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'Russian Leonardo da Vinci' remembered

Published time: December 09, 2007 00:52
Edited time: December 09, 2007 00:52

Seventy years ago, Pavel Florensky, one of Russia's greatest 20th-century theologians, was executed. A philosopher, scientist and priest, often known at home and abroad as the Russian Leonardo da Vinci, he left insightful and original writings in areas fr

He was born in 1882 into a family of a railroad engineer in Azerbaijan. A graduate of Moscow State University's Department of Mathematics, he studied theology and was ordained an Orthodox priest. 

After the 1917 October Revolution, the Bolsheviks began persecuting the clergy, and closed down one of Russia's most important monasteries, the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra (the Monastery of the Trinity and St. Sergius), destroying many of its sacred relics. 

Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra in Sergiyev Posad
Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra in Sergiyev Posad

Florensky was active in saving the holy relics of Sergiy Radonezhsky, a Russian spiritual leader of the middle ages. 

“They substituted others for them and hid the originals, and that’s why they remained undefiled. I think that in decades to come, Florensky will be remembered for this major act of faith,” said Pavel Florensky’s grandson and namesake.  

Florensky then moved to Moscow, where he began working at the state plan for the country's electrification. He said his faith and education were at odds with communism, but this never stopped him from working for the benefit of his countrymen. 

Florensky was arrested in 1933 and sentenced to ten years’ hard labour for agitating and publishing materials against the Soviet system. Four years into the sentence he was transferred to St. Petersburg – Leningrad as it was then known -  and executed. 

Seventy years on, people still gather to pay tribute to the man who did all he could to help his country in times of hardship.