SOLOMONIA YURIEVNA SABUROVA (the year of birth is unknown - † December 16, 1541 in Suzdal), the Grand Princess of Moscow and Vladimir, in September 4, 1505 - November 29, 1525 the first wife of the Grand Prince of Moscow and Vladimir Vasily III Ivanovich
Tonsure of Solomonia Saburova (The Illustrated Chronicle of the 60s – 70s of the 16th century)

SOLOMONIA YURIEVNA SABUROVA (the year of birth is unknown - † December 16, 1541 in Suzdal), the Grand Princess of Moscow and Vladimir, in September 4, 1505 - November 29, 1525 the first wife of the Grand Prince of Moscow and Vladimir Vasily III Ivanovich


  • Yuri Konstantinovich Sverchkov Saburov, boyar, Moscow voivode


Almost nothing is known about the early years of Solomonia Yurievna. She came from the Sverchkov-Saburov family, her father was a Moscow governor. There are discrepancies in historiography regarding the nobility and influence of the family itself [see: 2, p. 169-172; 5, p. 193, 191-194; 11]. In some documents it is mentioned that she lost her mother early and was brought up by her aunt, her father's sister. The attention of researchers has always been attracted not by the personality of Solomonia herself, but by the circumstances under which she became the wife of Vasily Ivanovich - the future Grand Prince of Moscow and All Rus Vasily III. For the first time, the heir to the grand-princal throne married a girl of common origin, and for the first time - as a result of an arranged brides show. The diplomat and traveler Sigismund Herberstein, who left extensive "Notes on Muscovia", describes in detail the bridal show, to which 1,500 candidates were allegedly invited (according to more conservative estimates - about 500) [IV, p. 87; 9, p. 235-236].

It is believed that the printer Yuri (Georgy) Trakhaniot, a man from the entourage of Vasily's mother, Sophia Palaiologina, suggested to Vasily Ivanovich to abandon the usual practice of choosing a bride from among princesses suitable for status and age - foreign women or Russian princesses. Probably, Trakhaniot hoped to persuade the prince's choice in favor of his own daughter, but the printer's ambitions were not justified: the choice fell on the daughter of Yuri Konstantinovich Saburov.

Soviet historians considered both the bride show procedure itself and the candidacy of Solomonia in the context of the entire internal policy of Vasily III: in this way the young prince disowned the internal political line of his father Ivan III and gained support in the person of the old Moscow boyars [4]. Modern historiography is not so unambiguous on this issue. The political rationale for this marriage seems to be quite clear. The outcome of the struggle for power between Vasily III and Ivan III's grandson Dmitry Ivanovich had not yet been predetermined and Vasily's position was unstable. The will of Ivan III, which left a number of inheritances to the younger sons, actually revived the appanage system, against which the first sovereign of all Rus himself fought all his life [11, ch. 1]. Under these conditions, such an important step in its symbolic meaning as marriage could demonstrate the social sympathies of the Moscow prince, providing him with the necessary support [ibid.]. The bride show procedure itself raises doubts among researchers. Some researchers believe that despite the initiative emanating from Y. Trakhaniot, the very idea of arranging a bride in the manner of Greek custom could well belong to Sophia Thominichna. L.E. Morozova, relying on very scanty, in comparison with the descriptions of Herberstein, chronicle information, suggested that the bride show did not take place at all. The researcher claims that the bride of Vasily was chosen by Ivan III himself, guided by the loyalty of the family and the reputation of the Saburovs [6, ch. 6]. Initially, candidates were looked for among foreign princesses, in particular among the daughters of a Serbian despot, but for some reason this idea was eventually abandoned.

According to S. Herberstein, the bride show began no later than August 1505. Of the initial 500 (1500?) candidates, ten girls were selected and, as a result, Solomonia Yurievna was proclaimed the bride of Vasily III. Whether this decision was made in advance or whether Vasily was really struck by the beauty of Solomonia, as Herberstein writes, is rather difficult to say.  

The wedding took place on September 4, 1505 (according to other sources - September 8 [XVIII, p. 14] or October 18 [XIX, p. 102]) in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin [VIII, p. 468, 535; IX, p. 50; X, p. 245; XI, p. 259; XII, p. 375-376; XIII, p. 515; XIV, p. 197; XV, p. 215; XVI, p. 297; XVII, p. 338]. The main task of the marriage was the birth of an heir, which would finally strengthen the position of Vasily III on the Moscow throne and prevent a new possible civil strife. Time passed, but the heir did not appear. In the fall of 1510, the prince and his wife went on a pilgrimage to the monasteries of Pereslavl-Zalessky. The trip lasted until December, but the prayers were never answered: the princely couple remained childless [XVII, p. 346; 6, ch. 6].

Little is known about Solomonia's activities as the Grand Princess of Moscow. She participated in all the prescribed princely ceremonies. Vasily III left her as a ruler in Moscow during his departures [IX, p. 251; X, p. 251; 4]. She also supervised the gold embroidery workshops in the Kremlin, which, among other things, made shrouds and frames for the newly built Archangel Cathedral, the Church of John the Baptist, covers for the tombs of the relics of the ancestors of Vasily III, etc. This is where the scant information about the activities of the Grand Princess ends. For almost twenty years of marriage, Solomonia, apparently, did not take an active part in public affairs, and most importantly was never able to get pregnant.

Gradually, a slight concern about the absence of children from the princely couple grew into a problem of a state scale: Vasily III did not intend to give the throne to one of the younger brothers. Solomonia, in despair, turns to various sorcerers and witches, about which a unique testimony has been preserved - a fragment of the so-called. "Search for infertility", where a relative of Solomonia thoroughly described her adventures and various sorcerers, conducting all kinds of rituals for conception, etc. [I, p. 192, # 130; 11, ch. 8].

The way out of this situation for the Grand Prince was not easy. He could not come to terms with the absence of an heir, but he also had no legal grounds for choosing a new wife. Despite the fact that the guilt for infertility, according to the ideas of people of that time, always fell on a woman, there were no precedents for divorce in a grand princal family. Moreover, Solomonia led the life of a pious wife and the Orthodox patriarch did not even have formal reasons to allow divorce. Probably, the death in 1523 of his son-in-law, the Tatar Tsarevich Peter, to whom the Moscow prince planned to give the throne in case he remained childless, pushed Vasily III to a difficult decision [3, p. 257; 11, ch. 8].

The question of divorce was raised at a meeting of the Boyar Duma in the fall of 1523 [VII, p. 102-103]. Representatives of the clergy, including Vassian Patrikeev and Maxim Grek, spoke out strongly against the divorce. In fact, this meant the consent of the church after the death of Vasily III to transfer the throne to his younger brother, the appanage prince Yuri Dmitrovsky. Vasily III could not allow a new round of the struggle for power and did not want to come to terms with the decision of the church [4, p. 253; 11, ch. 8]. For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that in the annals the decision to divorce was put into the mouth of the boyars: they propose to Vasily III to remove the “barren fig tree from the grapes” [ibid.].

In the same 1523, by order of the Grand Prince of Moscow, the construction of a new Maiden Monastery with the Church of the Most Pure Theotokos Odigitria began, probably specifically for the future tonsure of Solomonia.

Two years later, in 1525, the "infertility case" was initiated, as a result of which Solomonia was officially found guilty. To this were added the testimony of witnesses who accused Solomon of witchcraft, which was considered a serious crime. With this verdict, the exile to the monastery looked like a favor of the prince; Metropolitan Daniil, who at first opposed Vasily III's decision to divorce, supported him. Solomonia was brought by force to the Moscow Nativity Convent and tonsured under the name of Sophia. S. Herberstein emotionally described the whole process, during which Solomonia did not allow her to put on a monk's doll, threw it on the ground and demonstratively trampled it. However, researchers doubt the reliability of such descriptions [6, ch. 6; 8; 11].

Solomonia's imprisonment had a wide public response. The cruel act of the Moscow prince was condemned by Vassian Patrikeev and Patriarch Mark of Jerusalem, and even a few decades later, Prince Andrei Kurbsky and a certain Paisiy, the elder of the Serapon monastery, author of the “Excerpts from the Svyatogorsk letters that were sent to the Grand Prince Vasily Ivanovich about the second marriage and the separation of the first marriage for childbearing” [III, p. 1-10; 11, ch. 8]. Citing the Jerusalem Patriarch this author also made ominous prophecies that the son born in the second marriage of Vasily III would bring the state “a lot of blood and sorrow” (talking about the future Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible) [II, p. 1; X; VI, p. 181-182].

In order to get rid of unwanted public attention as quickly as possible, Vasily III sends Solomonia to the Suzdal Pokrovsky Monastery [10, p. 112; 11, ch. 8]*. However, a few years later, in 1526, the ex-wife will again bring trouble to the Grand Prince: rumors about the birth of her son Georgy would spread [I, no. 130, p. 192; IV, p. 87; 3, p. 215, 271; 8; 11, ch. 8]. A commission specially created on this matter will be sent to the monastery to investigate. Still, it will not be possible to avoid a scandal. Thanks to Herberstein, gossip about the birth of a child from the nun Sophia will quickly spread among the European courts. After the birth of son Ivan from Vasily III and his second wife Elena Glinskaya, old rumors would sound in a new way: in the second marriage, the child will also not appear immediately and the public would discuss whether the heir is really the son of the Grand Prince of Moscow. Vasily III would also be remembered for his reprisal against his first wife and the story of the birth of that boy, which has not yet been fully clarified.

Solomonia spent the rest of her life in the monastery, for a total of just over 15 years. She  died on December 16, 1541. She was buried in the Suzdal monastery.

* Several independent sources, in particular Andrei Kurbsky, say that Solomonia was exiled to Kargopol. Since the commission of inquiry came to Suzdal in 1526, the researchers suggest that if the exile to Kargopol did take place, it happened much later [V, p. 280; 6, ch. 6; 11, ch. 8].


  • Georgy Vasilievich (?) * * The existence of the son of Solomonia, allegedly born already within the monastery walls, is not proven and does not find confirmation in written sources, except for the record of S. Herberstein, which is rather gossip. According to another traveler, a certain German Heidensthal (who allegedly was in Moscow in the times of Ivan the Terrible), the commission sent by Vasily III to the monastery to investigate these rumors, confirmed that Solomonia was never pregnant [3, p. 215, 271; 11,ch. 8]. However, in Soviet times, an anonymous burial place was opened in the Suzdal monastery, where scientists found the remains of children's clothing that corresponded to the princely dress for a boy of three to five years old [7, p. 91-93]. As established by archaeologists, the discovered burial was a false grave (cenotaph) with a rag doll buried in it. The cenotaph was created at the beginning of the 16th century. Today it is impossible to reliably establish by whom and for what purpose this burial was created and whether it was related to Solomonia, buried in 1541 in the neighborhood. There is a version that the son of Solomonia and Vasily III really existed and that even Ivan IV knew about him, as well as a version that Georgy went down in history under the name of the semi-legendary robber ataman Kudeyar (see: 11, ch. 8) ...


Solomonia Saburova received Sol Vychegodskaya by September 8, 1510 [1, p. 316]


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