24 July: Sts. Boris and Gleb

Boris and GlebIt took guts to be a Catholic and saint back in the day, let me tell you.  Today we have the feast of a couple fellows who lived in pretty tough times.  Today we celebrate Sts. Boris and Gleb, martyrs.  Here is their entry in the Martyrologium Romanum:

8. In Russia, sanctorum Boris et Gleb, martyrum, qui, principes Rutheni et filii sancti Vladimiri, mortem excipere maluerunt quam vi fratri Svatopolco resistere.  Boris ad Altam flumen prope Pereislaviam palmam martyrii nactus est, Gleb vero post prope Smolenscum.


"But Father, but Father!", you shout, "Just how tough were those times you are talking about.  Well, consider this.  As we read that Boris and Gleb were the children of Vladimir, their grandfather on their mother’s side was Basil II, "the Bulgar Killer".   What sort of fellow was Basil?  Well, when grandad got tired of incursions and constant annoyances from the Bulgars, he beat the stuffing out of them and then blinded all the men, while leaving each 100th man with one eye so that he could lead his group of defeated Bulgars home.  The Bulgars were quiescent after that for quite a while.

Any way, Boris and Gleb, also called Roman and David, were Russia’s first saints. Both were martyred during the internecine wars of 1015-1019 and glorified by the Russian Orthodox church in 1071. Numerous churches are dedicated to them.

Apparently, Svyatopolk the Accursed had them killed. Boris and his manservant were stabbed to death when sleeping in a tent. The prince was discovered still breathing when his body was being transported in a bag to Kiev, but the Varangians put him from his misery with a thrust of a lance.  Gleb was assassinated on his way to see the dying father by his own cook who cut his throat with a kitchen knife and concealed his body in a brushwood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Victor says:

    If Sts Boris and Gleb were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1071, and the Great Schism occured in 1054 – when and how did they appear in the Martyrologium Romanum? To be clear on this: I am perfectly happy with them being there, I have no doubts they really are saints of the Holy Church, I am just wondering how they became Roman catholic saints. If anybody knows the answer, I would be really interested to hear it.

  2. Phil says:

    They were probably canonized by the Roman Catholic Church at some point, in addition to being canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1071. While they were canonized after the Great Schism, they were martyred before it (1015-1019).

    Then again, I don’t have any inside dope, so that’s just a logic-based guess.

  3. jpsonnen says:

    Salvator Mundi, salva Russiam! Salvator Mundi, salva nos!

  4. Barb says:

    One source I found reports they were canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1724. (cultus confirmed)

  5. Victor says:


  6. Joshua says:

    Also the date 1054 is not a clear cut date for schism. The schism did not just happen in that year. I think most Easter Churches were in communion for some time afterwards…especially Russia. Soloviev even argued that the Russian Church never broke off, and whilst being a Russian Orthodox, paid honour to the pope

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