November 6 – Herman of Kazan; Illtud

Archbishop Herman of Kazan (d. 1567) (aka Gherman, German, etc.) was tonsured at the Volokolamsk monastery, where Maximus the Greek was in exile for refusing to translate the Church History of Theodoritis of Cyrrhus into Slavonic. Herman became archimandrite at the Starista Dormition monastery, and contrary to the famous proverb “Don’t bring your typikon to my monastery,” reorganized the place according to the Rule from Volokolamsk. For that or some other reason he returned to Volokolamsk 2.5 years later to live as a simple monk. His successor, Job, went on to become the first Patriarch of Moscow, which really says something. Or other.

In 1553, freethinker (as they called it) Matthew Bashkin arrove on the Moscow scene, denying the Trinity and denigrating the Holy Mysteries and in general not fitting in. Herman and his father were called to sit on the council that censured Bashkin, sending him to exile at Volokolamsk in hopes that the saintly Herman’s saintliness might rub off on him. None of my sources say whether or not it worked. In 1555 Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan, killed most of its residents, established an episcopal see, and placed Gurius, igumen of the Volokolamsk monastery, on its throne. Gurius built the new Dormition Monastery in Sviyazhsk (say that three times fast), and appointed Herman as its abbot. “So much for retirement,” Herman may have said. When Gurius died, Herman succeeded him as bishop of Kazan.

After two short years building churches and evangelizing the neighborhood, Herman was called to Moscow (by I. the T.) and appointed to the Metropolitancy. He of course refused, but his refusal was denied, so he settled into the metropolitanarian apartments and waited for the swearing-in ceremony. While waiting, however, news reached him of the Oprichniki, Ivan’s attempt to create a historical foreshadowing of the Cheka or NKVD or KGB or like that. They tortured people, razed villages, and in general made the khans look sweet-tempered and generous by comparison. (Perhaps Ivan had heard of the lovely things the Catholics and Protestants were doing to each other in western Europe, and felt left out.) Herman told Ivan that this sort of thing wasn’t good, right, or appropriate, and Ivan demurred. “You’re not even Metropolitan yet, and you’re telling me what to do?” he roared. Herman was kicked out of the Met’s digs and placed under house arrest. He died two years later, and was buried, exhumed, moved, and buried again at the Sviyazhsk monastery.

Illtud (d. ca. 505) was born in Armorica the Beautiful. According to at least one ancient source, his dad was King Arthur’s mom’s brother, and you can just imagine what the skeptics do with that. They are happier with the claim that he was a disciple of St. Germanus of Auxerre, and hardly bat an eye at his being a married soldier. He shipped out to Britain to help Arthur defend it from the nasty Saxons and Angles and Jutes (oh my!), but his entire unit was chased into a quicksand bog after they foolishly attacked the Llancarfan Abbey in south Cymru (Wales). All perished except Illtud, who (miraculously?) survived. He was “reminded of his religion” by Cadoc (a lad at the time). Thus chastened, Illtud left the army, and his wife, to become a monk.

He founded the famed Llanwit Major Abbey, and counted among his pupils such luminaries of Cymric monasticism as Taliesin, Gildas, Samson (Jul 28), and perhaps even Dewi Sant (Mar 1). He was well-versed in the Bible by all accounts (or by his vita, anyway). Many locations in Brittany are named after him, due to his sending three shipfuls of grain to help during a famine there. He died in retirement in Brittany, unless it was in Brecknockshire. In Cymru, his name graces many churches, a holy well, and even a mountain.