685, he saw in a dream St. Great Martyr Barbara, notably honored by him. He asked her to intercede for him before the Lord, but she admonished him because praying "like the Roman Catholics", that means by meditating on the five wounds of our Lord. Indeed, the influence of Roman Catholic theology and spirituality was visible in the Russian Church in the cult. But after that St. Barbara smiled and comforted him. On November 10, the same year, Saint Orest appeared to him, the one of whom Dimitriy composed his life in the same day and he said: "I suffered more torment for Christ than those you remembered." Then he showed him a deep wound in the left side, saying: "Behold, this was done by a red hot iron". Then he stretched out his right arm and showed his veins that had been cut up to the elbow height and added: "Here, these were cut" Then showed him similar injury to his left arm, repeating the same words and then he showed that he had wounds on his knees, saying: "These have been cut". After that, he stood right and finally said, "You see, then, that I suffered more pain than you have remembered" St. Dimitriy asked St. Orest if he was one of the five Saints Martyrs whose feast is on December 13, but the martyr replied: "Not Orest of the five Holy Martyrs Church, but he who is honored today and whose life you just made it".


In 1694 Dimitriy was named abbot of the monastery of St. Peter and Paul in Hluchiv, in 1697 at the monastery of St. Cyril in Kiev and in 1699 he was named Archimandrite at the Transfiguration Monastery from Novhorod-Siverskyj.  On March 23, 1701 Dimitriy was ordained a bishop in Moscow, being appointed metropolitan for Siberia and Tobolsk. His poor health and his need to have access to the texts necessary to continue the writing of the saints’ lives, made him to ask to be moved elsewhere. He was named in the Diocese of Rostov and Yaroslavl in January 4, 1702 and then he had a vision, in which it was discovered to him that he  will have to find the eternal rest there in the monastery of St. James (Spaso-Yakovlevsky monastyr), in Rostov.

During his life in Russia, Dimitry opposed both the Old Believers' and Peter the Great's ecclesiastical policies. He also made invaluable contributions to the Russian education, opening a school and a small theatre in Rostov, where his own plays could be staged.

Dimitry was also active as a composer. Many of his Penitential Psalms achieved a wide circulation, not only in the Ukraine but in the Balkans too, and many of them have become an integral part of Ukrainian folk-song tradition through the kobzari (itinerant blind singers).

Dimitry is credited as composer or compiler of the first Russian opera of 6 hours, the Rostov Mysteries (1705). It is an oratorio on the lives of Russian saints, based on the "Cheti-Minei", published in four volumes in 1689, 1690, 1700 and 1705. The same source inspired Pushkin to write Boris Godunov in 1825.

Shortly before his death, Saint Dimitriy completed his monumental work, the Lives of the saints (in 1705), and further took only the care for his community. He tried very hard to turn the religious life and manners of his contemporaries. Despite his frequent illnesses, he continued a strict canon in his life and never left his unceasing prayer. He also established a theological seminary near his home, where he has assumed much of the teaching.

The burial

Saint Dimitriy has foreseen his death three days before. He bowed to the ground and asked for forgiveness from clergy and singers who served with him. After that, he closed himself in his cell, in a fervent prayer. The next day morning, October 28, 1709, he was found dead, kneeling at prayer. Contrary to the saint's wishes, which he expressed in his will, the clergy and people of Rostov asked the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Stephen Yavorsky of Ryazan, who had come for the funeral, to conduct the burial at the cathedral church of the city.

Metropolitan Stephen insisted on burying the body of his deceased friend beside St Joasaph, who was St. Demetrius's predecessor. However, a grave was not prepared until the arrival of Metropolitan Stephen, even although about a month had elapsed since the saint's death.

Due to the urgent departure of Metropolitan Stephen from Rostov, a hastily constructed wooden frame was placed into the grave, in which the body of the saint was buried on November 25. This circumstance, foreseen by the Providence of God, led to a quick uncovering of the relics.

In 1752 repairs were being done at the cathedral church of the Trinity in the monastery, and on September 21, was discovered the incorrupt body of St Demetrius. The place of burial had been affected by dampness, the oaken coffin and the writing on it were decayed, but the body of the saint, and even the omophorion, sacchos, mitre and silken prayer rope were preserved undamaged.

After the uncovering of the holy relics many healings were worked, which were reported to the Synod, by whose order Metropolitan Sylvester of Suzdal and Archimandrite Gabriel of Simonov arrived at Rostov to examine the relics of St Demetrius, and to investigate the incidents of miraculous healings.

The Russian Church proceeded with the official recognition in April 22, 1757. His celebrating day is the day of his death, October 28, or November 10, according to the gregorian calendar. Also another celebration is on September 21, the finding of his miracle-working relics in 1752.

His relics are until today in the cathedral church of St. Jacob monastery on Rostov. A reliquary containing the right hand of St. Dimitriy is today in the St. Michael Church from the village Polovki, Chernigov region.
Troparion (hymn) of the saint

„O, lover of Orthodoxy and uprooter of schism, healer of Russia and new advocate before God, by thy writings thou didst heal the minds of the foolish. O blessed Dimitriy, thou harp of the Spirit, entreat Christ God, that our souls may be saved!”