January 9 – Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow; Adrian of Canterbury

Picture of Philip II, Metropolitan of Moscow, medium unknown, artist unknown, ca. 1821

Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow (1507–1566), was born in either Moscow or Gulich[1], either took part in a conspiracy or didn’t, and was either on good terms with Tsar Ivan the Terrible or wasn’t. Rumors that his biographers were locked in a room in the Kremlin until they could get their stories straight, but escaped to separate oblasts to write separate accounts, which were then flung together without editing just hours before the type was set, could not be verified at press time. At any rate, tiring of the chilly Muscovite climate, Philip either fled or leisurely strolled to the Solovetsky monastery in the balmy[2] White Sea (presumably making the final part of the voyage by boat), and was eventually made abbot after working as a blacksmith and a baker. Astute readers will note that those positions involve a furnace and an oven, respectively.

In time he was recalled to Moscow by Tsar Ivan to fill the Metropolitan’s throne. Sadly for Ivan, the new Metropolitan refused to say nice things about his (Ivan’s) ongoing massacres. Sadly for the Philip, the Tsar, true to his nickname, deposed him and had him either strangled or suffocated, depending on whom you ask. Philip was glorified as a saint in 1652, and is commemorated on January 9, July 3 (translation of relics), and October 5 (with other Hierarchs of Moscow). Ivan the Terrible is of course not commemorated in the Church at all, which goes to show that if you have to choose between mixed-up biographers on the one hand and vicious acts of terror on the other, and commemoration as a saint is at all important to you, go for the mixed-up biographers.

Photo of ceiling of Canterbury Cathedral, legend "I could not find a picture of Adrian that is free to use (and only one that wasn't)."Adrian[3] of Canterbury (d. 710), speaking of Naples and Africa, was born in the latter and became abbot of a monastery near the former. Pope Vitalian, who contrary to speculation did not start a vitamin supplement company, twice fingered Adrian to be archbishop of Canterbury, but the modest Adrian, possibly with a thought to the climate[4] (although nobody will come out and say this), demurred. The third time the offer was made, Adrian suggested his pal Theodore of Tarsus (called “Ted” by no-one, at least in my sources) for the job, and the wily Vitalian accepted the offer on condition that Adrian accompany Theodore as adjutant or bodyguard or something. Adrian, outfoxed, agreed.

On the pair’s way through France, Adrian was nabbed and imprisoned by Ebroin, mayor of Neustria[5], on suspicion of being a Greek spy, which was grossly unfair seeing as it was Theodore who was the Greek (although not a spy), and he was allowed free passage. (Reports that Ted snickered at this are unfounded and unfair.) Neurotic, despotic, and Frankish, Ebroin led a life of tyranny and villainy, dying of acute assassination in 681, his attempt to become the Ivan the Terrible of seventh-century Neustria thus happily thwarted. He is today commemorated by an article in Wikipedia.

Eventually Adrian made it to Canterbury, where once again he became abbot of a nearby monastery. His itchy feet soon propelled him, however, to roam the island schooling the rustics in religion, poetry, astronomy, rhetoric, literature, physical science, Latin, Greek, and mathematics—yet another of those annoying polymaths that make us mere mortals feel undereducated.

Unsurprisingly, Adrian was buried in Canterbury in 710. Perhaps surprisingly or at least unusually, his body was found to be incorrupt in 1091.


[1] Which I could not find (in an admittedly slap-dash search—persons knowing the location of Gulich are clearly more knowledgeable than I, at least about the location of Gulich).
[2] I’m being facetious here.
[3] A.k.a. Hadrian. Whether the “H” is pronounced, I do not know.
[4] Clever tie-in to previous saint.
[5] Which I found easily. If you think “kind of northwest France” you won’t be far off.