Siida Sää'mjie'llem
Skolt Sámi Life     Suomeksi  


The memory of St. Triphon of Petsamo

"Having arrived in the ultimate north as the first man to enlighten its people/Thou, oh St. Triphon, guided the people of the North onto the road to life/and regenerated them from water and the Holy Ghost./Thou planted Thy spiritual children in the fruitless and rocky country like the oiltrees of the South/and founded a monastery in the name of the Holy Trinity./Therefore, we honor Thee as our apostle and as one who strives for a life without fault in the wilderness, and we fervently beseech Thee:/Pray to God for all those who honor Thy memory." (St. Triphon's troparion, 8th verse.)

St. Triphon of Petsamo was born into a priest's family in the town of Torzhek in the region of Novgorod in 1495. He was baptized Mitrophan. It is told that he was, as a young man, impressed by the words "Blessed is their way of life who, guided by God, strive in the desert for a life without sin". In silence, he also heard the call "Go and defend the faith in the uninhabited and ignorant land where God's word has not yet been preached but where thirst is great, for I who have mercy have remembered my people, and the love of my covenant is as great as ever." And the voice continued: "Be not reluctant, but go where I lead you, and say what I give you to say."

Mitrophan interpreted the words as a call to do apostolic work, and left for the north, to bring enlightenment to the Skolt Lapps living on the rivers and fjords there. He preached the gospel to the Skolt Sámi for two decades, converting slowly a great part of the population living in the area between the rivers Petsamojoki, Paatsjoki and Näätämöjoki. With permission from Bishop Makar in Novgorod, Mitrophan built a small and simple church - later consecrated to the Holy Trinity - on the river Petsamojoki. When visiting the Kola Peninsula, Ilja from Novgorod - a monk in holy orders - consecrated the church and baptized the Lapps who had adopted the Christian belief. On the same day - February 1st 1533 - Mitrophan was ordained a monk and given the name Triphon. This is also considered the day when the Petsamo monastery was founded.

Petsamo Monastery in the 1930s. A colored glass negative. Photo: Suomen Matkailijayhdistys

Monk Triphon continued to convert Skolt Sámi into the Christian faith in Petsamo, but he was also anxious about the economy of the monastery. He travelled to the region of Novgorod to collect means for the monastery and visited Czar Ivan the Terrible in Moscow, to get his recognition for the monastery. In addition to the official recognition, the Czar granted the monastery of Petsamo a deed of donation - dated November 1st 1556 - through which the monastery received large land areas and the fishing rights to the waters in these areas. In addition, Monk Triphon used the means donated by the Czar for building three churches: a church consecrated to the holy princes Boris and Gleb on the river Paatsjoki, a small chapel consecrated to the great martyr Georgios on the river Näätämöjoki, and a church concecrated to the Death of the One Who Bore God on the river Petsamojoki.

Later, Monk Triphon himself was buried by the last-mentioned church. He died on December 15th 1583. Before dying, he foresaw the devastation of the monastery but comforted the fraternity by saying that, with God's help, the monastery could be raised from the ashes. The troops of Pekka Vesainen ravaged the monastery and killed 116 monks on Christmas night in 1589. After this, it took hundreds of years for the monastery of Petsamo to flourish again: this happened as late as the 1880s.


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