‘Even the Saracens are merciful and kind, compared with these men who bear the cross of Christ on their shoulders’.
Nicetas Choniates on the sack of the Christian Capital by the Crusaders in 1204
‘I would rather see the Muslim turban in the midst of the city than the Latin mitre’.
Grand Duke Lukas Notaras after the Council of Florence in 1452
St Alexander Nevsky preferred ‘political submission to the infidel rather than what he felt would be spiritual capitulation to the Church of Rome’....’The Mohammedans in the fifteenth century were far more tolerant towards Christianity than western Christians were towards one another during the Reformation and in the seventeenth’….’It is small wonder that Orthodox, when they saw what was happening in Poland (in the seventeenth century) should prefer Mohammedan to Roman Catholic rulers’.
Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, pp. 92, 96 and 105 (first edition)
St Theodore, Prince of Ostrog (1) is one of the great saints of Little Russia, what is now called the western Ukraine. He was renowned not only for building churches, but also for defending Orthodoxy in Volhynia from both the violent Papists and the savage Tartars.
He was descended from the family of St Vladimir, Equal to the Apostles, through his great-grandson Sviatopolk-Michael, Prince of Turov (1080-1093), Grand Prince of Kiev (1113). St Theodore was first mentioned in 1386, when the Polish King Jagiello and the Lithuanian Prince Vitovt confirmed his hereditary rule in the region of Ostrog and also granted him the regions of Zaslava and Korets. In 1410 Prince Theodore took part in the rout of the Catholic knights at Grunwald. In 1422, out of sympathy for the Orthodox in Bohemia, the Prince supported the Hussites in their struggle against the German Emperor Sigismund. Having defeated the Polish armies on several occasions, in 1432 St Theodore compelled King Jagiello to enshrine the freedom of Orthodoxy in Volhynia in law.
In 1435, Prince Svidrigailo, fearing the increasing strength of his ally, imprisoned St Theodore, but the people who loved him rose up in revolt and he was freed. St Theodore forgave his captor and later came to his aid in his struggle against the Polish-Lithuanian alliance. In 1438 the Prince took part in battle against the Tartars, so protecting Orthodoxy from the incursions of the infidels. In 1440, on the enthronement of the Polish King Casimir, the youngest son of Prince Jagiello, St Theodore obtained the right to rule as vice-regent over Vladimir, Dubno and Ostrog. He also became the owner of very extensive estates on the best lands of the provinces of Podolia and Volhynia.
It was soon after 1441 that St Theodore gave up all his earthly power and glory to enter the Kiev Caves Monastery. Here he took the name Theodosius and struggled for the salvation of his soul up until his repose. The year of his repose is not known, but there is no doubt that it was in the second half of the fifteenth century and in great old age. He was buried in the Far Caves of the Monastery and in 1638 it was recorded that his incorrupt relics still rested there. His feast day is 11/24 August.
Holy Prince Theodore, pray to God for us!
(1) This Ostrog should not be confused with Ostrog in Montenegro, where are to be found the wonderworking relics of the great Herzegovinan hierarch, St Basil of Ostrog (c. 1600-1671). In the words of the Prologue of St Nicholas of Zhicha, although St Basil, like St Theodore, also 'confirmed his flock in the Orthodox Faith, keeping it from the cruelty of the Muslims (Turks) and the guile of the Latins', the Serbian bishop St Basil lived in the 17th century and his feast is on 29 April.