02 December 2021

2021-12-02 The 440th Anniversary of the Repose of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich (1554-1581)

Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich Riding (1913), by M. I. Avilov (1882-1954) Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich Riding (1913), by M. I. Avilov (1882-1954)

December 2, 2021 marks the 440th anniversary of the death of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich, the son of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible and Tsaritsa Anastasia Romanovna.


The Tsarevich was born on March 28, 1554 (by the Julian calendar). He was baptized by Archpriest Andrei at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin (who later went on to become Metropolitan Athanasius of Moscow and All Russia [r. 1564-1566]).


As heir to the throne, Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich was constantly at his father’s side as he ruled the realm, going on military campaigns, receiving ambassadors from abroad, and so on.


The Tsarevich is known to have been a talented writer and musician. He wrote the saint’s life (vita, zhitie), a church service, and a panegyric for St. Anthony of Siisky. (See http://lib.pushkinskijdom.ru/Default.aspx?tabid=3965.) By God’s Providence, it was 20 years after the death of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich that his cousin, Feodor Nikitich Romanoff—the future Patriarch Filaret of Moscow and All Russia and the father of the first Tsar of the House of Romanoff, Mikhail Feodorovich—was forcibly confined at the monastery of St. Anthony of Siisky under very harsh conditions and only narrowly escaped death.


In 1571, Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich married for the first time, taking as his wife Evdokia Bogdanovna Saburova. She was sent to the Intercession Convent in Suzdal in 1572 and tonsured as the nun Alexandra. She died in 1620.


Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich married a second time in 1574, taking this time Feodosia Mikhailovna Petrovo-Solovovo. In 1579, she too was tonsured a nun, taking the name Paraskeva, and was sent to the Goritsky Convent of the Resurrection on the Sheksna River. Later she was moved to the Intercession Convent in Suzdal, and in 1605 moved again to the St. John the Baptism Convent in Moscow, where she died in 1622. She was buried in the mausoleum of the Grand Princesses and Tsaritsas in the Ascension Convent in the Kremlin.


Neither Tsarevna Evdokia Bogdanovna or Feodosia Mikhailovna had children, which is the reason Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible insisted they be tonsured as nuns and sent away.


As his third wife, Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich married Elena Ivanovna Sheremeteva in 1581. She became pregnant with child but miscarried. After Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich’s death, Elena Ivanovna was tonsured a nun at the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, taking the name Leonida.


Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich died on November 19, 1581 (by the Julian calendar). Several sources report that his death was caused by a blow to the head he received from his father after an argument on November 14. This version of events has firmly established itself in the public mind thanks to several famous works of art, but historians do not consider it a proven fact that Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible was at all responsible for his son’s death.



By order of the grieving father, a new side altar in memory of Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich and dedicated to his Heavenly patron saint, St. John of the Ladder, was built in the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin.


The Tsarevich lies buried today next to his father, Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible (1530-1584), and brother, Tsar St. Feodor I (1557-1598), on the right side of the altar of the Cathedral of Archangel Michael in the Moscow Kremlin.


Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich—the first tsar of the House of Romanoff, who was called to the throne in 1613 on account of his kinship ties through the female line with the House of Riurikovich—was especially devoted to the memory of this first cousin once removed, commissioning a gold commemorative cup (bratina) for Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich’s grave.


In 1963, Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich’s remains were exhumed from his grave. In them researchers discovered heightened levels of mercury, arsenic and lead. These substances could suggest poisoning, but they were also commonly used in medical treatments of the time. The Tsarevich’s skull was not intact, so it was not possible to confirm whether he had sustained a mortal head injury.




Grant eternal rest, O Lord, in blessed repose to Thy servant the Pious and Right-Believing Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich, the Most Pious and Right-Believing Sovereign, Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilievich, the Pious and Right-Believing Tsaritsa Anastasia Romanovna, Tsarevna Evdokia Bogdanovna, the nun Alexandra; Tsarevna Feodosia Mikhailovna, the nun Paraskeva, and Tsarevna Elena Ioannovna, the nun Leonida; and may their memory be eternal.

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