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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

History of the Ukraine
By Dmytro Doroshenko

printed by
The Institute Press, Ltd.
Edmonton, Alberta,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 11

 p150  Chapter X

 * * * *

(The numbers link directly to the sections.)

(43) Fate of the Orthodox Church Under Lithuanian and Polish Rule. (44) Inner Organization of the Ukrainian Church. (45) Decline of the Orthodox Church at the End of the Seventeenth Century. (46) Its Revival and the Part Played by the Tatars. (47) Religious Brotherhoods.

 * * * *

43. Fate of the Orthodox Church Under Lithuanian and Polish Rule.

At the time when the Cossack class was roaming and developing in the Dnieper steppes, a strong national movement began in the western Ukrainian provinces of Galicia and Volynia which was intimately bound up with religious revival. In order to understand the forms and meanings of this revival we must look back and retrace the fate of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine since the loss of political independence.

Under the old Ukrainian Kievan princes, the head of the Orthodox Church was the Metropolitan of Kiev, who bore the additional title of "All Rus", that is, of White Russians and Great Russians as well. He was dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople, who nominated mostly Greeks to this Office, without even asking the consent of the Kievan Princes. This procedure often provoked discontent in Kiev, and, as early as the time of Yaroslav the Wise, protests were made, but nevertheless the Patriarch of Constantinople retained in his hands the right of nominating the Metropolitan of Kiev. As the city of Kiev declined as a political centre, the Metropolitan of Kiev gradually lost his importance and prestige. Prince Andrew Bogolubski of Suzdal, after having ruined Kiev (1169), planned to transfer the Metropolitan See to his territory, but did not succeed in converting the Patriarch of Constantinople to his scheme. The Tatar invasion, however, made life in Kiev unsafe, and in 1299 we see Maxim the Greek, the Metropolitan of Kiev, taking up his residence in Suzdal. In consequence,  p151 the Galician Prince, George I, succeeded in obtaining the consent of both the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine Emperor for a separate Galician Metropolitan See in Lvov (1303). The loss of the political independence of Galicia, and the intrigues of the Muscovian princes now at the head of the Great-Russian territories, made it difficult for the Galician Metropolitan See to maintain its existence, and it was only later, in consequence of the efforts of the Lithuanian Princes, that the Metropolitan See of Kiev was revived through the nomination by the Patriarch of Constantinople (1458) of Gregory the Greek to this Office. All Ukrainian territories, including Galicia, and all White Russia were subject to the Metropolitan of Kiev, who in his turn was dependent on Constantinople in the matter of nomination. The Lithuanian Princes, baptized according to the Orthodox Rite now protected the Ukrainian Metropolitan, and he resided as often in Vilno as in Kiev. The Orthodox Church however, lost its dominant position when Yagailo accepted the Roman Catholic Rite in order to become King of Poland.

At first however, there were no limitations to the rights and privileges of the Orthodox Church under Lithuanian and Polish rule, but gradually, as the Princes and great nobles went over to the Roman Catholic Faith, the importance of the Orthodox Church diminished. It became the religion of the lower classes of the population. Orthodox clergy in the Polish state were gradually losing the political influence and social importance they held under the rule of the Ukrainian and later of Lithuanian princes. Still, as long as some of the great Ukrainian boyars remained true to it the position of the Orthodox Church was not so unfavorable. It retained great wealth and high offices, such as that of the Metropolitan; and Bishops and Abbots of more important monasteries were members of Ukrainian noble families. A series of circumstances, external as well as internal, led to the decline of the Orthodox Church, especially after the Union of Lublin in 1569.

 p152  44. Inner Organization of the Ukrainian Church.

First of all, the power and authority of the Metropolitan, which was so high in the Kievan period, greatly diminished under the Lithuanian princes. The Metropolitan lost his right of nominating Bishops, who were now nominated by the Princes or the Council of Lords (Rada Paniv). These Bishops were practically independent of the Metropolitan, and since the nomination lay in the hands of the secular authorities. Bishoprics became the ambition of men who had neither formal nor moral right to them. The Lithuanian Princes gave Bishoprics, together with considerable material wealth to secular men as a reward for military or other services. Such a candidate would hastily discard his secular clothes in order to be consecrated Bishop without even going through the lower offices in the clerical hierarchy. On becoming bishops in most cases they took no interest in clerical affairs, did not even change their way of life, and continued to spend their time making war on their neighbors, hunting, carousing and sometimes leading very debauched lives. Often nomination to a bishopric was given even before the See was vacant, and to several candidates at once. These then started a fight amongst themselves, laying siege to the residence of the bishop with armies and guns. Such conduct of course, only served to discredit the Orthodox Church in the eyes of its friends, and gave ample grounds to its enemies for their attacks.

Besides the nominations to high offices, there was a custom of patronage of monasteries and churches by secular persons that had the same evil consequence in the case of lesser Abbots and of Priests. Patronage was not regulated by law, it developed as a custom through tradition and through precedent. Some authors derive it from the Byzantine custom of the founders and builders of monasteries and churches having the right to look after their material well-being. This right of supervision took such forms in the Ukraine under Lithuanian and Polish rule that the patrons, the local nobles, began to consider  p153 the Orthodox Churches and Monasteries on their land as their own property. They nominated Abbots and Priests without even consulting the Bishop, controlled the property of Churches and Convents, and appropriated the income. The same was done by the local administrative authorities. The voevods and starosts seized the right of patronage of the convents and churches within their districts and disposed of clerical offices and property in the same way as private patrons. This practice led, of course, to great abuses. Some patrons seized the church property, others even closed churches and convents under their patronage for the same purpose. The right of patronage became hereditary and was often bequeathed by will. Especially difficult was the position of those Orthodox churches and monasteries whose patrons became Roman Catholic or Protestant. In those cases, patronage took the form of persecution of the Orthodox clergy and parishioners found themselves in the power of a patron professing another creed. During the Sixteenth century this state of things became more and more frequent. The position of the Orthodox clergy and especially of the country Priests became very hard. This led to the lowering of the standard of those seeking admission to the priesthood, no decent person being attracted by the calling. Contemporaries bitterly complained that only "human refuse, vagabonds, and ignoramuses filled the Parish Churches, and that the Parson was more often to be found in a public house than in his Church."

45. Decline of the Orthodox Church at the End of the Seventeenth Century.

Having fallen into this state of disorganization and degradation, the Orthodox Church was naturally unable properly to fulfil another important duty that fell to its lot after the loss of Ukrainian political independence, namely the duty of maintaining Ukrainian cultural national tradition, Ukrainian learning and literature. The Orthodox creed became identified with the Ukrainian  p154 nation as distinct from the Roman Catholic Polish nation. The Orthodox Church, though disorganized as it still was, had to be the rallying point of the popular masses of Ukraine.

At the same time, in the Sixteenth century, Poland went through an epoch when the level of spiritual life rose considerably. The humanistic and early Protestant movements of Central and Western Europe found a lively echo in Poland. Compared with the Polish, the Ukrainian population was conservative, and these modern movements had for a long time less influence in the Ukraine than in Poland, though the early Protestant doctrines of John Hus had a deeper influence in the Ukraine of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries. In the first half of the Sixteenth century Polish culture was to a considerable extent under Italian influence, due to the Italian Queen, Bona, who was of the Sforza family, and her court. The ideas of the Italian Renaissance freely penetrated the wider masses of the population, especially on account of the frequent journeys, and studies abroad, at Italian Universities of the young nobles, Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian. Italian humanistic ideas were followed in Poland by German humanistic influences which brought the German Protestant movement in their train. The chief stronghold of German Protestantism was Prussia, now a vassal of Poland after the secularization of the Teutonic Order in 1525. Thereafter, Protestantism made such progress in Poland that about the middle of the Sixteenth century it seemed at one time that the Roman Catholic Church might even disappear there. The first appearance of Protestantism in Poland under the Lutheran form was about 1520‑1530, especially among the town population, but it was met with very severe repression. It took however, a very firm hold in Prussia, and at the same time that Protestants were being burnt in Cracow, a Protestant University was founded in Koenigsberg (1544) which had a great influence on the western and north-western territories of Poland. About the middle of the Sixteenth century Protestantism had made great  p155 progress also among the nobles. We know, for instance, of a considerable number of students in Wittenberg, the centre of Lutheran propaganda. Among these were "Poloni and Rutheni or ex‑Russia", that is Poles, Ukrainians and White Russians. (The Great Russians were at that time called Muscovians). The Roman Catholic Church in Poland found it more difficult to deal with Protestant nobles, especially as the King Sigismund August II, a son of the Italian Princess Bona Sforza, was very tolerant of Protestant movements. Many great families such as the Radziwills for instance, were converted to Lutheranism or Calvinism and they were power­ful protectors of reform. There were now Protestant professors at the University of Cracow. Another wave of Protestantism came in 1548 with the so‑called "Moravian Brothers", a Hussite Protestant sect expelled from Bohemia and Austria.

On Ukrainian territories in particular the ground for Protestant doctrines was prepared by the "Hebrewists", a rationalistic sect, also known in Moscow as early as the middle of the Fifteenth century, but soon exterminated there. In Ukraine, this sect left considerable documentary proof of its wide-spread influence. Among Protestant doctrines, Arianism or Anti-trinitarianism was especially wide-spread in the Ukraine under the name of Socinianism, from its founder Socin.​a The followers of Socinianism, especially in Volynia, were mostly from among the Ukrainian country gentry, though some of the great families also adhered to it. An Arian Academy existed for some time in Kisselin in western Volynia. As already stated, the Protestant movement in the Ukraine only touched the upper classes of the population, the bulk remained conservative and clung to the Orthodox Church, such as it was, seeing in it the expression of their Ukrainian national tradition. Besides, many were repelled by the lack of unity and organization in the Protestant movement, its chaotic appearance, and its sharp criticism of the abuses of the Roman Catholic church, which did not apply to the conditions of the Orthodox Church. One innovation  p156 brought about by the Protestant movement, namely the translation of the Bible into living languages, was very soon imitated. The Bible was translated from Old Bulgarian into popular living idioms, Ukrainian and White Russian, which were printed as early as 1517‑1519 by a White Russian of the name of Franz Skorina in Prague.

46. Its Revival and the Part Played by the Tatars.

It was, however, the Protestant movement which brought about the Ukrainian religious revival, though again, this affected only the lower classes of the population; the Ukrainian aristocracy, as already mentioned, had fallen under the influence of the Polish or rather, west-European, culture introduced through Polish channels. They were converted to the Roman Catholic creed, adopted Polish speech, and took an active part in the different religious and other movements which agitated Polish society in the Sixteenth century. Compared with these modern and brilliant manifestations, the old forms of Ukrainian life, conservative and even archaic, which had been preserved in the forests of Volynia or in the steppes of Podolia and the Dnieper country, appeared somewhat old‑fashioned to the Ukrainian aristocracy. Associating with Poles in the Seim and at court, or meeting them on occasions when transacting administrative or judicial business together, the Ukrainian nobles acutely felt their "provincialism" and took pains to imitate the more brilliant Polish aristocracy. Thus, imperceptibly, they were polonized in speech, manners and customs. It is true, there still existed a number of power­ful Ukrainian aristocrats who actually supported Ukrainian national traditions and the interests of the Orthodox Church. They were the patrons of Ukrainian literature and protectors of the first Ukrainian printers. These however, were only exceptions among the mass of polonized Ukrainian nobles. Especially important among them were Hetman Gregory Khodkevich who gave shelter to the persecuted printers, Ivan Fedorovich and Peter Mstislavez, and installed their printing press at his  p157 country seat of Zabludov in 1568; Prince George of Slutsk founded in his residence in Slutsk the famous Ukrainian school and a printing office (1560); Prince Michael Vishnevetsky in Ovruch and a few others. The best known among them was Prince Konstantine Ostrozhsky (1526‑1608). He founded schools in Turov and Vladimir and an Academy in his residence in Ostrog in 1580, where he invited Greek and Ukrainian teachers who taught Greek, Latin and Slavonic, besides the subjects usual in scholastic academies, the so‑called Liberal Arts, trivium (grammar, rhetoric and dialectics). He also founded a printing office in his residence in Ostrog where the famous Slavonic Bible, the so‑called "Ostrog Bible" was printed in 1580. But as already mentioned, the efforts of the Prince of Ostrog and a few others in supporting the Orthodox creed and the national Ukrainian traditions remained exceptional and only served to show up the inertness and indifference of the rest of the Ukrainian nobles.

As long as the Roman Catholic Church, weakened by the Protestant movement, remained in a state of disorganization, the Orthodox population was in no great danger. But in consequence of the general Catholic counter-reformation, the Roman Catholic Church in Poland began to regain lost ground about 1560. About that time, the Jesuits came to Poland and succeeded in arresting the Protestant movement in Lithuania and Poland. They soon directed an aggressive campaign, attacking not only Protestants, but also members of the Orthodox Church. The Jesuits were introduced into Poland by Cardinal Hosius, a member of the Council of Trent. They founded in 1569 a Jesuit College in Vilno, and soon after one Jesuit school after another, many of them being in the Ukraine. The King, Stephen Bathory, was their protector and soon transformed their college at Vilno into an Academy. The teaching in the Jesuit schools was also scholastic, but they laid great stress in training their pupils in public speaking and in debate. The Jesuits were very good teachers, and their excellent schools became fashionable and soon attracted great  p158 numbers of pupils not only children of Roman Catholics but also of Protestant and Orthodox aristocratic families. In a short time the Jesuits succeeded in bringing up a new generation in blind obedience to the Roman Catholic Church. Among others, children of great magnates, zealous Protestants or Orthodox, such as Khodkevich, Radziwill, Princes of Slutsk and Ostrog, became pious Roman Catholics and gave enormous donations to the Jesuits for setting up new schools.

Another power­ful weapon in the hands of the Jesuits, besides education, was preaching. The Jesuits had first-class preachers, who conducted effective propaganda by means of sermons, public debates and polemics, not only by word but also in print. They accused the Orthodox Church of errors in Christian dogma, found fault with their way of using the Slavonic language in church instead of Latin, with the marriage of Orthodox priests, and with the interference of the laity in Church affairs.

This attack by the Latin Church which began about 1570 found the Orthodox Church quite unprepared. At first their tactics consisted in leaving these attacks unanswered and in avoiding polemics and discussions. But the Roman Catholics gained ground in Ukraine, as well as in White Russia, and became more and more aggressive. Thus it became impossible to ignore them, and we see the Orthodox taking to polemics which, however, were far from being on the same level as the brilliant and learned works of the Jesuits. Besides, the disorganization and weakness within the Orthodox Church, described above, were so evident that it was impossible to disguise them. A complete re‑organization and re‑generation of the whole of the system was necessary. This was keenly felt by zealous Orthodox individuals and communities, and several Ukrainian aristocrats endeavored to come to the rescue. However, their efforts were isolated and proved to be insufficient, remaining without response among the bulk of the Ukrainian nobles. This ancient leading Ukrainian class no longer answered to the urgent needs of the time, and was unable to carry out the  p159 historic task laid on the shoulders of the leaders of a nation.

47. Religious Brotherhoods.

It was at this time, that a new class of the Ukrainian population came forward, which, hitherto obscure, had up till now played but a modest part in Ukrainian history. This was the town population or the burgesses. It was they who took into their hands the regeneration and reorganization of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, as well as the revival of religious life in general. The same was done by the White Russian town population in Vilna and other towns. The Ukrainian burgesses succeeded with the help of isolated members of the Ukrainian aristocracy, such as the Princes of Ostrog and Slutsk, in checking the advance of the Latin Faith, just at the moment when the Jesuits were ready to triumph on Ukrainian territories. Their methods of success­ful opposition to the Jesuit propaganda was the formation of power­ful organizations, the so‑called Brotherhoods, founded spontaneously at first around certain important churches, thence spreading widely throughout the Ukraine. It was through these Brotherhoods that the Ukrainian town population success­fully countered the growing Roman Catholic and Polish influence of the Jesuits, and displayed in this struggle an extraordinary energy in defending their Orthodox Faith and their Ukrainian national traditions.

The Ukrainian Brotherhoods were half religious, half charitable organizations whose origin is hidden in pagan antiquity. The principle of the family or clan lay at their origin, uniting the descendants of one family by community of interest for the purpose of defence against a common enemy, and for mutual aid and the common cult of a deity who was considered to be the protector of the family. As family and clan ties were loosened these Brotherhoods took different forms, such as territorial or professional organizations, which continued the functions of the former clan and family unions. When Christianity replaced paganism it gradually took over the ways and  p160 forms of the ancient pagan cults; local heathen features and ceremonies were often adopted by the Christian clergy, remaining for centuries essentially pagan. The Christian Churches in this way became religious centres round which gathered the village or parish community still conserving heathen vestiges. Commemorations of anniversaries of the patron saints of the church continued to be accompanied by meals taken in common, during which the heathen ritual plays and entertainments were performed as of old. The old name of Brotherhood, a survival of the original family and clan character of the organizations, was retained by these parish organizations. Members of a Brotherhood had a common treasury replenished by subscriptions, out of which the parish church was kept in due repair, poor members of the Brotherhood received help, and the expenses of feasts on patron's festivals were paid. Later on, the Sixteenth century Church Brotherhoods adopted many of the features of the Guilds of Artisans which were much developed in the Ukraine, undoubtedly under German influence, and lasted under this form until late into the Nineteenth century.

The most important Brotherhoods were those of Lvov. The oldest is known from documents to have existed since 1463, and that of Lutsk since 1483. Ukrainian burgesses of Lvov, though disadvantageously placed between Germans and Poles, still acquired great wealth, especially from the cattle trade with Rumania and Turkey. Excluded from political activity because of religious restrictions, they gathered closely round their churches, forming "Brotherhoods", of which that of the Church of the Assumption (Uspenski) was the most important. At first the activity of the Brotherhood was limited to the care of the Church, providing it with candles, books and ikons to embellish the services. Every year on the Feast of the Assumption a great banquet was held at which members as well as guests took part. Later, as the organization developed, their treasury became more and more important, and they were able to build a very  p161 beauti­ful church in Lvov, one of the best examples of the Renaissance period which has been preserved in the Ukraine.

Members of a Brotherhood had their own court of justice and judges, and avoided the Polish courts. They helped their poorer "brothers" and their families, and held solemn burials for them out of the common treasury. Generally speaking they cultivated a spirit of solidarity and mutual aid.

The Assumption Brotherhood in Lvov founded in 1574 a printing office, and in 1586, a school called gymnasium where Greek and Latin in addition to other subjects were taught by well-known teachers.

The Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremy, came to Lvov in 1586 and confirmed the new statutes of the Assumption Brotherhood which later served as a model for other Brotherhoods. The Assumption Brotherhood received the honorary title of "Stavropighia", and important privileges, according to which, all new Brotherhoods were obliged to copy the statues of the Stavropighia, and were placed under their control. They also were supposed to watch over the lower clergy and their conduct and were exempt from the authority of the local bishop. The object of all these privileges was to raise the moral and spiritual level of the Orthodox clergy and of the communities. Naturally there was a danger of these extensive rights being abused, and as shall see later, it proved so, and that very soon, in Lvov.

At the end of the Sixteenth and beginning of the Seventeenth centuries Brotherhoods spread widely throughout the Ukraine. It became fashionable even among the Orthodox gentry to be members of Brotherhoods and women had full rights as "Sisters". The Brotherhoods were fully conscious of their high mission to stand up for the defense of the Orthodox Church and watch over its interests.

Soon the so‑called "Calendar Conflict" arose. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered the old Julian Calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar) to be corrected according  p162 to modern astronomic calculations. The reform in itself was conservative, because a similar plan for the correction of the calendar had been approved by the Council of Nicea. However, the brutal ways of the Roman Catholic Bishops in carrying out the reform and enforcing it on the Orthodox population, by driving people out of the churches, closing and sealing them, let to great indignation among the Orthodox populations led by the Brotherhoods. The King and the Seim were appealed to, and the Orthodox Brotherhoods and clergy won the "Calendar campaign". Victory raised their spirits. The controversy having been started lasted for about a century, and left behind an enormous quantity of pamphlets and tracts, forming a very voluminous literature.

Thayer's Note:

a A Slavic transcription of the Italian family name of the doctrine's first exponents, Lelio and Fausto Sozzini, most commonly referred to by their Latin names Laelius and Faustus Socinius.

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