The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Meanwhile anxious rumours were spreading among people in Moscow: they told, somewhere carefully, somewhere openly, that greedy courtiers set her to sinful deeds. It was quickly reported in “Moscow news” that “protests of Rostov bishop are filled with poison of insult of Majesty from beginning to end”, but people didn’t believe it completely.

No, she will win, but she must remain compassionate, kind and hearty Christian for people, Christian who mitigates the synodal verdict of Synod.

“According to this sentence he must be defrocked as a metropolitan and a priest and if holy and other ecclesiastic rules allow, he can be a monk at an old age for more comfortable repentance, we deliver him from civil trial and tortures because of humanity, we order our Synod to send him to remote monastery under the supervision of clever superior, and he will not corrupt weak and simple people in writing and verbally.”

It was the final empress’s word, God was a witness, she was against “civil trial and tortures.”

Meanwhile there was a search and expropriation in monastery cell of the Rostov metropolian.

“One mantle, three long robes,” told clerk, his pen was squeaking and he repeated it aloud. “One calotte, old cap, three pairs of glasses, iron buckle, porcelain teapot, three pairs of cups and sugar…”

To everyone’s surprise the metropolitan of the richest eparchy didn’t have money, he didn’t have time to give beggars sugar before the trial, chest and package with clothes was all his property.

Arceniy was simply brought from Cross Chamber to Ferapont monastery, and then they ordered to bring him far to the North, to Karelian Nicholas Monastery near Arkhangelsk. An ensign and four soldiers were ordered to guard.

Safeguard had no trouble with a humble old man, but one night soldiers were mortally frightened. They were travelling by the temple as suddenly a bell sounded gloomy and depressing on the belfry in silent darkness. A commodore began to clear up if any criminal knew about transit of the metropolitan, but the belfry was closed. Frightened watchmen were crossing themselves when the procession was departing because candles lit spontaneously, flashing lights were blinking in the windows.


And land under the empress’s feet was firm, even sagged again, she walked easily as if she were raised by a force – Matsievich’s trial became a real victory. Rebel resistance of clergy was suppressed by the clergy itself without disorders or disturbances of cautious people.

Pleasant feeling of victory sounded in a voice of the empress Catherine when she was speaking at regular meeting of the Synod. Her moist eyes were sparkling, posture was confident and proud, the empress had good reasons to speak as a victor, as a mistress of the situation.

“Why aren’t you shocked by your great riches which make you so powerful that you had to feel that your position contradicts to the spirit of your calling. Aren’t you the successors of the Apostles who are commanded by God to preach contempt for the riches and who could be only the poor? Their kingdom was not of this world. Do you agree with me? Aren’t my words true?”

The empress could afford light reproach in her voice only at the beginning. Let one of these pastors, accustomed to high worship, try to contest against her – she will be able to bring him to his level. In the cell of Arceniy Matsievich there were many letters found during the search from many people, who were present here and were dressed in shining clothes; let these arrested letters lie until a certain time, but she could take them at any time she wanted. The empress can and must talk to them in an other tone, tone with iron, but not with women’s accusations.

“How can you use the riches without contradiction to your position which must be inseparable with Christian poverty? How dare you use such property and lands which make you as mighty as czars without compunction? Ah! You have more slaves than some European princes have the lieges, don’t you? You are too educated and understand that this property causes so many malversations in the state, that you can save this property only being unfair to the state itself; and you must recognize that you must be fairer than anybody else and if you aren’t, you are guiltier because you know your duties more than others.”

Spotted and angry blush appeared on the empress’s face. How can one explain them: now you are not servants of altar, not dignitaries, but you are public officers and diadem is the main thing for you.

“If I can rely on your trustiness, devotion, so I can hope that you will be my faithful subjects. If I’m right, return me those things which you had stolen insensibly and gradually.”

Immovable members of Synod were sitting as if they were rock-hewn, they were afraid even of looking around, of moving. Are they thieves now? Those who saved and had been multiplying property given to monasteries and churches for ages? Those who opened schools, printings, and hospitals for poor people? It meant that they robbed this sweaty and angry foreigner who turned up on their grey heads and didn’t have even a drop of Russian blood, who declared them fondly and boldly as if she were throwing sand at them, “Everything Russian is mine!”

But who dares express such thoughts aloud? There are letters of Saint-Petersburg Gavriil, Tver Aphanasiy, Amvrosiy Krutitskiy and Moscow Timophey among Matsievich’s arrested letters. It is enough to shake off the dust from the pages and ink will not have time to fade. Who dares, when Arceniy Matsievich is before eyes, Arceniy who caught a cold on his way and scurvy influenced him after expeditions to Kamchatka – he was bald, running sores appeared on his body; Matsievich, respected hierarch became defrocked as if he were a real thief?

The empress was looking attentively at wrinkly faces of pastors, she guessed about discourteous thoughts in their wise heads, but she didn’t take on this, it pleased her and set her laughing; something forced her to answer in a funny Russian word – she began to learn Russian sayings with pleasure, she wanted to say something like “There you are!” but she couldn’t.

But she sat at the writing table immediately after the Synod. She had to tell Voltaire about her mellowness, “Arceniy, Rostov bishop… was judged by Novgorod metropolitan and by the whole Synod as a fanatic, quilty in enemy intentions towards both Orthodox and supreme power, he was defrocked and then he was under world command. I forgave him and made him a monk.”

Runners were rushing at night and didn’t pity horses as it was ordered in the highest direction; they were bringing one more direction too. Curly lines on the expensive paper told, “Comparing himself with Chrysostomin in patience, trying to arouse clamour and displeasure towards the government, he used all means in cunning contrivances, took aspersions, predictions, devotions and God’s name in vain unscrupulously… And that’s why – under strong supervision, and they will give him neither ink nor paper.”

Horses were rushing in hollows and forests so fast that even white foam was flying from a bit, runners were in a hurry…


Prosecutor Naryshkin found Arceniy Matsievich in the monastery yard. The metropolitan was cutting wood, he was breathing heavily – he had to mop the floor, to cut wood and to do other hard work several times a week, according to judgment. Arceniy was just cutting thick billet with expiration, but it was gnarled and couldn’t be taken at one dash, so Arceniy raised it over the head together with sticked ax to cut it at woodblock for the second time; whether the billet was too heavy or his strength oozed away, but he was wabbling as if he were drunk.

“I have to make an examination,” Naryshkin said.

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