Introduction by Father Nektarios Serfes:
The following article was written before the holy Canonization of the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and the New Martyr St. Barbara. The were canonized by both the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow.
From the previous articles I have humbly presented to you about St. Elizabeth and her devoted companion St. Barbara, you will be aware that you are going to learn of a remarkable occurance that happened after their martyrdom, that took place in Alapaevsk, Russia. The earnest desire of the Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth from the very beginning when she and her husband Grand Duke Serge founded of the Palestinian Society in Jersualem, and while they where both in the Holy Land, was that she wanted to be buried at the holy Covent of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane. Through her prayers and the great devotion of her friends and relatives and also the endeavors of the most devoted Hieromonk (Priestmonk) Seraphim, her wish became both a reality and a blessing for the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and for Sister Barbara.
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints".
Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizaberth, pray unto God for us! Holy New Martyr Barbara, pray unto God for us!
"Bury Me Like A Christian...."
In the holy city of Jerusalem, in Russian Gethsemane, in a sepulchre, below the Church of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene, lie two confins. In one of them reposes the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, and in the other her novice Barbara, who refused to abandon her Abbess, and thus save her own life. Both of them were granted a martyr's death, being thrown alive into a mine shaft in Alapaevsk on the night of July 5 (o.s.), 1918. Together with them the Grand Prince Vladimir Pavlovitch Paley and the three sons of the Grand Prince Constantine Constantinovitch perished in the same manner. I would like to relate how the remains of these martyrs traveled from distant Alapaevsk to Jerusalem.
My uncle, Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich Kudashev, was the last diplomat sent by the Emperor (Tsar Martyr NIcholas II) to China. In1920 he came to France where I was living with my mother and sisters. He told us that in the summer of 1919 a monk with two novices brought the bodies of the martyrs to Harbin.
"Since I was an official person," he explained, "I had to go to Harbin to identify them and write a protocol. It is hard to relate the horror I felt: the bodies had been lying in the mine for a whole year." The monk (my uncle either did not mention his name or I have forgotten) was able to take them from the bottom of the mine, put them in coffins - or, rather, quickly built boxes-loaded them into a train wagon and climbed into it himself with his novices. This was during the peak of the civil war in Siberia and because of this they dragged their way to Harbin for three whole weeks in terrible heat under the hot metal roof of the train wagon. When they arrived in Harbin, the bodies were totally decayed - all, except the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, whose body was totally incorrupt. The coffins were opened and put in the Russian Church.
"The Grand Duchess was lying as though she were alive and had not changed at all since they day when I, before my departure for Peking, said goodbye to her in Moscow - only on one side of her face was a large bruise from when she was thrown into the mine. I ordered real coffins for them and was present at the funeral. Knowing that the Grand Duchess always expressed a desire to be buried in Gethsemane in Jerusalem, I decided to fulfill her wish and sent her remains and those of her faithful novice to the Holy Land. I asked the monk to accompany them to the final place of their repose and thereby he would complete the holy task he had begun."
This, roughly, is the story told by Duke Kudashev. In 1931 he passed away, but we always remembered that the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna was incorrupt.
Thirty two years passed. The Second World War brought us to settle in America. In 1952 my late husband went on business to France and from there decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Travelling from place to the place in the Holy Land, he visited Little Galilee, so called because, during the earthly life of Jesus Christ, on the hillside of the Mount of Olives was the poorest section of the city of Jerusalem and here the Galilean fishermen would stop and lodge. Now it is the residence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In the year of the residence are two holy places: the foundation of the house in which the Lord appeared to his disciples after His Rresurrection and a chapel built on the place where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Mother of God foretelling Her Dormition. Next to this chapel a Russian Hieromonk (priest monk), Father Seraphim, built a hut for himself and lived there with the blessing of the late Patriarch Damian.
The meeting of my husband with Father Seraphim was very touching since it turned out that Father Seraphim knew his father, M.S. Putyatin. It also turned out that this was the monk who had brought the remains of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth to Jerusalem.
In his youth Father Seraphim had written stories with a spiritual-patriotic theme, which brought him into contact with the Court where his works were appreciated. His homeland was in the Ural area. A surprising coincidence: during the October Revolution he was in Moscow and tried to convince the Grand Duchess Elizabeth to go with him to Alapaevsk. "There," he told her, "I know good people in Old Believers' sketes and they can protect Your Highness." She refused to hide from fear of repression, but added, "If I am killed, I ask you bury me in a Christian manner."
The rest of Father Seraphim's story completely coincided with the story of the Duke Kudashev. When the White Army under the comman of Ataman Semenov occupied Alapaevsk, Father Seraphim was there and was able to retrieve the bodies of those who were killed and fulfill his promise to the Grand Duchess. Ataman Semenov ordered Father Seraphim be given a boxcar and visa and that is how he started his trip to Harbin. His boxcar moved with the front: they moved forward twenty-five vests and then rolled back about fifteen vests... Thanks to the visa from the Ataman his boxcar was continually connected and disconnected to different trains and they moved in the right direction. The trip took about three weeks and it is impossible to imagine what Father Seraphim and his two co-travellers experienced as they accompanied their unusual cargo-out of the cracks of five coffins continually dripped fluid with a gathered grass and wiped the coffins with grass. However, the fluid coming from the coffin of the Grand Duchess was fragrant and they carefully gathered it into a bottle as an holy item. The rest of the story has already been related. Regarding the bruise on the Grand Duchess' face, Father Seraphim said, "Her nose was broken, but I straightened it before the official person came (to identify the bodies. TR)".
Father Seraphim reposed when I was in the Holy Land and he is buried next to his skete (a religious place for prayer and living). He was 85 years old. Not long before his repose, he gave me a bottle containing some of the remains of the Grand Duchess. In this bottle there is a dark brown dried mass filling about half of the bottle. This gives off a very nice fragrance, unlike any fragrance I can identify. I keep this bottle on a shelf in front of the icons where a lampada (a burning lamp with oil) is always burning. From time to time the fragrance noticeable changes from one fragrance to another. I, of course, do not allow myself to touch this bottle often. Only on the day of the Grand Duchess; martyrdom do I venerate this bottle as one vereates relics; or from time to time I simply blow off the dust that settles on the bottle."
by the Nun Seraphima,
From the periodical, "Renasissance" (in Russian),
Paris, 1964, no. 151.
(Source: Orthodox Life, Brothehood of Saint Job of Pochaev at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York., Vol. 47, No. 6., November-December, 1997., pp.29-31).
The following is the "Dismissal Hymn" or also known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the "Tropar" ( which is a hymn used in the Divine Services composed in honor of a particular saint or feast) for the Holy New Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara. This is sung in the "Plagal of the First Tone":
Emulating the Lord's self-abasement on the earth, * thou didst forsake royal mansions to serve the poor and disdained, * overflowing with compassion for the suffering. * And taking up a martyr's crown, * thou in meekness didst perfect the Saviour's image within thee. * Wherefore, with Barbara, enteat Him to save us all. O wise Elizabeth.
Icon of the Royal Martyr Elizabeth of Russia
The following is the "Kontakion" (which follows the Dismissal Hymn) for the Holy New Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara. This is sung in the Third Tone:
In the midst of worldiness,* thy mournful heart dwelt in Heaven; * in barbaric godlessness, * thy valiant soul was not troubled; * thou didst long to meet thy Bridegroom * as a confessor, * and He found thee worthy of thy martyric purpose. * O Elizabeth, with Barbara, * thy brave companion, * pray to thy Bridegroom for us.
(Both of these translations for the Dismissial Hymn and Kontakion are a translation from The Horologion, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts., 1997. pp. 533-534).
The holy Icon of Ss. Elizabeth and Barbara is from Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville,New York, the photo of Grand Duchess is from the "collection of Father Nektarios Serfes".
I also would like to thank humbly John Wilson Smith for his kind assistance.
For futher viewing of the Russian Orthodox Covent of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene, visit "The Russian Orthodox Church Of Saint Mary Magdelene".
Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth
Pray Unto God For Us!
Holy New Martyr Barbara,
Pray Unto God For Us!