From Shackles to Sanctity


From its authoritative beginning to its revolutionary end, The Romanov Dynasty was synonymous with exile and death. The above photograph, taken by Sergei Gorskii in 1910, is of the iron shackles that bound Boyar Mikhail Nikitick Romanov during his 1601 exile in Nyrob. It was Tsar Boris Godunov who sentenced Mikhail to his fate during the Time of Troubles, where Mikhail would die one year later inside of a pit.

Mikhail never lived to see the start of the longstanding Romanov legacy which would begin with his relative, best known as Tsar Michael I of Russia: the first Romanov tsar. When the Romanov Dynasty began in 1613, Michael I had The Church of Epiphany and The Church of Saint Nicolas built in Nyrob to commemorate the life and suffering of Mikhail Romanov. His shackles were symbolically placed atop a pedestal in the Church of Epiphany- it was almost as if the exiled Mikhail was made saintly by the ruling Romanov. 

This image is a vivid example of the use of the church by the Romanovs, in order to show absolute power and reverence. The Russian Orthodox church was a powerful tool used to shape the minds of the Russian people to see their rulers as more than human, in a class all their own, and answerable only to God.

Perhaps this is one prominent reason for the total lack of religion allowed in the communist regime that overtook the last of the Romanovs in the early 1900s.



4 Replies to “From Shackles to Sanctity”

  1. I find it extremely interesting to know that the exiled father of the first Romanov Tsar was treated with such reverence by the subjects of the Russian empire. This photograph really shows the deep connection between the Tsars and the orthodox church. They ruled as god’s appointed on earth and I can understand why they were treated with such reverence. It would be very interesting to dive deeper into this topic and find out what religious life was like at this time in the empire. Was going to church mandatory? And if not, who went? And how did this pervasive Orthodox Christianity leave room for, say, Muslim subjects of the Tsar?

  2. Good read! it’s interesting to think about how some people seemed to recognize the way the royalty used the church to wield absolute power, and how others didn’t. It’s also amazing the Romanovs ruled for almost 300 years, I did not know that.

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