Biography of Archbishop of Moscow, Sabbatius (Levshin) | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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Biography of Archbishop of Moscow, Sabbatius (Levshin)

The future primate of the Church (in the world – Stephen Vasilyevich Levshin) was born in 1824 in the village of the Chernoistochinsk factory of the Perm governorate into an Old-believers’ peasant family. At 25, Stephen went to the deep forests of the taiga, where he lived in various Old-believers’ sketes of the Northern Urals and Siberia. As such he wandered for about 10 years. In 1856, he was tonsured as a monk. The monastic tonsure took place in one of the Old-believers’ sketes of the Urals. Soon, Sabbatius was ordained as a hieromonk by the bishop of Saratov, Athanasius (Kulibin, 1803 – 1865). Hieromonk Sabbatius was a very well-read man, had a good memory and a great ear for music.

Biography of Archbishop of Moscow, Sabbatius (Levshin)

In 1857, he was arrested at the Sylvinsky factory, but a year later he was released and sent back to his home village. Here he stayed for a short time and began to visit the districts of Perm, Tobolsk and Orenburg governorates. The hieromonk spent a period of time in the Zlatoust (Chrysostom) skete and in 1860 he served in Tyumen. In 1861 – 1862, he spent time in the Shadrinsk, Kurgan, Yalutorovsk and Tyumen districts. Being a hieromonk, Sabbatius was able to establish himself as a champion and apologist of the ancient Orthodox faith.

On December 6, 1862, on behalf of bishop Onuphrius (Parusov, 1816 – 1894), who was in charge of Russian church-hierarchical issues at that time, the bishop of Kazan, Paphnutius (Shikin, 1815-1890), ordained Sabbatius as bishop for the Diocese of Tobolsk and All Siberia. It is known that men-at-arms persistently sought to arrest Sabbatius during his episcopal ministry, but the Lord allowed the troubles to pass by.

In 1865, bishop Sabbatius was arrested in the Tomsk governorate, in the village of Krasny Yar, on the charge of naming himself a bishop and for propaganda of the Old Belief. He was locked in a Tomsk prison for six years. In 1871, he was exiled to Tula under the supervision of the police.

After the death of archbishop Anthony of Moscow (Shutov, 1800 – 1881), the Holy Council elected bishop Sabbatius to the See of Moscow and on October 10, 1882 the bishops, Paphnutius of Kazan, Sylvester (Malyshev, d. 1906) of Novozybkov and the Baltic and Cyril (Mukhin, d. 1903) of Nizhny Novgorod promoted him to the title of Archbishop. With the rank of Archbishop of Moscow, Sabbatius served for almost 16 years. Archbishop Sabbatius was not only in charge of Old-believers’ public libraries, but also owned several large book collections himself.

In 1898, he was forced to sign a statement to the government mentioning that he would no longer be called the Archbishop of Moscow and will no longer perform religious rites. After this, having removed his own clerical rank, he was removed according to the decision of the Holy Council of March 19, 1898. He was allowed to choose his place of residence at his own discretion and also to serve liturgies in private.

He died on September 8, 1898 in Moscow and was buried at the Rogozhskoe cemetery.