PREDSLAVA OF POLOTSK (in monasticism Euphrosynia of Polotsk) (was born in 1101/1104 (4, p. 479) in Polotsk, † May 23, 1173 in Jerusalem), the Princess of Polotsk, nun, the founder of the Savior-Saint-Euphrosynia Monastery
St. Euphrosynia of Polotsk. Fresco from the Savior Church of the Savior-Saint-Euphrosynia Monastery in Polotsk

PREDSLAVA OF POLOTSK (in monasticism Euphrosynia of Polotsk) (was born in 1101/1104 (4, p. 479) in Polotsk, † May 23, 1173 in Jerusalem), the Princess of Polotsk, nun, the founder of the Savior-Saint-Euphrosynia Monastery


  • Svyatoslav Vseslavich, the Prince of Vitebsk [II, p. 218; III, p. 286]


  • Sophia [15, p.102]


The life of Predslava-Euphrosynia is known mostly from the Life of Euphrosyne of Polotsk, preserved in four editions [5, p. 262]. For the reconstruction of the biography, researchers also involve church chants about Euphrosynia [7, p. 102; 8, p. 363; 13] and material sources [12, no. 27]. To date, the scientific critical publication "The Life of Euphrosyne of Polotsk" does not exist [9, p. 633].

Predslava (Peredslava) of Polotsk was the granddaughter of Prince Vseslav Bryachislavich, nicknamed the Sorcerer [8, p. 360], known for active church and cultural activities. Both names are known - baptismal and secular - of Euphrosyne's father, Prince of Vitebsk Svyatoslav (George) Bryachislavich [II, p. 218; III, p. 286], as well as the name of her mother Sophia [15, p. 102]. In the sources there is no exact indication of the date of birth of Predslava, only the record that upon reaching 12 years old, as was then common in Rus, her father Svyatoslav picked up the groom has survived. However, instead of getting married, the girl chose to go to Polotsk to the widow of her uncle Roman Vseslavich. Based on the fact that the date of Roman's death is known - 1116, it can be assumed that Predslava was born in 1104 or around that time [4, p. 479]. In science, however, there are alternative points of view. For example, the opinion was expressed that Predslava-Euphrosynia could go to Polotsk and take monasticism not immediately after she was 12 years old, but after some time [8, p. 366]. The sources do not indicate when exactly Predslava's aunt, the widow of Roman Vseslavich, took monastic vows [ibid.], Therefore it is rather risky to establish the date of birth of Predslava based on the record of the death of Roman Vseslavich . 1120 [11, p. 188] and more broadly, the period from 1106 to 1109 [8, p. 367], are also given as alternative dates.

According to L. E. Morozova, Predslava-Euphrosynia was not of noble origin [8, p. 363] and did not have a rich dowry. The decision to take tonsure could be motivated not only and not so much by the princess's piety, but by the difficult political situation in the principality itself and the incessant civil strife [8, p. 367-369]. Taking monastic vows in honor of St. Euphrosynia of Alexandria, Predslava stayed to live at the monastery in Polotsk, where her aunt also lived, doing book rewriting. Later, the Polotsk Bishop Ilya would give her the Savior Church with the landholdings, the village Seltso. She would first establish a female, then a male monasteries there. According to the "Life" Euphrosynia was active as the abbess of a nunnery [6, p. 252-266]. Her sister Gordislava and brother Vyacheslav with their daughters found shelter in the monastery during the turbulent years of civil strife. At the expense of the family, Euphrosynia built a stone cathedral [I, p. 214] and supervised the work of painting the temple by masters [3, p. 273]. Around 1130 the Polotsk princes with their families were exiled to Byzantium by order of Mstislav the Great, where they entered military service. The Polotsk prince at that time was the son of Mstislav, Izyaslav Mstislavich, who persecuted the Polotsk princes. After the death of Mstislav, Izyaslav was expelled and Euphrosynia's brother Vasily Svyatoslavich became the prince of Polotsk. Obviously, he was helped by the authority of his sister, the abbess, and, probably, her efforts as well. According to the tradition of succession to the throne, Vasily had much less rights to the Polotsk than the son of Gleb Vseslavich or the sons of Rogvold-Vasily [8, p. 383]. During the reign of Vasily, the Savior monastery was expanded and built up. Between 1157 and 1161 Euphrosynia sent an embassy to the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos with a request to send the miraculous icon of the Mother of God of Ephesus to Polotsk (according to some reports, not the icon itself, but a copy of it [3, p. 273]) and the emperor fulfills her request.

According to the sources, the abbess did not remain aloof from political affairs, repeatedly acting as an intermediary between the Polotsk princes [11, p. 192]. However talking about the existence in Polotsk in the 40s XII century matriarchy, as V.L. Yanin suggests, probably is an exaggeration [15, p. 102]. However, it should be admitted that the abbess enjoyed great prestige not only among the novices, but also among the bearers of princely power.

At the end of her life, Euphrosynia made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The first among Rus princesses to go there was Gytha of Wessex, the mother of Mstislav Vladimirovich. There are discrepancies regarding the date of Euphrosynia's trip to the Holy Land. Some researchers believe that the pilgrimage took place in 1173 [2, p. 147; 16, p. 32, Tabl.VIII, No. 21] However, this dating can be disputed in connection with the record in the "Life" about the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos, met by Euphrosynia on the way to Jerusalem, who was at the head of the army against the Hungarians [I, p. 220]. The war with the Hungarians ended in 1167, therefore, as noted by A. V. Nazarenko, the pilgrimage of Euphrosynia could not have taken place later than this date [9, p. 633]. The earliest date is considered to be 1161, when she is known to be still in Polotsk [1, p. 231-232; 10].

The life of the Polotsk abbess ended in the Holy Land in 1173. According to the text of the Life, she was buried in the Lavra of St. Feodosia [14, p. 346]. The worship of Euphrosynia probably began to shape immediately after her death. As L. E. Morozova notes, there were more than enough grounds for canonization: the foundation of two monasteries, church building, active educational activities from an early age [8, p. 395-397]. The relics of Euphrosynia at the end of the 17th century were discovered in the distant caves of the Kiev-Pechora Lavra, which gave grounds for many theories: from the assumption that Euphrosynia's pilgrimage to Jerusalem did not happen to the suggestion that the relics were secretly transported to Kiev after the capture of Jerusalem by the Turks. Historians still note that there are not enough grounds to doubt the fact of Euphrosynia's pilgrimage to the Holy Land [7; 10].  


The village Seltso, the land of the Savior-Saint-Euphrosynia Monastery.


The Cross of Euphrosynia of Polotsk made by Lazar Bogsha on the order of Euphrosynia for the Church of the Transfiguration in the Savior-Saint-Euphrosynia Monastery in Polotsk. It was made around 1161. It contains the relics of saints, particles of the Holy Sepulcher. It was covered with gold plates, inlaid with precious stones and pearls. The obverse contains enamel depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, the patrons of Euphrosynia and the archangels. At the bottom there is an inscription with the master's autograph. Around the XIII century the cross was taken to Moscow, then returned to Polotsk by Ivan the Terrible. In 1928 it was transferred to the Mogilev Museum, but disappeared without a trace during the World War II (the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945). [3, p. 272; 12, No. 27].


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Internet Resources 

1. Ianin V.L. Aktovye pechati Drevnei Rusi Kh–KhѴ vv. T. I. Pechati X–nachala KhSh v. M., 1970.